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Daily Reflections Earth Healing

Daily Reflections
by Al Fritsch, S.J.

A series of written meditations and reflections

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November, 2015

Copyright © 2015 by Al Fritsch

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November Reflections, 2015

     In November the growing season ebbs, the calendar year moves towards its close, and the liturgical year reaches completion.  We try to settle down while fully aware that the Church asks us to think about last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell.  Yes, somber thoughts for a somber season as we prepare for the upcoming time of holidays, merriment and the New Year with its new beginnings.  With the dying vegetation and the shortening of daylight we confront our mortality -- a stark reality that is juxtaposed by an affirmation of eternal immortality.  Perhaps this is the best time to awaken realistic dreams about how we think the New Heaven and New Earth will emerge. 


                       You stand for all elders
                         ever fresh in golden years;
                       You end the growing season
                         with a sense of fidelity;
                      May we bless you among flowers
that spread brightness and joy.

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Eastern Kentucky shale.
(*photo credit)

November 1, 2015   Ushering in a New Earth     
     The Feast of All Saints today and remembering the Holy Souls tomorrow remind us that we are part of a wider community of the triumphant in heaven and those suffering in purgatory.  Falling leaves in autumn awakens in us a sense of mortality, or a transition for us from mortal to eternal life.  It is a time of mixed emotions; some people harbor fears and trepidations because our ultimate individual transformation is uncertain as to when and where.  Others feel the proximity of death and do so with courage and anticipation, along with a deep sense of hope. 

     A portion of the human population perceives unfinished work and thus look forward to more time to achieve what they are completing.  Perhaps a larger number do not consider mortality at all; they are death-denying folks who shut out the occasional reflection on dying by immersing themselves in the world of hustle and bustle.  Hospice workers and other caregivers address death and dying with those they serve; thus they pave a road for passage by removing some stones that make one stumble.  Nonetheless, the road to the grave is a stark certainty that we must face.

     November's experiences need not be singly focused or somber even amid our wars, terrorist attacks, Ebola outbreaks and impending climate change.  The world is not perfect, nor has it ever been.  Perhaps a book on how many times in history folks thought the end was nigh would be enlightening -- if not already written.  Amazingly, numerous Christian interpretations appear, though Christ told us not to speculate exact time.  Only God knows.

     Another traditional Christian approach is not to expect the end of the present order immediately, but only after certain preconditions are met; but much of that is selective (and recent) reading of certain Scriptural passages.  They think Rapture or lifting up of the good will occur while the rest of us are left to fend for ourselves in an ever increasingly wicked world.  Cute, but hardly fitting for the non-righteous.

     How about a more healthy approach of seeing death as a transition to new life?  With this approach all are invited to participate in helping to bring about the transition from dying to new life; this New Heaven and New Earth is already taking shape.  The inevitable transformation makes us all the more thankful for the blessings already received.  Our thanks are expressed through appreciation of autumn landscapes, sounds of the season, pleasant home smells and tastes, and feelings of warmth and love.  Earth healers who are believers in the future are to lead the way.  Yes, the immediate prognosis is not the best, but it can be changed when we unite and work as collaborators for a new commons.  This approach finds Earth redeemed at a great price and just as the wounds of Christ show on his resurrected body, so will a New Earth.  

     Prayer: Lord, inspire in us as we near our mortal end a still more enthusiastic understanding of what is to come.










Pine on the edge of sandstone cliff.
(*photo credit)

November 2, 2015   Being Settled or Unsettled

     I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and store all my grain and my goods in them, and I will say to my soul: My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink and have a good time.  (Luke 12:18-19).

   In late fall we gather in the fruit of our summer labor and settle in for the winter months with plenty of fuel and food for the long haul ahead.  In one way, we have plenty and the hoard is enough to satisfy all wants for the foreseeable future -- if we care to think short range.  Its an inviting place for celebration.

   Our relaxation by the fire may be short-lived, but we await it with eagerness.  This pause makes us wonder about a more permanent and enduring home that looms ahead at the end of our faith journey.  Outside there is extending darkness, snowflakes and a certain foreboding of sorrow and lament.  Here in the Northern Temperate Zone the days are getting noticeably shorter through autumn.  But it is not all darkness; November fosters interior warmth, sensitivity, and hope -- elements that are well worth sharing.  We are willing to settle down and take pauses that refresh our spirits while knowing full well that this is not a lasting condition.  We ought to enjoy the breaks and rest periods that November invites.

     November has its concluding period of thanksgiving.  This is a time to bridge our settling down and rising up.  Most of us do not hibernate like bears and sleep through the winter season.  We have to work a portion of the time no matter how retired some declare themselves to be.  We have our mixed blessings of action and inaction and thank God for both.  If we do not stay active we could become incapacitated and our muscles weaken.  A healthy life demands doing some degree of exercise, and the winter months are times to give this special attention.  There is only so much eating, drinking and being merry.  The hoarding "fool" in Jesus' parable is one who reminds us of the need to take a middle course.

   November is a time of dreaming and visions, of what could be and what must be accomplished in the time ahead.  We discover that others lack some of the blessing we take for granted: food, potable water, education, health and recreation.  We consider the surpluses we can share and what the community can do for the needy.  Are they ready for winter?  Resting and working in a measured fashion is a better autumn approach.  Summer work may have to be put off for another year, but we have enough to assure that all are cared for if the winter turns severe. The hoarder in the parable thinks only of himself and doesn't even know that much about the coming future.  In helping others in changing times we become aware of the shortness of life, the tenuousness of our current situation.  We still need to enjoy rest periods that come in the holiday season. 

     Prayer: Lord, help us adjust to the changing seasons by knowing where we are and where we are going, and still find enjoyment in the short period left.









Maple foliage in early November.
(*photo credit)

November 3, 2015  Refreshing Memories of Autumn Landscapes

       They told them this story,
            "We went into a land to which you sent us. 
            It does indeed flow with milk and honey;
            this is its produce."   (Numbers 13:27)

     My ancestors told us in piecemeal fashion of their exodus from Europe.  My maternal great, great grandparents came from Schonau in the Pfalz region of Germany adjacent to the Alsatian French border. They had ten sons, the older soon of military age, and they did not want them to join the army.  They were attracted to Appalachian Ohio, which highly resembled the homeland's terrain, except the Ohio Valley was not nearly so cultivated or well managed, and it did not have the German homes with geranium- filled window boxes.  However, these ancestors had dreams of new places.  With some trepidation they left friends in their quaint village for the trip across the ocean and a New World.

    Some two decades later, and after a devastating Franco-Prussian War in which my Alsatian paternal grandfather fought on the losing side, he and my grandmother's people left the village of Dambach in France (only five miles, but an immense cultural distance from Schonau) for that same Ohio River valley in hopes of growing grapes on the river hillsides, similar in appearance and climate to the slopes of the Rhine Valley.  They went from a German-occupied to a promised land.  However, upon arrival, they found that an unexpected blight had killed all the grapes. They settled down to growing tobacco instead, but never lost the hope for better times for their own offspring in a new landscape.

     Ultimately, all of us are wayfarers in some fashion, even the Native Americans who came centuries before whites.  The land of our planet is part of the common inheritance of all people.  To set up some of the residents as "insiders" and others as "outsiders" is a rather cruel division of people -- and something that Jesus is never a party to doing.  What we tend to learn is that in many cases of migration, new arrivals are having a hard time.  Hospitality that greeted many migrants (Pilgrims at first) is always most welcome; a new landscape is worthy of new folks who also desire to make a living, and hopefully a welcoming one. 

     Most non-war ravaged lands are capable of producing much bounty and thus, a plentiful landscape to fall in love with and live a good life among congenial neighbors.  That is the ideal, but not always the case.  Today a greater number of people with cherished memories of good times seek in their movement as strangers and guests to be accepted in a new place.  Each of us has an opportunity to be welcoming and show kindness and mercy for these new arrivals.  If we really try, the place can hold all with surplus bounty to spare along with a congenial atmosphere.

     Prayer: Lord, teach us hospitality and the art of welcoming others in our midst.









Running in field of autumn asters.
(*photo credit)

November 4, 2015  Haunting Bay of the Coon Hounds

             Acclaim Yahweh, all the earth,
             serve Yahweh gladly
             come into the divine presence with songs of joy!
                                    (Psalm 100:1-2)

     The experience of walking around a denuded landscape in later autumn is so enchanting.  The vegetation has opened up before us, revealing the shapes of trees that were only recently a mass of foliage sparkling in summer's sun.  In my years of cross-country hiking I have enjoyed the freedom and sudden openness of a November landscape.  Sounds carry more distinctly without the muffled effect of leaves, and each sound adds to the quality of place.  Greenery is certainly good, but so is the distinct season with which we in this Northern Temperate Zone have been blessed today.

     In the distance we can hear the dogs bay as they move about restlessly in the cool autumn evenings.  When out hiking we can regard our special canine companions as our light cavalry, dashing about to know we are safe from every direction.  Theirs is a chorus, though we almost never characterize it as such.  Don't dogs sing as well as the rest of us?  Our spoken words have a certain Appalachian character to them -- a twang, a dialect.  Even the dogs of our region have their own way of expressing themselves -- cries of pain or of utter excitement.  Yes, the coon hounds are really Appalachian, and so are many less easily described mixed breeds as well.  We've come to detect the lilt of mountain animal voices, even when they interject their own blood-curdling tones.  Why couldn't they allow the chased varmints to go in peace?

   We know that all creatures need to acclaim and serve the Most High.  Those of us who can't stand over others as authoritarians find it's hard naming our dogs; they don't name us.  We are part of a total-service creaturehood.  We human beings assume a leadership role, going ahead of others, not in a sense of triumphal greatness, but as serving them at the procession's head, so that others will honorably follow.  In some ways, dogs, our divinely-created companions, clear the way for the procession of all creatures, the Appalachian cavalry.  Their yaps announce their coming.  And any self-respecting coon knows how to slip away.

     Dogs teach us in the November season many things.  One is loyalty to the human favorite (we don't like being master).  Another is readiness at all times should hostilities come our way.  Still another is the love of the many scents of the region, for that gives dogs great pleasure in our hiking trips.  Still another is to be always prepared for the worse.  However, each dog is unique in one and other ways and enjoys that condition.  And they have many other lessons if we but listen.

     Prayer: Lord, thanks for giving human beings our canine companions, who help us find our place in the great chain of being as patient teachers.







Organic apple farm - Kentucky
Celebrating apple harvest.
(*photo credit)

November 5, 2015     Extolling the Autumn Apple

  ... your breath sweet-scented as apples. (The Song of Songs 7:8b)

     The smells of late autumn are so often related to the indoors, for that is where the foods are stored and the meals are cooked for the great celebrations of this and next month.  Maybe we will always cherish the particular aromas that emanated from our mamas' kitchens, even though many decades ago.  Yes, and scents coming from the stored foods in the cellar were unique and memorable as well.

   The Appalachian word "fruit" commonly means "apple," from the cider to the apple stack cake, from apple butter to apple jack, from apple pie to apple wood.  It includes the exotic varieties brought from the Old World, as well as the lowly native crabapple.  Appalachians are apple people, through and through.  In some ways, successful mountain harvests are defined by the crop, and that by the lateness of spring frosts.  Nothing beats the combined sight and smell and taste of fresh autumn apples -- and add on the crunchy sound and the firm feel of these delights.

     Perhaps no other food is so appealing to our senses, but that could be my own bias.  Apples shine in the light, smell ever so good (especially in a pie), and offer a wide spectrum of flavors that vary with each variety.  The sound of biting into a crispy apple is unique, or so it seems.  But it is the faint and delicate smell that gives the most glory to the fruit.  Why else compare loved ones to apples?  Just as God has favorite people, so we as Appalachians have favorite foods -- and apples are at the high end of that list along with sorghum, poke salad and burgoo.  At the height of that pyramid is the "apple stack cake."

     The Year of the Apple is our focus for 2015's food variety project; over the past few years this has involved 365 soups, salads, oatmeal and peanuts (really 730 varieties).  See this website.  Honestly apples are harder to find in varieties of dishes that do not require special preparatory time -- something that makes this fruit a little more challenging than the previous subjects.  Part of the purpose is to demonstrate that we can have a wide variety of low-cost local foods and dishes without resorting to imported and out-of-season foods.  No other fruit would be low-priced or local enough to attempt so many varieties for an entire year. 

     Part of this year's success is use of my brother Charlie's "Gold Rush" apples that stay fresh and tasty throughout the winter and into spring.  In this autumn of 2015 they start up again and furnish a fresh supply for at least half of next year.  

     Prayer: Lord, allow us to enjoy the good things in life and to ensure that all people that we meet have similar opportunities.









Vibrant color of poison-ivy plant.
(*photo credit)

November 6, 2015    Creating a Cosmic Hymn of Praise

      Let them all praise the name of Yahweh,
             at whose command they were created;
           Yahweh has fixed them in their place for ever,
             by an unalterable statute.    

             mountains and hills,
             orchards and forests,
             wild animals and farm animals,
             snakes and birds.
            (Psalm 148: 5-6, 9-10)       

   All creatures give praise to God.  They do this through their very existence.  Those with life are so able to replicate and give further life.  The marvels of life strike botanists and zoologists and all naturalists who focus on one or other species.  What marvel they behold and share through teaching and research with other like-minded people.  For us ordinary lovers of life, this experience can be an extension of the radical sharing reflected upon in October.  To share the joy of life means we are meant to enhance and not damage life in any way.  We are destined to be pro-life because we are created to the image of the living God. 

     All my life I have enjoyed observing wild and tame animals.  And in their giving me joy, I am confident that they are praising God and extending their joyful presence throughout the cosmos.  How could these that are such sources of happiness, forever vanish through species extinction?  Or will they endure in some fashion?  How can we have a New Earth without the species that make it so blessed and unique?  Observe the scampering chipmunks or ground squirrels moving about through the fallen leaves.  They add much to the bleak November landscape by their presence.  Will these moments of delight be forever lost, or is there some way in which what is observed will continue?  If the Creator has fixed these creatures in a place, in what way will that place continue in eternity? 

     Since we are destined for eternal life through the love God has for us in sending the Christ who suffers, dies and rises for us, so we are to respond in a most loving way.  This is mainly in assisting our neighbors who are in need of material goods, and to assist the plant and animal life that is threatened by human greed and ignorance.  To enhance and increase the life of all creatures is part of loving God and neighbor.  In magnifying glory to God we realize our free acts of praise and thanksgiving are the greatest act of love we can do.  In this month of Thanksgiving such thoughts are meat for reflection.  Upon rising each day we could well afford to say "Thank You, Lord," first in words and then during the day in deeds as well.  This allows our gratitude to expand with time.

     Prayer: Lord, you give us all good gifts, even that of praising you.  Make that praise extend beyond words to all forms of life-giving deeds as well.









Nodding thistle, Carduus nutans
Nodding thistle, Carduus nutans.
(*photo credit)

November 7, 2015    Preparing for the New Heaven and New Earth

     The coming of the Kingdom of God is both before us in time and is occurring to some degree here and now.  As empowered by the Spirit we are destined for eternal life and yet we raise some added questions:

     Is our home here on Earth or beyond?  We first look at our own actions and find out that we have a home that is here and yet another is being prepared by Christ for us.  Must we focus on this, our Earthly home, or look beyond the here to the hereafter?  And is there a discontinuity?  The growth in consciousness includes an evolving awareness of what home means to us.  We find basic turmoil on this planet along with the threat of gross destabilization due to climate change.  Home life has to improve!

     Is our homework here important or not?  What gives us a sense of being HERE (hereness) is that we are doing something that is fulfilling, and that others benefit from what we do in making our living.  That is why it is such an affront that some come and work in America, and yet we classify them as different, not to be treated with equal respect.  If they do needed occupations then surely they have a right to be part of what we call home.  It is an affront that some willing people cannot find work when the needs are present -- and so are treated as expendable.

     Should we encourage practical visions and dreams?  Wishful thinking is not sufficient.  Let us make room for visions of a world where peace will prevail and violence is abolished.  But this cannot come by mere daydreaming, and here is where our dreams must become more realistic.  Work makes us down-to-Earth; the dreams keep us motivated to do ever more meaningful work.  Yes, we appreciate the privilege of working that leads to salutary results.

     Does a "new creation" demand a proper exercise of our freedom? Sometimes it appears that we should busy ourselves with real issues, and dreaming of a New Heaven and New Earth appears at first remote from what we should be doing.  But is there a way in which our maturation combines the desire for an end and the need to treat all justly in order to undertake this cooperative venture together in an environment of social justice?  The establishment of the Kingdom is not purely a future event, but is starting now.  To learn to work with others for a shared goal or commons takes time and effort, and for that reason collaboration as a learned experience must begin as a shorter-term and immediate goal for all to follow.

     Does the quality of work improve as we gain ownership?  Many work hard for the betterment of others and throw themselves into the act.  However, for worker-owners the quality normally is higher, and so the ideal is to help own where we work.

     Prayer: Lord, inspire us to answer questions that help us improve the quality of the work we are undertaking; let this become meaningful and not mere "make work".








Land Between the Lakes
Hematite Lake, near Cadiz, KY.
(*photo credit)

November 8, 2015     Recalling the Widow's Mite

    A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.   (Mark 12:42)

     Stephen came in among the top ten in his school running meet, which meant that he qualified for the team trip the following week.  The time-keeper got it wrong and said the next runner had come in a second ahead of Stephen.  Great disappointment, but he was counseled to accept the mistake, for the next fellow was so jubilant.  Fair rules: surrender a place, if it involves you; hold up for justice, if it involves another.

    The art of radical giving is not so much exemplified by the wealthy and their immense sums, but by the very poor -- the widow in the Temple. If we learn to let go with a generous heart when young, then we can do it better when older.  We begin by letting go of the little things: our time, our talents, our thoughts and treats for the day and our treasures.  Jesus tells the rich young man to give up his possessions if he wishes to be perfect and to let go of what he holds so dear -- namely, his money and power; he finds that too difficult.  Some try to give every material thing to infants, or grandchildren or spouse.  But mere giving, without reciprocity on the part of the receiver, can sometimes lead to false expectations of still more and more "give me" gifts.  Giving to another should be accompanied by an exchange of favors, not that it is absolutely necessary for us, but rather it is for gift receivers.  Ask for at least their prayers.

    Giving a large amount out of existing surplus can be dangerous, for it provides givers with a false sense of power, as though they do not really have to give if they don't want to. Surpluses must be given in justice, not in charity, when a genuine need exists in other parties.  In former times, distant people could not easily communicate rapidly about individual needs, and so the surplus could remain in good keeping.  Thus stewardship consisted in storing the surplus until the need (usually local) should arise.   But in our age, with instant communication and efficient transportation, the message of need from a distant place comes loud and clear -- and in minutes.  We are aware of hungry children, and the modern transportation system gives us the possibility of meeting those needs effectively.  Affluence means holding on to our goods so tightly that owner can't let go easily.

     It is easier to encourage others to let go of their surpluses than to convince ourselves.  We each have a certain area where we find letting go difficult.  We let go of our childhood which was shared with others, or we let go of our school loyalties, when we moved or chose a partner or went beyond where we were before.  The Lord calls each Christian to let go all though life, and ultimately at the moment of death.  Giving of our surplus is part of letting go.  Let's do so gracefully like the widow in the Temple.

     Prayer: Lord, teach us to give out of our want, not surplus.

"Lord, inspire the attendees at the Paris Climate change Conference."








Roscommon Pines
A stand of mixed-age pines..
(*photo credit)

November 9, 2015   Considering the Lateran Basilica as a Home
     I saw water flowing from the temple, and all who were touched by it were saved.    (Ezechiel 47:1-2)

     St. John Lateran is sacred place and "home" for some  Christians.  We need our parish churches, shrines and places of worship.  For pilgrims, it is the happy destination of their ordeal.  For Moslems, it is Mecca; for Hindus, it is the River Ganges; for Jews and Christians, it is various places in the Holy Land; for Catholic Christians, it is the home church, St. John Lateran in Rome, built in the time of Constantine in 328 and dedicated to Our Savior.  We, not God, need sacred space.  These religious worship spaces address our inherent restlessness, our ongoing pilgrim's way, our desire for a permanent beyond.  We are not to trash the present and expect a miraculous future one.  Such wasting of precious creation is blasphemy to a good Creator.

     Ecos means home. For human beings Earth is our common home; she is our mother, our birth, our womb, our tomb -- and a hundred other descriptive words.  Through this understanding of the character of home we derive that fundamental respect in eco-spirituality.  Earth includes other creatures who, if they spoke, would call our planet "home" in the vast cold void of the universe.  We realize that Earth is homey, much like neighborhoods to our ancestors who could not travel easily over such distances.

     If Earth is home, one expects to become restless about approaching mortality.  Youth think they will never die -- and then maturity suddenly comes on the scene.  If death is the end of time for us, then the thought of Earth as lasting home is somewhat discomforting.  A dissatisfaction creeps in; yes, we have no lasting city.  A hospice approach is to see Earth as temporary: enjoy the short time left, for fire is coming.  Do "make work" for it does not last.  However, on the other side of the faith divide is a cynical urging to eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we will die.  But cynicism bleeds any enthusiasm, and so does pretending to work when not really doing anything worthwhile.

     Earth is a substrate to a New Earth.  Have we expended enormous love and energy developing "Earth," while she is destined for destruction or death?  Is this what Scripture suggests in such passages as, So when you see the disastrous abomination of which the prophet Daniel spoke... (Matthew 24:15; Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11); also, Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away (Matthew 24:35)?  Is this about the destruction of Jerusalem at 70 A.D.?  Could the concept of fire that Jesus speaks about (Luke 12:49) be a transformation, since fire changes cold hearts to loving ones?  Does fire change red ore dust to shiny metal?  Could fire transform Old Earth into New Earth?  Why take Apocalyptic writing as a road map to Earth's end?

     Prayer: Lord, help us see that our "sacred" home is partly realized; it is the Kingdom of God now starting to emerge. 







Near Ft. Wilkins SP, Keweenaw Peninsula
Water's edge, Keweenaw Peninsula.
(*photo credit)

November 10, 2015    Home Goings and Comings

        On this mountain,
        Yahweh Sabaoth will prepare for all peoples
        a banquet of rich food, a banquet of fine wines,
        of food rich and juicy, of fine strained wines.
                                        (Isaiah 25:6)

     A loved one's death hurts much.  Closely behind is the sale or abandonment of the home place.  When our family farm was sold after three quarters of a century in our family, I felt an immense loss.  Like other Kentuckians, I identify with our land.  I still go back and whimsically look about, but it is not the same -- it is another's place.  While not totally detached, I suffer from the ambivalence of our home -- our source and our destination -- for "home" involves how we socially associate and a future destination.

     A home is a place of security and quality rest, a place, when one is settled in, that is comfortable, a place of familiarity where one can find friends, a place of contentment, a destination.  Does the place need some degree of permanence and allow one an orientation and direction in what lies ahead?  The homing pigeon has a in-built instinct directing it back to its place of origin; analogously, we have a faint homing instinct; we set our sights on distant places but are at a loss in how to reach them.  We need companionship and tools (maps, GPS, etc.) for a successful journey.

     The expression "make yourself at home" is a verbal welcome mat.  Some people settle in quite quickly, whereas others through timidity, personality or cultural differences do not feel at home.  "Home is where the heart is," and so some are committed to the beyond and are unsettled in hopes of an eternal home.  They (we) are comforted by Jesus' words at the Last Supper, I am going now to prepare a place for you (John 14:3).  A longing to be close to Jesus becomes the core of our restless quest that grows when illness or isolation beckons the elderly to let go.  For them, death frees them from current purgatory of immobilization. 

      Our hearts go out to the homeless, the uprooted, the refugee, the ones who just have lost a home to fire.  These suffer from home loss; they miss the security of lodging, shelter and safe haven, they are uncertain about their future; they are concerned about family welfare.  At the current time, more than 25 million refugees are either internally (within their own nation) displaced or may be seeking asylum in a friendly land.  Immigrants are often in transit between a former home and one new designation.  Their temporary uprootedness is painful.  Really, we are all pilgrims on the road, and a temporary unsettled condition prevails.  We empathize with returning solders, diplomats or tourists who swell with pride and emotion when seeing a flag, statue of liberty, or other national symbol again.  Homecoming is always worth celebrating.

     Prayer: Lord, teach us to feel more at home in our work and still allow us to long for what is an eternal home -- and to find contentment in doing both.









Southern Appalachian autumn hike sighting.
(*photo credit)

November 11, 2015  Understanding that All Have a Right to a Job

     Now we hear that there are some of you who are living in idleness, doing no work themselves but interfering with everyone else's.  In the Lord Jesus Christ, we order and call on people of this kind to go on quietly working and earning the food that they eat.  (II Thessalonians 3:11-12)

     I never really objected to all the variety of farm work and other things in life that I have had to do, provided the proper equipment was available.  In fact, it is a privilege to be able to work, for that is what we are all expected to do for the benefit of others in this world.  Yes, rest is important, but it is only deeply appreciated when serving as an interval between bouts of work that show that we are needed to help create a New Earth.

     One of the great unaddressed problems facing our world are the over 300 million unemployed; many of these often younger people see a future dream fade without work; the longer they wait the more the dignity evaporates like a deflating feeling.  They are not needed by a status quo that is willing to see only profits for self and no necessary work for all.  Many of the unemployed are willing people; they know there is essential work to be done but the financial resources needed to actualize such practices is held tightly in the hands of the privileged few -- the upper 1%ers who control government purse strings.  Work needed "yes," workers "yes," financial resources "no" by the grace of the power elite.

     Meaningful work is a need for a better world, according to our calling as Christians; this is the transformation accomplished through the nourishment of the Eucharist and called for in what Paul says, to do what I can to make up all that has still to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body, the Church (Colossians 1:24).  What has to be still undergone, since redemption has occurred through his total sacrifice?  Our cooperation as companions is what is still wanting and that is the extending of the redemption as a saving act to improve lives and save our wounded Earth.  Jesus chooses his companions as co-workers in the established order of collaborators or co-workers.  We are called to transform an unjust social order.

     Creativity is required to inspire all to enter a labor force performing meaningful work.  When some think the work is short-lived and the end is near, even when confirmed Christians they cannot help but reduce the quality of work undertaken.  When conceiving of it as longer term, the quality improves.  A major indignity is to deny work to a person who possesses potential talent, physical well-being and enthusiasm and still is unable to find meaningful work for self and family -- a work that will endure through the years.  Contrary to what some predict will be a no work economy, a replacement of the System to a more cooperative economy needs far more workers than the current Capitalistic one.   

     Prayer: Lord, teach us to find work opportunities for all.







Rays of sunlight illuminate remnant autumn leaf color.
Washington Co., KY.
(*photo credit)

November 12, 2015    Creating Meaningful Jobs for Workers

     Burdens to find work are placed on the great mass of the unemployed, and that is not where such opportunities belong.  People with certain educational advantages and connections with the privileged have a far easier time being employed in a limited work environment.  Those lacking advantages and connections have a much harder time.  Work opportunities cannot expect to be solved by a private profit-driven economy.  Rather, the state should furnish a means to a livelihood.  In a cooperative economy, jobs are waiting, though finances are currently lacking.  Creativity relates to freeing resources from the fists of the few for the sake of the many.  Redistribution of resources is absolutely necessary through fair income and wealth taxes.  Status quo seekers fail to dream of full employment for those competing, for sparse jobs allows for lower wages.  Is it expedient to focus on anti-terrorism measures, partly demanded by the growing discontent among the unemployed?

     Major job opportunities should exist in these areas:

     * Infrastructure roads and markets for food producers;
     * Potable water systems for all;
     * Design, construction and maintenance of affordable housing;    
     * Public health and sanitation facilities and health care;
     * School construction, maintenance and educational services;

     * Construction and upkeep of recreational facilities;             
     * Rapid rail transportation systems;

     * Communications maintenance;
     * Environmental protection, education and reclamation;
     * Transformation from fossil fuel to renewable energy;       
     * Care for the elderly, infirm and disadvantaged
; and
     * Paid domestic care for infants and early children.

     Creating employment opportunities where needed is the first step, but few want to admit the NEED; they prefer to talk about 3D printing (additive manufacture that does not need factory workers) and the goal of leisure for all.  Job opportunities exist; willing workers swell up as migrants and aroused youth.  It is devastating when "surplus labor" encourages a bidding war among the lower end, desperate to work for less just to have a job.  

     The right of workers to earn a livelihood is a basic human right, and as citizens we ought to see un- or under-employment as a symptom of a sick economic System that fails to allow workers to obtain their just wages in return for fulfilling work.  The few who prefer not to work are not the majority.  Laziness of some cannot be translated into an excuse by a government to fail to furnish work opportunities for all able-bodied citizens.  Opportunities are present in theory, but financial resources are salted away by the wealthy. Why privileged high salaries when others have no livelihood?  We need minimum and maximum pay rates.  The right to last resort is a philosophy behind the Great Depression's WPA -- and this is still valid.

     Prayer: Lord, help us champion the cause of the worker.


           A Thanksgiving Letter

      At this Thanksgiving we want to show gratitude for your financial and moral support in the past year.   Our Earthhealing Program continues to thrive but we cannot relax our efforts due to the closing window on possible climate change reduction.  We were featured on Steve Curwood's "Living on Earth, a PRI production heard on over 300 NPR stations at the time of Pope Francis' U.S. visit.  Yes, our environmental efforts must be doubled to meet challenges coming from the Paris Climate Change Conference. Click here to continue reading...






"Coffee table" in the woods
Eastern redcedar stump and berries.
(*photo credit)

November 13, 2015    Becoming Christ to Others

     Christ has no body now on earth but yours; yours are the only hands to which he can do his work; your are the only feet with which he can go about the world, yours are the only eyes through which his compassion can shine forth upon a troubled world.  Christ has no body on Earth now but yours.   St. Teresa of Avila  

     We were asked to perform an environmental resource assessment at Mission San Luis Rey near Oceanside, the crown jewel among the string of California Franciscan Missions.  An old man worked at the place for decades and learned to make adobe brick with the exact composition used in constructing the original mission buildings in the eighteenth century.  He took his sun-baked brick and constructed curved one-meter high walls around parking lots and other open space.  California school kids would come on history tours and would scamper around on these walls.  I told him we ought to make a videotape of him explaining the adobe construction process, and tears came to his eyes.  "You are the first to ever say anything like that to me."  Why neglect these builders?
     Young and old alike can have visions and dreams.  The difference is really not that great, some with visions and some with dreams and yet all looking to do something more.  An authentic eco-spirituality demands that both our visions and dreams be realistic, that is, not glossing over the stark reality of our troubled world today.  How about dreaming realistic dreams, not of fame, power or wealth?  Rather the dreams include knowing what is going on today and believing that we can alleviate some of the urgent troubles through human work and cooperation.

     Dreams must include a major conversion of military budgets to that of health and food security for all people.  Costa Rica has replaced military forces with adequate local police units, with some mobile ones capable of being sent to areas of extreme need.  Yes, deployment teams and local and regional military corps remain needed, but why a trillion plus dollar global military budget with some nations trying to outdo their rivals?  Will the general population agree to beating spears into pruning hooks?  

     The problem rests squarely with military/industrial power, which can unduly influence the media and thus the total citizenry.  Can global citizens see and hear the cry of the poor?  Can we respond in meaningful ways?  Again we emphasize that the broad work programs outlined yesterday urgently need implementation -- and will cost a portion of that military budget and even more of the sequestered bank deposits in tax havens in many countries.  Unloosen the funds and open the opportunities!  Those dreaming of livelihoods for themselves and families deserve as much.  Greed grips nations with people craving an authentic eco-spirituality.

     Prayer: Lord, inspire us to greater dreams and the willingness to join with others and put these into affect.

"Lord, inspire the attendees at the Paris Climate Change Conference."







Moon at sunset.
(*photo credit)

November 14, 2015  Investing Locally as Inhabitants See Fit       

   Dreams are looked down upon.  Was not Joseph in the Old Testament regarded as a "dreamer" by his brothers, and yet he would eventually be the practical savior of his family?  There is nothing wrong with dreaming and, in fact, it must be encouraged as part of our eco-spiritual investment in the future.  If the dream is not for self-glorification or self-interest, we can invest in dreams that lead to better conditions for all: a dream house, an American dream, a dream New Earth.  The collaborative and creative commons demand so much.  Must we start the dreaming at the local level?

     People desiring a livelihood are the basis of a new social and economic order.  They (people) are the primary investment and they know how to use local and more mobile resources that can be allotted to them -- not the foreign privileged investors who come and make a profit and leave.  Resources are available; they are just misappropriated.  The current System prefers a strata of modern day serfdom (the un- or underemployed) when meaningful work is denied to some in order to ensure the status of the privileged elite.  Consider access for work projects funding:

     * Direct local investment -- a cooperative work situation is one where a host of local groups take over ownership of means of livelihood and commercial markets.  Oddly, as Gar Alperovitz points out in What Then Must We Do? and in America Beyond Capitalism, the highly localized non-profit economy is thriving in the U.S. and elsewhere and does not demand the high CEO expenses of private large-scale corporate business.  It exists in many place now.

     * Small loans -- Big government should extend easier credit to small establishments and private home buyers and not to large banks and industries too big to fail.  Today, long after the Great Recession, many of these groups find ever higher levels of credit rating needed for loans; this squeezes them out of start-up funds, even though interest rates stand at historic low levels.

     * Regional energy taxes -- The financial resources that require higher up-front construction costs of renewable energy sources and interlocking grids could be available if states would impose carbon taxes on the fossil fuel energy economy -- and make these pay environmental costs exacted from the public domain for a long periods of laxity.  This ten-billion dollar windfall could go to harness wind, solar, hydro and other renewable energy sources.

     National projects --  Gordon Brown, British official, estimated a few years back that $50 billion a year within 15 years could cut poverty in half, cut child mortality by two-thirds, and guarantee every child a primary education (Washington Post, December 17, 2001 A-23).  Interestingly, the idea still holds weight well into the century.  Fair taxes would supply this source.

     Prayer: Lord, give us the will power to move to a more sharing economic and social system for the benefit of all people. 

"Lord, inspire the attendees at the Paris Climate Change Conference."








Mussel shells along eastern Kentucky streambank.
(*photo credit)

November 15, 2015  Reflecting on Apocalypse and Tribulations

     But in those days, after the time of distress, the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness.  (Mark 13:24)

     Next Sunday we end the liturgical or Church year and we always culminate the closing with a look at the end of the times.  Really, the imagery is somewhat frightening, but that is not the intention of the original writers. For these writers in times of distress we find our security in the Lord, confident that we have divine protection.  That confidence extends to a final fulfillment when Christ hands over the Kingdom to the Father.  The comforting message during times of persecutions is still meaningful to us today when groups like ISIS construct their own apocalypse.

     The persecutions described by Daniel (12:1-3), or as quoted in Mark's time, were violent and devastating and yet not totally different from those today.  In Daniel's time, Israel was occupied by the Syrians and Greek culture, and worship was being imposed on the Jews by oppressors.  As Mark's Gospel was being written, Jerusalem was under siege by the Roman armies in conditions that some would call the "original holocaust."  However, we have our own tribulations as we find our Earth in turmoil: climate change threats, Ebola epidemics, terrorists' attacks, Middle East turmoil, financial troubles and gross inequality.  For anyone in a smog-filled environment such as Beijing, the sun is not visible; for anyone enduring urban light pollution, the moon has lost its brightness.  Drugs, gangs, weather extremes. Yes, we have turmoil.

     A deeper spirituality is called for today, perhaps more than at any other time in the world's history.  Our ancestors had troubles, but they could not conceive that their own individual and collective actions could bring about Earth's destruction.  We know that ours can -- and some call the climate problems irreversible.  Christians are called to be realistic, not shifting to an optimism that is a materialistic quest in the fictional world of so many consumers; nor are we to share a perverse pessimism that says there is no hope.  Our realism calls us to be close to the Lord at all times.  The truth can be difficult, and so it takes a robust spirituality to steer a steady course in these troubled times.   

     Some look for signs of the times from specific Scripture passages, just as the fundamentalists conceive of the beginnings of the universe as a scientific record from the Book of Genesis.  We seem to forget that the words of Scripture are theological, not some sort of hidden scientific records.  The Apocalypse does not give details of what is to come, but rather shows that what comes must be borne with equanimity and seen in its fullest dimensions; it tells of the need for fidelity to God amid all tribulations, some of which have been experienced in every generation.  We are not to lose heart; the Lord will come in God's good time; the Lord continues to come to us in each Liturgy.

     Prayer: Come Lord Jesus, come!

"Lord, inspire the attendees at the Paris Climate Change Conference."






Stillness of Kentucky lake.
(*photo credit)

November 16, 2015  Dreaming of Good Food, Water, Housing and Health

     Give your bread to those who are hungry. (Tobit 4:16a)
Food: The world's most down-to-earth dream is for all to go to bed without hunger; today this condition affects about one billion people.  Globally, it is tackled through direct distribution of food surpluses where needed and supply of materials, storage facilities, information and small loans to local food producers in poor countries.  In various places land improvement, all weather access roads, varmint-free storage units, irrigation projects, and high crop yield methods.  Mixed and subsistence farming must be emphasized over that of company farms specializing in export commodities.  Attention must go to grains, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds for direct human consumption.

    Water: A growing problem area is fresh potable water for all, especially the tens of millions swelling the mega-cities of the poor world.  Improper irrigation practices are the number one waste of water.  With climate change, water-borne diseases can spread and afflict many.  No one should have to pay for drinking water, for it is a right of everyone.  In many lands potable water techniques are needed together with water conservation: drilling wells, building cisterns, and teaching simple water treatment procedures (passing non-potable water through several layers of cotton cloth to remove harmful organisms, boiling water or using solar distillation, chlorination, ozone or ultraviolet treatments). 

    Housing: At least one billion people live in urban and rural slums and are in need of proper affordable housing, and another billion live in dwellings lacking basic utilities.  The mammoth undertaking to provide adequate housing is a world goal and demands freeing resources to tackle world housing problems with the same degree of intensity as addressing hunger and water problems.  This dream is reachable using streamlined low-cost design, the latest green building techniques, native building materials, and local labor and sweat equity programs.  A low-cost American house could cost only a fraction in developing nations using native materials, local volunteers, custom design, and renewable energy sources.

    Health services: Adequate basic health services (public health, mass immunization, infant hydration programs to combat dysentery, eye infections, proper attention to caring for epidemic victims and other internal treatments along with public sanitation) exist in all industrialized nations but are unavailable in parts of sub-Saharan Africa.  All people have a right to health services, as well as generic medicine and mass immunization programs.  Hansen's Disease, or leprosy, a curse of former times, is easily cured today. Health facilities and personnel are in short supply.  Globally, a shortage of three million nurses exists.

     Prayer: Lord, help us continue to promote realistic dreams and ways to bring these about in our needy world.

"Lord, inspire the attendees at the Paris Climate Change Conference."








Stone sheep / northwest Alberta, Canada
Stone sheep, northwest Alberta, Canada.
(*photo credit)

November 17, 2015  Dreaming of Schools, Recreation & Human Services

     Education is a high aspiration of many of the developing world's young people.  They realize that reading and writing are tickets to a higher quality of life.  Bringing this basic dream into reality is an enormous undertaking in areas where young folks make up half of the population.  Now add literacy campaigns reaching older people, and the need for teachers and physical facilities rises rapidly.  One-on-one education of millions of illiterate people may require at least ten million human work-years at modest compensation, and funding totals add up.  Schools are not available today for at least one hundred million youth in the world due to poverty and lack of facilities.

    Recreation facilities and services are needed for better quality lives.  Servile work laws of the early and Middle Age Church were strictly enforced so that all serfs and day laborers had an opportunity to engage in recreation, prayer and relaxation.  That need continues today, including providing days off for all workers.  And sound recreation should be accessible, affordable and in safe and healthy facilities for all.  We need to consider converting un- or underused lawns, idled land, cemetery grounds and unused parking areas into play areas.  Minimum green space is highly desirable for urban youth needing an opportunity to enjoy the environment.  In fragile wilderness areas that are off-limits to recreation, videotaping, sight-seeing from observation platforms, and more vicarious experiences through modern technology could be afforded.

    Environmental protection, a primary global concern, is already being funded in developed countries, but not nearly in sufficient amounts in any land.  Sustainable renewable energy programs are another target of generous funding in these lands.  For the sake of Earth's atmosphere and climate, we must reduce carbon dioxide emissions and the best ways are through resource conservation and through renewable energy (solar and wind) utilization.  In fact, renewable energy applications will take MORE workers than needed to sustain the wasteful and destructive fossil fuel economy.  The cleanup that is needed all over the globe will require tens of thousands of workers in many countries.

      Human services for infants and elderly is an immense need in much of the world especially where domestic services are limited due to outside working conditions.  Some countries, such as Ireland, compensate relatives or others to work in domestic settings for elderly and disabled.  Add to this the care for dependent young people, including the over twelve million youngsters orphaned due to early parent deaths in sub-Saharan Africa alone.  Worldwide adequate caregiving mounts into the millions and all ought to have fair compensation coming from surplus world wealth. 

     Prayer: Lord, show us creativity to better the lot of all people through work and to find funds to employ the workers.

"Lord, help us to stand beside our French brothers and sisters at this critical hour just as they stood behind us in 1778-83. Give us courage to work together with all our allies so that good will ultimately conquer."







The Mary E. Fritsch Nature Center, ASPI
A bed of autumn leaves at the Mary E. Fritsch Nature Center. Rockcastle Co., KY
(*photo credit)

November 18, 2015  Making Dreams into a New Creation

     He has let us know the mystery of his purpose, the hidden plan he so kindly made in Christ from the beginning to act upon when the times had run their course to the end.  (Ephesians 1:9)

     On the rare occasions when I return to places where we have performed environmental resource assessments, I find enthusiasm from people who are installing organic gardens, solar greenhouses, edible landscaping, outdoor water projects, recycling programs, community education projects, and many other recommendations.  In many cases they are adapting their own creative ideas as well.

     Visions and dreams can lead to profound transformation, but how can we influence this radical change or even accelerate it: through fright?  rigid control mechanisms? or through encouraging freedom of action on the part of all participants?  And does this freedom allow for control mechanisms that safeguard the success of improvements?  We share with many radicals in all parts of the world who want sweeping changes to bring about a better life.  We conceive of socially just goals and desire to see them become a reality that is democratically operated using non-violent means.  How can we influence a global transformation while maximizing freedom of choice and expression?

     Much of the problem involves liberating resources needed to bring about this transformation.  The retention or salting away of large sums of money that could enhance work opportunities retards the development of a socially just world.  Why should billionaires decide what they should do with their surpluses, i.e., limited resources taken from the commons?  It would be far better that efficient governmental agencies distribute the surpluses to those in greater need, not leaving this to private hands lacking oversight.  Charity can be means to control by a few. Some will drag up examples of inefficient governmental bureaucracy and omit wasteful private means with its profits and high paid CEOs. 

     Believers desire a world free from oppression and operating in an atmosphere of peace.  With wars and terrorist actions in various places this goal seems distant.  For believers, it is possible and must begin right now, not waiting for future centuries.  It demands combatting an individualistic spiritual approach (God-and-I-alone) and the falsely apocalyptic (this Earth is doomed and I must scramble for personal salvation).  Non-social Christian spiritualities always look for the miraculous hand of God and no further efforts required except to keep the commandments.  It overlooks the terrible price of sacrifice that Jesus made for us, and the solemn invitation to enter and cooperate in that final sacrifice through the efforts that we make.  We are called to be collaborators in the work of establishing the Kingdom.

     Prayer: Lord, teach us how to best make our roles known to all; help us to see that we work for the New Heaven and New Earth and to invite all to participate in the tasks ahead.

"Lord, inspire the attendees at the Paris Climate Change Conference."










Aesculus glabra, Ohio buckeye, nut.
(*photo credit)

November 19, 2015   Being Free to Make Work-Related Choices  

     I call heaven and earth to witness against you today.  I set before you life or death, blessing or curse.  Choose life then, so that you and your descendants may live...  (Deuteronomy 30:19)

     An authentic spiritual approach honors the freedom that must be operational and yet sees a clear vision of a just and peaceful New Heaven and New Earth as an emerging possibility.  And we work for this as participants while maximizing freedom of choice by respecting the rights and aspirations of others.   Thus, social justice is not just an intermediate goal, namely through a radical non-violent transformation that requires tolerance and openness.  Building the Kingdom of God is a deliberate "process" that often lacks drama and is painfully slow, but honors creative differences.  Love, compassion and non-violence can and will bring change, for this is God's way of acting.  The offertory prayers in the Roman Mass tell that all that was created is now more wonderfully re-created.  Thus untouched natural beauty, so carelessly harmed, is now a re-creation that is being healed and restored.

     Christ, the New Creation, is rising, and we are witnesses to this grandeur; first the 500 disciples who saw the Risen Lord, and now all of us over two millennia.  We profess our belief as witnesses through proclamation, the blood of martyrdom, operating churches and schools, devoting ourselves to family life, and through building up communities of belief.  To anyone who is in Christ there is a new creation.  It is all God's work (II Corinthians 5:17-19).  We are the new creation (Galatians 6:15) through the roles we play.  We initiate an ongoing catechesis year after year, patiently showing that part of the mystery of the Kingdom's growth is by "re-presenting" Christ as Mary presents him to shepherds and Magi, in the Temple, and at Cana.

     The goal of a New Earth through the means of bringing social justice to all is an exercise of freedom.  It is a freedom to choose to approach Mystery in January and seek forgiveness for our wayward steps in February, both done through an exercise of freedom.  In March, we see that Jesus, freely given by God to us, is a liberator who brings us the gift of freedom.  He is free as expressed many times: freely changing course and giving himself to the needs of others.  In April, we see that the freedom of choice and of specification includes the choice of spiritual over material values.  In May, we encounter the risen Lord who gives us the spatial freedom to start over again after making mistakes.  In June, we speak of godly ways that were initiated in freedom, our way of interacting with others.  In August, we reaffirm that the free Spirit inspires us in our journey of faith.  And this stamp of freedom is fundamentally trinitarian (J. Bracken, Christianity and Process Thought: Spirituality for a Changing World, Templeton Foundation Press, 2006, pp. 36-37).

     Prayer: Lord, help us appreciate the atmosphere of freedom in which we operate and travel on our journey of faith.

"Lord, inspire the attendees at the Paris Climate Change Conference."









Hidden spider on lichen patch.
(*photo credit)

November 20, 2015   Entering the Ongoing Work of Restoration

     Anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all. For the son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:43-45)

     Free opportunities emerge within the complex hierarchy of being, from sub-atomic particles through atomic and molecular structure, to bacteria, plants, animals, and human beings on the individual and social levels.  In chemistry we speak of degrees of freedom in intra- and intermolecular activity.  Plant life includes colonies that flourish; birds and other wildlife add the freedom of spatial mobility.  The individual human being is free to do good or evil, and the human community emphasizes collective free choices.  On either human individual or collective levels, original sin manifests itself in selfishness, greed and a host of dysfunctions. 

     We freely make or miss the mark that is recorded in social, economic, political and ecclesial history.  We are not perfect, but we can acknowledge mistakes; through God's love and mercy we are forgiven and gain our freedom once more.  The challenge in Earthhealing is to involve all people through democratic process, especially the poor and overlooked.  Is this not part of the mysterious and hidden plan of God, to encourage all even when there are risks involved?  By extending liberation through social justice we afford people the option to bring new-found freedom or ruin to our precious Earth.  How dare we try to be democratic!  

The transformation that is starting to emerge is a restoration or a continuation of the process of creation.  Fundamentalists may argue that God rested after six days of creation, but is not the Genesis passage speaking of a theological fact of God's dominion over the totality of creation -- not over a small portion, as in the characteristic concepts of gods limited in period and place?  With what we know about the long span of geological history and through evolutionary process, something is still happening.  Misdeeds have occurred in the human portion of that time span; human mishaps demand corrective remedial action requiring the maximizing of our individual and communal degrees of freedom.  This transformation is at the hands of some who stifle progress and demand readjustment.

     Christ freely came to save us through a definitive event involving his death and resurrection.  We are invited into salvation history by our birth, rebirth in baptism, and through events in our lives with an anticipation of the culminating event at the end of the ages.  Christ leads us on the way, not lording over us, but through service for us. He shows this in washing the feet of his disciples (John 13:14). Our service as other christs means rejecting a mistaken notion of domination (Genesis 1:28) as authoritarian lordship; instead we do service for others.

     Prayer: Lord, let Calvary guide us to be compassionate, prophetic and enthusiastic about our work that we must undertake.

"Lord, inspire the attendees at the Paris Climate Change Conference."









Branch with thorns of the Osage-orange, Maclura pomifera.
(*photo credit)

November 21, 2015  Seeing Earthhealing as Unique Service

     It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.  C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (1943)

     Earthhealing is a form of service, a process and growth in awareness of our mission as emerging mystery.   Jesus grows in age and wisdom (Luke 2) and the Church as Body of Christ does likewise (The Acts of the Apostles).  So we as other christs grow in awareness of what must be done and we (as church) mature individually and collectively.  Our qualitative growth is one of consciousness, an awareness of heading together to our end, a telos.  Our history does not occur in a circular fashion but with definitive moments in the past and anticipated ones in the future.  It is the growing mustard, the fermenting dough, the world moving to culmination of all things in Christ. 

     As Earthhealers we are performing preparatory operations leading up to the future happening, the Christ event, the final coming, the judgment.  This is in contradistinction to two false tendencies: to regard this as a speculative event of which we are silent witnesses; or to deny that this is even possible or worthy of reflection.  The first fails to see the Mystery in our calling to be other christs, and the second fails to attend to the Mystery in the telos.  The end ahead influences how we act in the present.

     Our earthhealing attends to social justice.  Social media makes us aware of injustice on the other side of the world today.  We neglect to see that our spiritual demands deepen with time and our sense of neighborliness.  Failure to further develop our collective social consciousness is blamed on leaders, but the finger should be placed squarely on the plutocrats who hold tight to the commons, as though it belongs to them and to their control. A controlling "charity" does not suffice.  Permitting injustice to continue slows our movement towards an end.  We must rise together and that means the poor of whom we are most certainly members.  The growth both of awareness of end and of social community needs are absolutely necessary, and without both work will be retarded.

     Disharmony occurs when we omit either a concern about the final goal (agnostics overlook it), or the social awareness necessary to accomplish that goal (some fundamentalists are too individualized).  A perfect contrition is sorrow for offending a loving God who wants our love through service to neighbor in charity and more so in justice.  We recite in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, "for the resurrection of the dead;"  this is when ultimate harmony will occur when Christ delivers all to the Father.  This becomes our focus: by bringing about justice we help hasten the end; by considering the end we confront injustice.  We vacillate between wanting the end to come quickly and stalling the coming when we allow materialism to reign in our world.   

     Prayer: Lord, help us see both end and means to reach it.

"Lord, inspire the attendees at the Paris Climate Change Conference."








Kentucky's "Eden Hills" region, sky view.
(*photo credit)

November 22, 2015    Praying Thy Kingdom Come

     Yes, I am a king.  I was born for this.  I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth, and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice. (John 18:37)

     Today, we celebrate the feast of Christ the King; we recall that we have no king but the Lord and him alone.  And we seek for, struggle for, hope for, and anticipate the coming of that kingdom in its fullness as the Church year comes to an end and we await the holy season of Advent.  We live in a world that is in process.  Our environment shows both God's glory and human sinfulness.  The glory is in every sunset, the multitude of stars, and the immense microcosm beneath our feet.  But even surrounded by this glory we can and do miss the mark.  Our misdeeds include the air, water and land pollution all around us; this pollution is part of a reality that requires deep spiritual insight to see and to do something about it.  Threat of profound climate change challenges us all the more. 

     We have much going for us for Emmanuel, Christ is with us.  Awareness of divine accompaniment is our greatest asset.  The Lord comes among us in due time.  The multiplication of the loaves occurs on land overlooking the Lake of Galilee where the plenty of God is revealed.  The disciples seek to respond in a manner in which they are called to do.  God's plenty triggers our thankful response and our desire not to waste any of God's gifts -- for all things are good.  The Lord asks each of us to make our environment a quality place where we share our goods with those in need.  We believers take on Christ's kingly role and witness to the truth.      

      Earth is the place where our communion with God is realized, for here Adam and Eve walked and then challenged God by taking their new-found freedom beyond its limits.  Through their sin a spiritual separation occurred.  Their and then our destinies have come through the sweat of the brow.  The human race cries to heaven, and God in mercy and love brings forth redemption.  On Calvary the blood of the Savior falls and makes holy the ground of that Jerusalem site.  It is the Earth touched by the Savior's blood that makes this planet a Holy Place.  From this moment all the happenings take on special character as this suffering Earth awaits with eagerness the coming of a New Earth and New Heaven.                      

     We heal this wounded Earth through taking on the role of Christ who is king.  We gather as a community of believers who reach out for collaborators to all the world while hearing his command: "Go out into the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation." (Mark 16:15)   We proclaim the Good News just as the resurrected Jesus takes the Good News of salvation to the souls in limbo.  We are not passive idlers but rather bring the Kingdom about through a mission to hear the cry of the poor and help save our wounded Earth.

     Prayer: Lord, give us the courage to carry your message to a troubled but awaiting world, and help our unbelief.

"Lord, inspire the attendees at the Paris Climate Change Conference."








Stoplight ahead
Blue skies on November day.
(*photo credit)

November 23, 2015   Recycling Is Good But Not Enough

     The practice of recycling used items is highly regarded in green or environmental circles, and rightly so.  We do need to reuse materials and can learn much from nature that is always the best recycler of organic materials, such as yard and much of the food wastes that accumulate.  Through such recycling we demonstrate the value of the resources we use in everyday life. 

     Compost bins and areas are a higher form of recycling, for they turn organic wastes into humus.  As we mentioned elsewhere on this website in 50 Challenges to Commercialism Revised, some of our human attempts at recycling may salve consciences, but are not perfect ecological practice.   With few exceptions, we can place wastes in a container where needed air and moisture, along with friendly bacteria and earthworms will do the composting for us.  Again, the end result is valuable organic manure that can be used in the flowerbed, around fruit trees or in the garden for next year's produce.  Certainly this composting is far better than dumping the material into a landfill, or incinerating it, or discarding it improperly through littering. 

     Recycling of plastic and objects of mixed materials has always been problematic.  Certainly it is promoted to some degree by commercial interests bent on profitability; they dump the non-returnable (a form of recycling) to the responsibility of consumers and regard their task finished and their profits higher.  The best practice is not using the material in the first place.  What about items already acquired?  Nothing should be wasted, and so recycling is in a remote way testimony to renewal of life.  After accepting the purchase, we ought to do the best with domestic recycling.

     Domestic practice includes sorting and taking paper (including office and newsprint), metals, plastic and glass (where accepted) to a recycling center.  It costs far less energy to return an aluminum can to some new aluminum product than to make that product from virgin materials.  Many paper products should not have been accepted in the first place, but once obtained, select a recycling route that is now resource conservative.

      Our consumer culture is the culprit; it encourages a rapid change of fashion and planned obsolescence resulting in discarding clothes, shoes, furnishings, and electronics for new ones (even though there is life left in older products).  While respectable clothing is expected for work, worship or school, still pressure for the latest fashion fuels consumer-based economies.  Unfashionable items are shunted to a thrift shop, yard sale or other places of disposal of such items as "charity."  Ultimately, these shorter-lived products are the disposal burden of those receiving the hand-me-downs.  Besides so-called charity, how about returning planned obsolescence and rapid fashion changes items to the to consumer for responsible use and creative disposal?

     Prayer: Lord, teach us better ways to use the gifts given.

"Lord, inspire the attendees at the Paris Climate Change Conference."









First frost
Curled, frosted leaves and grass.
(*photo credit)

November  24, 2015  Expecting Other Creatures on a New Earth

     It is hard to imagine a "New Earth" as mentioned in Scripture without plants and animals.  Is it possible that the eternal resurrection will include those creatures that human beings deeply loved during our mortal span?  Consider these elements from what is presented during this year's Eco-spirituality discussion:

     *  God is a loving and merciful Creator -- Plants and animals gave great delight to human beings and at times their loss was painful; no suffering is totally lost in this world and a merciful God has the power of bringing life to all.

     * Jesus' redemptive act extends to all creation and certainly to the plants and animals of our planet on which his blood fell.

     * The Spirit helps us be godly through love and mercy --  and so we strive to be kind to human beings and to Earth herself; this Earth is our home and what has been developed for good has lasting value in the blood of Christ.  Earth includes plants and animals.

     * Through baptism we go down with Christ and rise with him.  Salvation is a participative enterprise, for we take on the role of other christs and enter into his suffering, death and resurrection.  We are charged to spread the Good News to all creation (Mark 16:16).  In so doing, we receive from creation itself further "good news" that makes us know more about God's marvelous works as part of our growing ecological consciousness.

     * Animals and plants have value through creation.  They are of worth in themselves and thus are not merely expendable and gone. To this intrinsic value is invested love we place in them as companions.  Animals and plants help define Earth herself and are constitutive to her vitality; they take on a special role in the total plan of Salvation History.

     * Animals and plants loved by us humans share in some way in the gift of eternal life given to us by God through the blood of Christ.  Is eternity devoid of animals and plants?

     Conclusion: From an eco-spiritual standpoint, it seems fitting that God's creation will still be admired and loved through presence rather than mere remembrance.  Our companion creatures share our benefits and mishaps and are worthy of continued companionship.  For believers, particular creatures we love and respect will join us in the New Heaven and New Earth.  Perhaps all other creatures will share as species in a collective consciousness.  Nothing is lost in the redemption of Christ.

     Prayer: Lord, forgive us from engaging our speculative powers in some way.  Our love for companions is an eternal act that includes begging that your mercy extends to more than our remembrance; it even involves the presence of those we love.

"Lord, inspire the attendees at the Paris Climate Change Conference."








Nada como el sol, soaking up the winter sun
Embracing the sun's rays on crisp autumn day.
(*photo credit)

November 25, 2015    Living with a Certain Uncertainty

     Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.     (Luke 21:36)

     As we approach Thanksgiving Day, we strive to show gratitude for all that God has given us including the privilege of living in these times and being called to help heal our troubled Earth.  But the more we are aware of the privilege to serve, the more we wonder if we will succeed in the job ahead.  Will we save our Earth or place it in such a chaotic condition that it will take an indeterminate amount of time to recover from human misdeeds?      
We are people of hope but cannot have a false presumption that all is saved whether we act or not.  Hope leads us to wish for and work for the best, but without absolute certainty that our efforts will be what makes for final success.  In this modern age we have seen plans go awry and the power of diabolic terror and suffering seem to triumph at times.  Principles of uncertainty extend to the sub-atomic world where the measurement affects the position of particles at a given time; we work in statistical probabilities.

     Our sense of absolute certitude in scientific matters affects our way of seeing the world.  Furthermore, our cognitive indeterminacy about the inner nature of God does not stop us from discovering all the more about divine interior love manifested through the saving works of Christ.  Nor does resolving current individual indeterminacy bring us any closer knowing a final goal.

     What we do not know should not reduce our enthusiasm to be involved in healing our Earth.  Much can go wrong, for the power of evil is real and operating in a world greedily seeking material fulfillment.  Thus, there is spiritual warfare of which we are party; the short-term battles are not yet won by any means.  We do not know the specific time or conditions of the final end, but to work towards healing does not mean we are certain of what our healed Earth with its scars will look like.  Are not the wounds inflicted by human beings found on the risen Lord?  Will not our Earth's healed wounds be glorified, and believers are asked to enter into the glorification process?

     Ultimately, our healing efforts will be accepted, but in what manner and time is uncertain.  Our harmonizing earthhealing is not pre-determined because we are free beings capable of missing the mark -- and knowing our past records that may be the case.  We can make our Earth sterile and lifeless -- a possibility due to our freedom, or we can heal her.  We can delay the end, reduce our participation, and change the ultimate outcome.  In faith, we acknowledge the inherent indeterminacy coming from freedom; and yet we are called to act in godly ways at this time in hope and love. 

     Prayer: Lord, keep us on the steady course, for you are at our side and keep us faithful in the work ahead.

"Lord, inspire the attendees at the Paris Climate Change Conference."








Rushing Kentucky stream after autumn rain.
(*photo credit)

November 26, 2015  Assembling at Thanksgiving

 You prepare a table before me
            under the eyes of my enemies;
        you anoint my head with oil,
            my cup brims over.   (Psalm 23:4)

     Second only to smells are the tastes of the home at celebrations of year's end.  Not being a conscientious cook, I do not fully appreciate the care that good cooks like my mother gave or give to preparing homemade meals and deserts.  Cooks have their special menus for making everything from corn pudding to hickory nut cake.  Home-grown cooks and bakers treasure their own special dishes and recipes and take deep pride in them -- because those dishes mean that others can enjoy their food all the more. 

     Today, home cooking is becoming a rarity in Appalachia, as people are often too tired to cook very much, especially after working outside the home at another job.  The enticement is to buy prepared food and that includes turkey and trimmings, or go out to the restaurant or food court.  We risk losing something if we forget how to make our favorite dishes of the past -- corn bread, biscuits-and-gravy, soup beans, cranberry sauce and all sorts of pie.  At least the cookbooks still have recipes, and these can be copied and preserved.  But is the taste the same if it is not put there by someone who has a heart to have others enjoy her or his own specialty?  Special tastes come with the cook's heart and soul blended in the dish.

     Families like to assemble together during November at this singular American holiday -- Thanksgiving.  And the glory is in this opportunity to be thankful as families, not just individuals, express gratitude for blessings received during the year.  What adds to the unique character of an American Thanksgiving meal is that it includes traditional native American foods -- turkey, dressing, corn pudding, cranberries, squash, and pumpkin pie.  Many cooks include additional family items to this listing: turnips, oysters or similarly prepared salsify, sweet potatoes, autumn greens, and a host of other delights. 

     Home life is nurtured around the family table -- and in a real sense the setting becomes the table of the Lord; the celebration itself is the glue that holds the family together.  The presence of kinfolks and the good taste of the foods are all part of making this a shared and an extended national feast.  The remaining challenge is to make sure other nations have their similar celebrations along with food security. 

     Prayer: Lord, our listing of items to be thankful for is long and involved; we never have it exhausted because you give us all good things to be thankful for during this honored and precious event.  Thank you Lord!

"Lord, inspire the attendees at the Paris Climate Change Conference."









Little grove
Maple and persimmon trees along woods' edge.
(*photo credit)

November 27, 2015  Adding Substance to Our Thanksgiving

               "I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord;
                I repeat, what I want is your happiness
." (Philippians 4:4)

     It is wise to give a second reflection to great events, and Thanksgiving Day is deserving of such second thought. 

     Present situation.  We know that God loves a thankful heart, and our American special act of freedom as children of God is to say those two important words, "thank you," to the Giver of all good gifts: for personal faith; for individual and collective health; for the rich bounty of our land -- fields of grain, forests, majestic mountains, clear streams, and all the wildlife with which we are graced.  See "A Ministry of Gratitude: One Thousand Things to Be Thankful For" on this website.  And that list of present gifts is by no means exhausted. 

     Past challenges.  However, at some moment in our thanksgiving prayer we need to bring in the broken reality of the beautiful world in which we live: air polluted, glaciers melting and oceans rising.  We do not thank God for what is happening before our eyes, but we are thankful --

* to God for allowing us to live at this time;
* for the majestic plan of restoration and a new creation;
* for including us in the saving deeds;
* for inviting us to help re-create this wounded world;
* for the use of our acute spiritual senses -- seeing the face of Christ in all creation, hearing the voice of invitation, melling the consecrating oils of personal commission, tasting the sweetness of future victory, and feeling the happiness of being in God's family;
* for being inclined to healing with a sense of compassion;
* for working with the Lord to bring this about;
* for a social and teleological consciousness; and
* for seeing these movements as worth pursuing.

     Future opportunities.  Some thanks are due for the anticipation we have to move forward, for not losing hope in a better world, for the energy to look beyond ourselves, for the atmosphere of freedom and democracy that allows us to act without stress and to work together to improve the world in need of development and sharing.  Now in a fuller sense of thanksgiving let us look more closely at our frail and fragile mother Earth; she offers so much in celebration, and yet there is much that needs to be done.  Ecos takes on new meaning, for the resolve to improve home-making reaches beyond our domestic scene and extends outward to the entire planet.  The damage done is not irreversible; we have the power to reverse directions and take a new stand.  Thankfulness expands this emerging opportunity and allows us to affirm a future.

     Prayer: Lord, even our gratitude is your gift to us; help us see this and open our hearts so they will grow all the more.

"Lord, inspire the attendees at the Paris Climate Change Conference."







Green pastures on Kentucky horse farm.
(*photo credit)

November 28, 2015  Establishing Domestic Sacred Space

     Our homes are candidates for sacred space.  If we see Earth as our present home, we are called to enhance home through an in-depth "home economics," that embraces more than external environmental protection.  We are to start at the grassroots and rebuild our Earth step by step.  That ideal starting place is the reality of our domestic dwelling, from which a ripple effect of benefits ought to flow.  This home needs to be more than an environmentally safe place as discussed in my book: Household Pollutants Guide, Doubleday, 1976.  Also, our homes ought to be warm spiritual places inviting to others, for this is HERE where God dwells with us.

     Homemakers arise!  During a wedding ceremony, married partners are encouraged to provide an ideal homestead so others can have a guiding light in establishing their own homes.  That becomes a mutual assignment, not for one homemaking spouse without the other, for both are needed to make a welcoming home.  They can thus make their home a central place of direction and security for both residents and visitors.  The warmth of love should greet each visitor.  Thus, no matter how humble, the home can be made into a warm and inviting place, one where people feel welcome and at ease.  God is present and this is a sacred space; young people need this; so do the infirm and elders who live much indoors; so do we all.

     Often homes of American Christians do not differ from secular houses of average Americans.  All have many types of gadgets and devices that establish their dwellings as reflecting the modern material culture in which we live.  But Christians should create home environments that show to the public that Christ is the center of life here.  Perhaps this determination to profess one's faith domestically calls for a new home economics.  Consecration means dedicating or setting a place apart as holy.  We do more than recognize that Mystery is present and do so through visible signs and symbols.  One way is that Christians insert religious images or other symbols into some visible part of the home.  In the apparitions to Margaret Mary Alacoque in the seventeenth century, the following words of Jesus are heard, I will bless every place in which an image of my Heart shall be exposed and honored.  A Christian home consecrated to the Sacred Heart (the love of Jesus) will be a home of peace.  We are invited to enthrone Jesus' likeness in a prominent place, thus making a home an inviting environment for Christ's presence. 

     Christians begin the making of the world anew through the actions taking place in their homes.  By selecting an image of the Sacred Heart for the home, we simply act differently; we regard the placement as designating sacred space through home improvement.  Thus, the home is at the grassroots, the beginning point in our transforming Earth.  The setting aside of our home gives visitors the encouragement to do the same in theirs.  And so reverence and Earthhealing flow out from the wellspring of each believer's home.

     Prayer: Lord, help us to honor the Sacred Heart in every home.

"Lord, inspire the attendees at the Paris Climate Change Conference."








Kentucky Stream
Weathered stones along Kentucky creek. Woodford Co., KY.
(*photo credit)

November 29, 2015    Observing the Signs of Our Times

     There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations in agony bewildered by the clamor of the ocean and its waves.  (Luke 21:25)

     Signs in the heavens tell us something, and we must observe them for what they are.  The Lord asks us at the beginning of each new Advent and Church year to be vigilant people -- to see what is coming and to adjust our lives accordingly.  Much apocalyptic Scripture about impending disaster refers to the then current period of Roman rule and threatening persecution.  But, in another way, it is also written for all ages, not just of events in some particular troubled period.  Each age has its unique dangers calling for alertness.  What must we look for now?

     * Wars and the dangers of nuclear proliferation exist, as does the possibility of inadvertent major warfare.  ISIS counts on such to occur in a fuller degree;

     * Famines in parts of the world affect poor people who are food insecure, and for the hungry who could expect nothing more disastrous than to die of the diseases caused by this condition.  With over 25 million refugees in the world and many others in need, the call is for greater concern.  Are full-bellied compassionate?  With such bounty, why should any of the poor die of hunger?

     * Epidemics seem to ravage many parts of the world, especially in this year of Ebola in West Africa and the continued deaths from a quarter of a century AIDS Epidemic.  Again, the victim sees this lifetime as limited, and calls for access to life-saving medicines.

     * Damage to the Earth is on our minds in preparation for the Paris conference of nations next month on climate change.  Actions must be taken, for the rising oceans will envelop a number of small Pacific and Indian Ocean island nations.  These environmental disturbances are caused by human beings through overuse of products resulting from release of greenhouse gases.  Deserts are expanding, forests and endangered species dying, shut down of the Gulf Stream possible, tropical diseases spreading, and glaciers disappearing.  

     In this Advent we see plenty of warning signs.  They exist if we have the spiritual insight to look up and observe reality; we cannot afford to be deniers.  We cannot excuse ourselves, for all of us are part of the social community that is to blame; we are called to make "reparation" through our prayers for the wrongdoing that we have done as a people.  We do not seek to escape or to avoid what is before us through drugs or other means; rather, we are to face the world in which we live, trusting that God is always with us.  Jesus wants us to stand up straight and be secure that with God's help we can make a difference.  Let's try!

     Prayer: Lord, open our eyes to see the signs before us and to muster the courage to help heal what is wounded.

"Lord, inspire the attendees at the Paris Climate Change Conference."








Sandstone over limestone
Sandstone over limestone. Carter Co., KY.
(*photo credit)

November 30, 2015   Perceiving a New Heaven and New Earth

     Throughout November we have considered our role as believers in establishing the Kingdom of God.  We are participants, not bystanders, each with a unique task, but as part of a broad-based collaborative active body of people of good will.  The end toward which we are moving is that grand vision, Then I saw a New Heaven and a New Earth (Revelation 21:1), (also Isaiah 51:16; 65:17; 66:12).  In Isaiah, God will create this new and transformed place and the past will not be remembered.  We will be freed from the servitude that bound so many or from the dominance of corruption (Romans 8:19ff.).  At that future time, the NOW will have no anticipated future nor the past have a hold on us.  Then the HERE will be focused on Mystery that embraces all below and all above, and all promises will be fulfilled (Matthew 19:28).  Then comes an eternal present.

       We repeat an often made insight: the better we know our role, the more we are empowered to participate; and the greater the service we render to others, the more we share in the Divine Life of God.  When we enter into a creative, redemptive and enlivening movement of renewal, we act in a trinitarian manner, the only manner in which an authentic Earthhealing will occur.  But we must believe that we can save Earth, that it is not lost and that irreversible patterns are not cast in stone.  Our faith is empowering: we can heal our Earth!  But to sustain that faith during these days we must engage in sacramental life, for otherwise doubt and cynicism will erode our mission.  Yes, we must rise and find our place collectively in an ongoing salvation history.

     What emerges in November is that our model of home is the prime analog of our final destiny, for we move from a small intimate family of kin to a broader family of the people of God.  To actualize that global movement requires "homework," that involves study, planning, cooperating, mustering resources and engaging in the nitty-gritty of building the new home.  But a vision of home with a commitment to work hard is not enough, for that may involve us only at a local level.  We move beyond, working so that all people have basic needs of food, housing, recreation, education, environmental protection, and home care. 

     Achieving these realistic dreams involves a growth in teleological and social consciousness, a growth that respects and exemplifies the freedom of all of God's people.  To stimulate this growth in consciousness (telos) requires a comparable exercise of social justice, without which our movement will be frustrated.  Thus we must confront the predominant culture that retards the growth of the Kingdom of God, namely, an outmoded System that has caused and continues the impact of climate change.  Fidelity will bear fruit.  Things can go wrong; opportunities can be lost; affluence can deaden potential companions.  Amid problems in Advent we must be determined to hasten the day of the coming of the Lord.

     Prayer: Lord, make this Advent be adventuresome for us. 

"Lord, inspire the attendees at the Paris Climate Change Conference."

Copyright © 2015 Earth Healing, Inc. All rights reserved.

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

Excerpts from the JERUSALEM BIBLE, copyright © 1966 by Darton, Longman & Todd, Ltd. and Doubleday & Company, Inc.  Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

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