About us
Daily Reflections
Special Issues

Mailing list
Bookmark this site

Daily Reflections Earth Healing

Daily Reflections
by Al Fritsch, S.J.


A series of written meditations and reflections



Help to keep Earth Healing Daily Reflections online

Read current month's Daily Reflections
Table of Contents: Daily Reflections

April 2009


Copyright 2009 by Al Fritsch

Eastern Towhee Pipilo erythrophthalmus
Eastern Towhee, Pipilo erythrophthalmus, Estill Co., KY
(Photo by Sally Ramsdell)

  Welcome April, this month of hope. The gray or
white of winter is now hopefully behind us. The first
shoots of green are now evident, and by the end of the
month the entire countryside will be leafed out, and
green will become the color of the month, along with the
yellow of blooming daffodils and dandelions and a streak
of violet from flowers by the same name. This is a time
of transition, a season of new life -- and all nature is
thrilled with this happening. April is a changing of the
guard; most of us are overjoyed that we can get outdoors
more often and soak up the full spectrum sunlight and
fresh air needed for our physical health.

At first it appears difficult to understand why this
month starts with April Fool's Day. Maybe it is because
we are more prone to expect that this is a final day of
wintery foolishness; it may be because our upcoming
spring activities are "on our minds" and others can
easily trick us; perhaps we are fooled into wanting to
believe that better things are right around the corner,
if we only look harder. Whatever the reason we know the
days ahead are full of promise as Easter comes in all its
spring glory garnished by all renewed vegetative life.

Megaphasma denticrus - Giant Walking Stick
A natural April Fool's joke of sorts. 

Megaphasma denticrus
- Giant walking stick
*photo credit)

April 1, 2009    Credit for Credit: Who Are We Fooling?

In youth we would celebrate April First by playing
innocent tricks on others. Through time the pattern
repeats itself like Lucy in the comic strip "Peanuts"
snatching the football away from Charlie Brown.
Sometimes adults initiate foolish tricks or always become
the ones tricked by hedge funds, the Bernard Madoffs and
the Ponzi schemers, who seem to know just whom to trick.
Those with observational skills try to alert the
susceptible ones, but no one is listening, for the good
times are coming. The consensus given by the corporate-
owned media is that the perpetrators look so innocent;
these tricksters are highly regarded by financial
"experts" who supposedly understand what is going on.
However, the emperor wears no clothes and very few want
to admit it.

We fool ourselves in many ways: personal debts
accumulated through easy credit cards; trade deficits of
enormous amounts for long periods of time; rapidly
expanding national debt that will be a burden on
grandchildren; a consumer culture that drains the easily
accessible world resources to the detriment of the poor;
small wage earners taking mortgages they cannot afford;
foreclosures on housing that can hardly sell; mounting
air pollutants that will cause global warming; and
stimulus packages that are neither properly thought out
or properly monitored -- all of this borrowed through the
credit card called Uncle Sam. Foolishness so abounds
that we fail to see it is April Fool's, a day
nationalized and perpetuated. Will old good times

Many of us think the high-paid bank executives know
best, or why would they be high paid? Are investors
taken in by pervasive foolishness? Who would dare
object? Are not many of us taken in by "free trade"
dictated by corporations, by candidates beholden to their
funding sources, by regulators on the dole or simply too
involved in the bureaucracy to really regulate? And then
to limit the salaries of high paid executives to only a
half million dollars per year when they have bankrupted
their companies? What profound foolishness! As Sheldon
S. Wolin the political philosopher says, "Our way of life
is over; our profligate consumption is over. Our
children will never have the standard of living we had."
Maybe this is becoming the April Fool's Day when we
really understand the depths of our foolishness.

The heart of foolishness is the citizens of a
democracy allowing some of the super-rich to gain wealth
with no respect for the corporation or its investors --
for they will bail out before the firm falls flat. All
the while uninsured victims of illness rack up enormous
health bills that bankrupt them. We tax the lowly in
hidden ways but the wealthy get off with their wealth
mostly untouched. The greedy bankers love this day for
they are always able to say, "We fooled you!"

Prayer: Lord, teach us to view rightly the
financial foolishness that has so tricked us, to
acknowledge our condition, and to help correct the faults
of our past through true reform.

Arbor Day in Kentucky
Preparing for a day of field work
*photo credit)

April 2, 2009   Peace in the Holy Land: A New Spirit

O my people! I will put my spirit in you that you
may live, and I will settle you on your land; thus you
shall know that I am the Lord. (Ezekiel 37:14)

As we approach Passover and Holy Week we are
reminded of the seemingly perpetual conflicts in the Holy
Land. The inch-by-inch encroachment by the West Bank
settlers; the rockets sent at random against Israeli
cities; the punishing reaction on the innocent
"imprisoned" people of Gaza who for months did not have
access to basic utilities. Blow for blow, and it never
seems to end. As Gandhi said, an eye for an eye and
everyone is blinded. Without going into more and more
recriminations let us hope that now a new spirit may come

The Ezekiel passage could be viewed by the
fundamentalist Israeli as a command to retake, settle and
drive out all foreigners from all the boundaries they
find in Scripture. At the same time a Palestinian could
read the same passage and declare the right of return to
land from which his or her parents were driven out in the
late 1940s. And, unfortunately, it is the same land, the
same small tract called "Holy Land." The challenge for
all of us is to help make a place where peace can
function and both parties can live. One answer is mixed
peaceful neighborhoods. In fact, a million Arabs still
live in Israel and are citizens of that country.
However, the challenge is to overcome the Israeli fear
that the returning Palestinian refugees from other parts
of the Middle East would overwhelm and weaken the
character of their Jewish state.

All three great religions pray to the same God --
Lord, YHWH, Allah. All three groups agree that our God
is almighty and able to do all things. This God is
loving and wants peace for all. Amazingly, in time of
prayer we agree that life goes beyond fiery rhetoric. We
must pray that the seemingly irreconcilable conflicts of
the past few decades will be removed and that people will
come together in peace -- the lions and lambs lying
together. If all parties only saw that the power of our
God is in the reconciliation and renewal of heart. For
centuries, people did live side by side in the Holy land
-- Christians, Moslems and Jews; it can and must occur
again for the benefit of all parties.

A mixed neighborhood approach must be coupled with
another proposal: declare the Holy Land a world
pilgrimage area. Every member of each world community is
encouraged to visit the Holy Land once in a lifetime. The
business resulting from an average of one million
visitors a week would benefit all parties. The market
includes over three billion believers from the three
major faiths -- and others as well. The goal could be to
expect sixty million pilgrims a year to come and visit.
Hotels, restaurants, and gift shops would boom. This is
a new spirit.

Prayer: Lord, allow our dreams of peace to become


Double-crested cormorant, Phalacrocorax auritus
*photo credit)

April 3, 2009    Jerry Waddle and Ducks

During April showers I think of ducks and I can't
help but also remember a departed friend. There was no
physical resemblance, just the last name, which he
allowed us to remember because the last four digits of
his phone number spelled "duck." Jerry was a true light-
hearted mountain man and still more; he was one of the
many who left Kentucky to be in the armed services. He
became an Air Force recruiter and retired early from the
military to devote his final dozen or so years to helping
defend his native Appalachian environment that was part
of him. He put his heart and soul into environmental
matters, and was in some ways equal to or greater than
any other person I've known in the mountains.

Jerry gave valuable assistance every time we
recruited him for one of our many public interest tasks.
We worked well together and I don't remember a single
major disagreement. He was articulate, aggressive, and
confrontational when that was required, but he always did
it in a diplomatic and somewhat humorous manner. Jerry
led Rockcastle River clean-ups and River Days, and
regarded as a mission supporting the endangered waterway
with its many fish and mussels and its valleys filled
with a variety of native orchids and other wildflowers.
Jerry was willing to go to and testify at local and
regional environmental meetings and to take part in the
federal government's Pride Program geared to protecting
our fragile Appalachian environment. He ran an outreach
program to describe the flora and fauna wonders of
Eastern Kentucky to 15,000 school children.

Jerry died suddenly in 2002 before reaching sixty
years of age. We buried him in his family cemetery in
Rockcastle County on a bluff overlooking the source of
the Rockcastle River. From there he acts as a sentinel
and protector of what he loved and valued in that river
and its natural surroundings. Jerry was bright even
though he did not go beyond high school; he knew
instinctively what was best for the land and our planet,
and he acted accordingly. He learned from the wildlife
firsthand by observation and applied his learning to
conserving what was good in our fragile region. With his
departure a great defender passed on.
Taken from my book, Appalachia: A Meditation

Ducks are Appalachian favorites. They float and
swim and bob about; they flap and honk and fly in "v"
formation; they waddle about the shore with a mountain
flare. They come, stay awhile, eat our grain, and slip
away -- like our city kin. Maybe ducks can teach us
lightheartedness. In fact, all birds and wildlife will
be our teachers if we can be humble enough to learn from
them. They invite us to watch them and admire them -- in
ways other than through a gun sight.
Prayer: Teach us Lord to see the good in native
defenders of their environment and who, while serious
about their mission,
conduct themselves in a lighthearted manner.


 Pathway through the forest
A trail through the forest

*photo credit)

April 4, 2009     All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)

For two decades, some of us have made the regulation
of off-road vehicles or all-terrain vehicles (ATVs)
personal crusades. Such recreational joy rides are
popular, allow riders to see the countryside and are
regarded by many as a form of green recreation -- but are
they really? The ATV is dangerous to riders, to
passersby, and to flora and fauna as well. ATVs can be
very destructive when ridden cross-country, for they can
ruin wildflowers and cause erosion. Their noise affects
local wildlife and native residents as well. The
protective cover of soil can wear off through overuse of
ATVs and the landscape is left scarred.

The danger to riders includes both drivers and
others who hitch a ride. ATV deaths occur with
regularity (at least a half-dozen a year in our state
alone) and there are hundreds of injuries, because ATVs
are inherently dangerous and drivers are prone to
recklessness and dare devilishness. While mishaps occur
at all ages, youth generally take more chances in
illegal cross-country riding; youth are less
experienced; and they tend to ride doubled up on ATVs
that should only hold single drivers. Youth will show
off to others and ride recklessly and do stupid things;
and they will get bored on standard tracks. Recall that
unlicensed drivers are not allowed on public roads.

We argue that deaths and injuries would be greatly
reduced by requiring the registration of all ATVs. Those
riding on public roadways should be licensed sixteen-year
olds or older. Vehicles can be reported by license
number, if running on non-permitted private property or
in areas of public property forbidden by regulations.
The government could reduce the registration fees for
agricultural or commercial vehicles and raise annual
recreational fees appropriately according to the impact
of the vehicles. Some additional safeguards ought to
include: mandatory wearing of helmets, not allowing any
additional passengers, requiring training for all who use
ATVs, and enforcing laws to end the sale of adult-size
vehicles to children. Youth advocate groups also would
like to see the state track and register injuries caused
by these vehicles.

Many forms of recreation exist, some taking very
little in the way of resources (equipment, fuel, or
damage to land) to operate; and others such as ATVs
costly in many ways. The promotion of expensive
recreational items originates with major boat, plane,
auto, and ATV manufacturers hungry for profits. How do
we keep the youth from coveting what the adults are
attracted to? Is not the popularizing of ATVs
attributable to profit-minded manufacturers and
salespeople who prefer their promotion over less costly
skateboards and bicycles? How can the greener
recreational activities compete against such commercial

Prayer: Lord, protect us against the allurements of
our age and from their promoters who seek to captivate
all, especially youth. Let our recreation be environmentally sound and








Palms for Palm Sunday
    (photo by Stephen Cummings, Creative Commons)

April 5, 2009   Palm Sunday: Hollow Shouts of Victory

Today Christians wave palm branches and sing Hosanna
to the King of kings. But how sincere is this gesture?
This demonstration comes five days before the awful
Calvary event. Only too often in life we say that
victory has occurred long before the struggle is over.
Take the official close of hostilities in Iraq in May,
2003. Maybe we want victory so badly that we warp
realities to shout that it has now occurred. A review of
that first Palm Sunday unveils a profound message: those
who shouted victory could be fickle when the real
struggles started; by the following Friday some of the
same voices would shout, "Crucify him." How could people
change so fast, but is it not part of being human? Some
sayings betray fickleness and other weaknesses:

"Be with me, Lord," and then we turn our backs on
God's goodness and separate ourselves through sinfulness.

"We have the world's greatest health system," and
then we find that the American system is far down the
list, on almost every count below that of the other
industrialized nations. The biggest claim to fame is
that it is the most expensive and still fails to cover
about 40 million people.

"I'm saved, are you?" This is actually tainted by
the sin of presumption, a sin against the Holy Spirit.
Where is the journey of faith that ought to be carried
out in fear and trembling?

"We are blessed because of who we are." Instead, we
are truly blessed by the goodness of the Almighty, but in
order for us to express gratitude we are called to share
more of those blessings with less fortunate people in
other lands.

"I'm happy, are you?" This is somewhat hard to
prove and our hesitancy might be taken as an indictment
of us. Happiness exudes from the whole person and is
not a verbal affirmation or denial. Too many people show
times of depression and such a glum face that it is hard
during a financial crisis to say happiness flourishes.

"We are secure." This is a wishful expression
betraying an underlying insecurity. Many live in the
fear that there will be a repeat of 9-11 or that someone
with a smallpox virus will turn it loose on an
unsuspecting urban population.

"We work harder than the poor who can care for
themselves." The facts show the poor are quite often hard
working people.

"The rich deserve more tax breaks." So they say!

Prayer: Lord, we prepare for Holy Week with a
sincere heart and a knowledge that we need to do better
in the way we act. Help us to know exactly who we are
and how we can improve. Give us the insight to correct
our faults and prepare for Easter.








Violet wood-sorrel,
Oxalis violacea
*photo credit)

April 6, 2009    Salt of Our Earth

In Holy Week we prepare for the Easter feasts and
think about the cured hams and other meats used -- and
all that curing involves salt. We know we are the salt
of the earth as Scripture says, but it speaks of a heavy
"brine" that really can lose its strength and is good for
nothing but to be thrown into the road.

Salt has a long and glorious history. See Mark
Kurlansky's Salt: A World History. In fact, national
policies, trade routes, national revolts, battles, and
alliances have been made over salt. Mohandas Gandhi led
a salt-related civic disobedience that initiated freeing
India from Great Britain. Some would say it is better to
talk about salt in winter (preserving meat or melting
snow) or in summer (pickling), but salt is any season's

The Roman writer Cato lists his workers' provisions
as being bread, olives, wine and salt. Salt works are
prized possessions of certain nations and the products
produced are often the glory of that country. In early
pioneer days in Kentucky, the pioneers made special
expeditions to the salt licks which were frequented by
bison coming for hundreds of miles on their annual salt
pilgrimage. Actually, history portrays the importance of
salt to all human settlements. Caravans in the African
desert carry salt to regions where it is scarce. The
nomadic Masai cattle herders meet their salt needs by
bleeding livestock and drinking the blood. Hunter tribes
do not look for salt because of their meat diet.
Cultivators did. People recognized the need for salt and
that its deficiency would cause headaches and weakness
and eventual death.

Besides fulfilling basic nutritional requirements,
common table salt or sodium chloride has been
characterized in many ways. It has been a sign of
dependability and remaining committed (salt of the
earth), of fertility (when presented at certain
weddings), of being experienced especially at sea (the
old salt), of flavor ("you are salt"), of permanence and
longevity and the eternal nature of God's covenant with
Israel (Jewish tradition views salt going from crystal to
solution and back to crystal), and of truth and wisdom
(Catholic rituals include Sal Sapientia or the Salt of
Wisdom). Salt together with bread was regarded in Celtic
lands as a blessing. Salt prevents decay (pickling) and
so in the Middle Ages northern European farmers saved
grain from ergot infection by soaking in salt brine.

The salt story is indeed fascinating. Although
former ages often suffered from lack of salt, we
Americans can now overconsume this relatively cheap
substance causing high blood pressure and strokes.
Instead of overcoming salt deficiencies we need to limit
salt by purchasing fewer processed, pickled, and cured
foods, using fresh or frozen vegetables, fruits or meats,
and buying reduced salt foods. Combinations of spices
are good salt substitutes.

Prayer: Lord, if we are meant to be salt of our Earth, help
us use this substance wisely.







Flowering pear in April
*photo credit)

April 7, 2009    World Health Day

Today we are to consider once more our health -- and
that means the health of all of us in this troubled
world. Thousands die each year from diseases that could
easily be treated with existing medicines at relatively
low cost. As a people we should never allow such
omissions to occur, and yet we feel helpless in our own
world with its pressing health needs. It goes against us
as caring human beings to neglect the needs of people in
distant lands -- and yet their cries and living
conditions are heard and seen through our mass media. Is
failure to address their needs equivalent to neglecting
the needs of our next door neighbor? Right now we are
engaged in the complex issues related to the American
health system, but amid our recessionary times let's not
forget the basic health needs in poorer countries-- good
potable drinking water, adequate human waste systems,
vaccination, hydration treatments for victims of
dysentery, medicines to treat AIDS, and prevention
programs for malaria.

An up-to-date world health inventory could tell us
what and where health needs are greatest. How can these
needs be met with limited world resources? If these
needs exist abroad, why do so many medical personnel come
from poorer countries to staff our own health facilities,
when all know that their own homelands are in such dire
need of medical assistance? Can something be done to
reverse the flow of such personnel? How about financing
teams that include international medical personnel
willing to participate in short-term voluntary
expeditions to health care-deprived areas of the world?
An American corps of Doctors-without-borders?

No one can deny the good will intentions of super
rich individuals who give sizeable donations to help
solve some of the most pressing health problems of poor
Africans or Latin Americans. Nevertheless, we refrain
from saying, "More power to them." Doesn't charitable
giving to the underserved come with a rather subtle
exercise of power? Bill and Melinda Gates have a fund
that is used for these underserved. But who should
decide the use of those funds, a foundation staff in the
rich world or the local people in the served lands?
Giving to the poor in charity can hide what must be done
in justice. A far more just way is to tax the
billionaires and funnel the taxed revenues through
appropriate organizations screened and sponsored by the
United Nations World Health Organization and national
health service groups. In essence, international checks
and balances would be fairer than the limited judgments
of a few rich individuals and their overworked staffs.
A world health goal must be recognition that all people
have the right to health facilities, medicines and
personnel. For basic minimum health the bill may be as
low as a single loan to a wealthy bank in the current
bailout or 1% of the current world's military budget. We
need to act now.

Prayer: Lord, teach us to give health care to all
our brothers and sisters in this world and that leaving
some out is a form of rationing that is improper from a
humane perspective.








Red-bellied Woodpecker,
Melanerpes carolinus
*photo credit)

April 8, 2009    Spy Wednesday

No one likes to be spied upon but does our
complacency lead to this happening in various sinister
ways, even when we don't have much to hide. We might say
we live such unimportant lives that we would like to be
a target of a spy, provided it does not involve violence.
However, what makes this daydream somewhat less appealing
is the reality that we are being spied upon -- but as
individual potential consumers in a large mass of spied-
upon Internet users; we are targets of potential
commerce. And, to be sure, this spying does violence to
our own privacy rights.

Computer users now have something more than just
SPAM and viruses to worry about. Spyware is out there
ready to burrow into our utmost privacy to find out all
about us, namely, what our interests are, what we tend to
buy, the size and composition of our family, our friends
and connections, and how we spend our leisure time. Our
personal history is now becoming available to those who
want to use e-mail logging lists for their own commercial
advantages. Whether we like it or not, we are the target
of these business ventures -- all for the great god of
capitalism. Can we do anything about it, or must we
reluctantly accept the erosion of our privacy as part of
the price of globalization and ready Internet access?
Without hesitation we reveal our Social Security number
upon demand from a bank or motel or business office.
Note that when first given, these Social Security numbers
were to be only available to governmental agencies for
official business, but that was a half century ago and
times have changed.

We are all out there hitchhiking on the highway of
www, a mixed blessing at best. It is such a joy to
connect with a friend in Asia. But greater access to
others carries risks and perils.

We open ourselves to being spied upon not by someone
listening with hidden earphones but through impersonal
listening devices, which analyze, compile and spit out
messages with hardly any human input associated with the
operation. It is at first reassuring to know that
efficient anti-spyware is on the market. However, rest
assured that some hacker is right now working to beat the
current system. This draws us into the infinite game of
overcoming one obstacle and then finding another one just
over the crest. The Internet is open to misuse.

Is there something even more sinister and not nearly
as hidden? Is it the level of control now being imposed
on our people, what Sheldon S. Wolin calls the anonymity
of the corporate state, or inverted totalitarianism?
Wolin holds that in no period of American history has our
democracy been in such peril or has the possibility of
totalitarianism been so real. He says our way of life is
over. Our profligate consumption is over; our economy
has collapsed. We are part of the corporate state and we
dare not speak of what is happening or we will be
marginalized and overlooked.

Prayer: Lord, help us keep our eyes open, our
options clear,  and our spirits high so we can help
make this a freer world.







A Grandmother, in her nursing home
*photo credit)

April 9, 2009      Nursing Homes

On Holy Thursday we think about what makes this a
special holy day: the Lord washed the feet of the
disciples on this evening. Caregiving is all sorts of
service that goes beyond washing feet but in equally
humble ways includes all of our special talents -- and
demands our cheerfulness and dedication. Our caregiving
can approach the heroic when people who are abandoned or
mentally ill do not appreciate what we do for them.
Nursing facilities are really a rather recent invention
and have resulted in moving people from active lives
often in a home environment to those senior places at the
end of life's journey. Cheerfulness amid mixed reception
and often lack of gratitude accompany the staff at
nursing facilities -- and often the work is hard and the
pay low.

The senior citizen picture like all national
institutional fields is spotty with some areas better
than others. As health care costs rise, the nursing
facilities are squeezed. That was evident a few years
back when some of us tried to get such nursing facilities
to introduce gardening among more able members. One
group said, "We let our garden manager go because we
can't afford such a position now." Some private nursing
homes are going beyond removing the specialty folks;
they are cutting into the lean of the facility itself.
That is why many states are striving to set standards for
operation for all nursing facilities, standards that
guarantee minimal care for occupants. The federal and
state governments try to trim ballooning costs but it is
the defenseless elderly clients who are no longer able to
lobby for their own interests. Would that horror stories
about neglect decrease.

Ideally every home should welcome elders in the
extended family. Spatial and working restraints limit
those options in so many homes. In others, people do not
want to or cannot attend to their elderly relatives and
thus the nursing facility becomes the only viable option.
Assisted living is sufficient for some, but with age and
major health problems total health care is needed. This
institutionalized option becomes more welcome when the
nursing home residents are loved and cared for as a
family. In some places this is the case, and the place
becomes a haven for the weak and neglected and those
requiring more care than home dwellers can provide for
their loved ones. The facilities needs to be a decent
place with proper oversight that ensures the facilities
are clean, fire-proof, sufficiently heated in winter,
provided with space to move about and generally cheerful.
Such facilities may require public funds but these are no
greater than a fraction of one percent of our national
military expenditures. As grateful citizens we owe our
elders a decent conclusion to their earthly sojourn.
Honor our parents and elders! It is the least we can do
for them.

Prayer: Lord teach us to care in a special way for
those in nursing homes both through direct loving service
and as citizens in ensuring that funding and oversight
are adequate for their needs.






sedum ternatum
Sedum ternatum
*photo credit)

April 10, 2009    Calvary and Human Wounds

Imagine the mixture of the sounds of Calvary with
the crowds in their jeering and boisterous jostling and
loud irreverent conversation. Curses and catcalls. Yet
in the shadows of the cross are the few who pray in
silent whispers with Mary his Mother. The terrifying
scene is too unsightly to gaze on for long. The dark
clouds are swirling in a foreboding manner, punctuated by
lightening flashes all about. The Earth trembles knowing
a monumental event is occurring. We smell the sweat of
the unwashed, the garbage heap called Calvary. We taste
sour wine and death in the making. If we listen
intensely, we hear the central figures of all who are
suffering -- the suffering Body of Christ today. They
are coming to their final dying words and their final
hours. The final curtain call of life and the ultimate
cry of peoples form the chorus call of the dying. Here
we experience the Calvary event extended in space and
time. Today and every day this year about two hundred
thousand people come to the most important moment of
their lives, that day written on a granite slab in a
cemetery. Thus we hear their words --

"You will be with me in paradise" hears the one who
stands up for justice and knows that there is nothing to
take beyond death's door but the love stored up over the

"Why have you forsaken me?" pleads the abandoned,
the homeless, the refugee, the ones with no place to turn
to or go.

"Forgive them" pray the bloodied victims of abuse in
one of many forms, who still have the sense of mercy in
their hearts.

"Here is your mother," offers a dying AIDS victim to
her whimpering child soon to be among 13 million orphans.

"I thirst" comes from a million parched throats and
those who would die to have one more addictive drink.

"It is consummated" mumble those on the
battlefields, the cancer wards, the hospices and the
dying beds of a million places.

"Father, into your hands I commend my spirit," are
the final words of people who have courageously battled
the wasting diseases of our age and who know the end of
this mortal life is at hand. It is their final will,
their moving out of life in composure to have the living
spirit sweep them up into the Light of Divine Life.

Prayer: Jesus be with us. It's silent now, blessed
silence, when we pay respects in nods and hugs and few
words, for we are speechless in the midst of death that
has occurred, and with fleeting memories of a divine life
spent in total sacrifice. Even the Earth seems
exhausted after its own upheavals and convulsions, and
the respectful silence after its cries of anguish as
total desolation sets in. We now bury you, so we can
come back on Sunday when you rise on Easter morn.









grape hyacinths
A garden of grape hyacinths
*photo credit)

April 11, 2009    Resurrection and the Garden

Christ rose to new life in a garden and we are
reminded how this contrasted with Eden, a garden of
ultimate separation and death. If going from spiritual
death to new life has a garden setting, so should our
growth in spiritual life be in and through a garden
setting. Garden Week that begins a week from today is a
perfect time to celebrate a resurrection-centered
spirituality and to discover the garden as a setting for
our spiritual growth.

* Gardens give life. The seeds need planting and
tender loving care and thus we are instrumental in
allowing the flora to flourish. Gardening is an ongoing
project from start to harvest and requires cultivation
and a sort of entering into the growing cycle. While God
is the giver of all life, we are the ones who enhance
life through our efforts, and we thus become givers. The
produce of the garden gives us life as well, for we
become our own growing land. Thus gardens root us in our
local community.

* Gardens are for sharing. We share the produce
that we grow both with the needy and with other gardeners
in order to increase variety; we share the expertise
that we acquire with those who are beginners or who need
encouragement; and we share the principle of growing our
own food and becoming self-sustainable to the greatest
degree possible.

* Gardens are attractive to passersby and to
butterflies, birds and other wildlife. In fact, gardens
are so attractive that they need protection. In recent
years I found accidentally that planting borders of
mustard has the effect of keeping rabbits and other
critters out -- and there are other ways as well.

* Gardens are opportunities for all. Gardening is
welcomed by a variety of people such as senior citizens
who do not want to completely cease working outdoors. It
is the wonder of watching plants grow and mature and
knowing that the results of our efforts are visible.
This gardening experience convinces us that we can still
give life, share and make beautiful artifacts, that is,
gardens themselves.

* Gardens cement relationships. Gardeners have so
much in common that the mutually shared activity is a
type of bonding.
Many regard recreation as winning and losing in some game
or sport; here all can gain and still have a good time
in a shared exercise. A certain competitiveness is
possible but not to defeat another but to excel over
one's previous efforts. It must not become plot against
plot, for plants don't like all this turf fighting.

* Gardens are schools for learning. Those who
assist and those who visit learn where the food comes
from, the effort and care it takes to grow, and the need
for gardeners to become sensitive to local and seasonal
weather conditions.

Prayer: Lord make my place a garden of resurrected








american robin
*photo credit)

April 12, 2009     We are Easter People

The Lord has indeed risen, Alleluia. (Entrance

This Easter morn, sunlight first appears and streaks
across the skies at the international dateline and then
onto the Pacific Isles, the Indonesian archipelago, the
Philippines, Indo-China, the villages of China, holy
Jerusalem and the Middle East, the huts and jungles of
Africa, the stately cathedrals and villages of Europe and
then to our Hemisphere from the glistening Arctic ice-
fields to the tip of Chile and on to Hawaii and Easter
Island. At all these locations, two billion believers
awake to the smell of incense and the new fire and the
words on their lips, "Christ has Risen." We all greet
the Easter dawn, something quite ancient -- a 2,000 year
old event -- and yet it is a profoundly new day because
we say in the present tense with enthusiasm, "Christ is
risen." We are a new Easter People. Spring has
definitely come, the season of freshness, vitality,
forgiveness and openness to mystery.

Two substances we celebrated last night best
symbolize this day: Easter fire and Easter water. They
seem so opposite, for we quench fire with water and we
use fire to boil away water. As human beings we are
drawn to both these "elements" as if our primeval
instincts are still at work. For that first discovery of
fire made us masters of certain conditions and fire has
fascinated us as "enlightened" people ever since.
Likewise we emerged from the primeval water, but harken
constantly back to its sound and its feel. We find
Christ in the new fire coming to life; we are washed in
water and emerge out of it as new people, baptized into
his body, the Church. With the fire we light our
individual tapers and now this Paschal Candle; with the
Easter Water we bless ourselves and all creation. We
celebrate God's blessing in making us Easter People
through fire and water.

A third symbol on Easter morn is the Easter Egg. It
is the sign of new life, for from it the chick will
emerge. I retell my Easter story each year. Sister
Imogene -- my first teacher of sixty-seven years ago (but
she only passed away recently) -- taught us catechism.
She asked us second graders for an example of a
"mystery," and I told about my mother's chicken incubator
in our basement in which all the eggs, though laid at
different times, hatched on the same day. The mystery of
new life is still a mystery to me. Note: the key was the
little kerosene lamp which was lit at a certain time.
But when as a seven-year-old I wondered why, my question
became part of my search for God, to ask why, why, why,
Lord is there new life? God's ever present love is shown
clearly through in this gift of new life, a story retold
each succeeding Easter. The chicks, which filled our
house with sound gave us joy; the sound of praise on this
day fills us with the joy that Christ rises again in our

Prayer: Risen Lord, help us share our new life with
those baptized into the Church; help us share fellowship
today; inspire us to proclaim as Easter People; The
Lord is risen.






Shadow of a tree, kissing the Earth
*photo credit)

April 13, 2009    Easter Monday: Bless the Earth

The Easter liturgy always impressed me as a youth,
but the most memorable event occurred the day after with
the Easter water, blessed at the solemn Holy Saturday
liturgy. We carried a jar home to bless the fields so
that God's blessings, given to us so generously, would be
extended to all the creatures with whom we lived. We
blessed the dogs and cats, the cattle, each of the
fields, the front yard, the garden, the orchard, and the
tobacco beds. All of these were part of our livelihood
and necessary for going forward in life. The song,
"Come to the waters," expresses the longing for God's
blessing. That was akin to the feeling we had as we went
from field to field blessing everything. In our trek of
blessings we were somewhat secretive for Protestant
neighbors might not understand.

Blessings of new life are part of our mission,
namely to proclaim the good news to all creation. The
good news is that we can enhance and not snuff out life,
that we can revitalize with the help of the Creator, not
be messengers of the culture of death.
The blessed water is that symbol of transformation and
resurrected life. If we can bless with deep faith in
resurrection, we can bring the fire of faith to others
who seem to be far removed from belief in any meaningful
future. In bringing water to them, we baptize creation
in the name of the Trinity and elevate our lowly
environment to a high status. In this simple way of
sprinkling with Easter water we recommit ourselves to
healing the Earth. It is through this blessing that
creation, so long eagerly awaiting its own salvation, now
receives it through our instrumentality. We share in
God's saving power.

What does this blessing do for us? First, we see
the importance of our mission of proclamation of Good
News; we are called by God to bring new life to a
troubled world. Likewise, we become the instruments of
Good News by going out of the Liturgy with something for
others. The Easter Water is part of the blessing to the
poor in senior citizen wards and to the shut-ins; it is
spread to all who welcome it and to others who are
puzzled. We realize the power in our hands and that is
part of the faith swelling up within us; in performing
the blessing, we affirm that the Earth is renewed and
that we are not silent bystanders. We pause at damaged
landscapes, at roadside crosses, at recently logged
forestlands, and at graveyards. We bring new life.

Blessing the Earth is an ongoing activity, not
something on Easter Monday alone. In blessing, we say we
forgive those who have harmed the Earth in any way. At
the same time we are not complacent and do not accept
ongoing acts of damage. In forgiving and allowing a
fresh start, we affirm that destruction can halt and
reclamation is possible. By blessing we heal our wounded

Prayer: Resurrected Lord, you are a blessing that
we hold not too tightly, but to share even at risk of
being misunderstood. We affirm this is the day to
say it is better to bless than to curse.





Unidentified fungus
*photo credit)

April 14, 2009     Appalachian Floods

I hear quite plainly the sounds of bygone floods.
I recall in 1937 my folks took us down to Maysville on
the Ohio River (four miles away) to view the flood from
an adjacent street. When I moved back to Kentucky in the
1970s after my sojourn in Washington, DC, our state
experienced several major floods. I will never forget
the sound of moving water as the rushing Rockcastle River
surged higher and higher and then swept down the highway
outside our building. Never do you feel so helpless as
when a flood occurs right in front of you.

Can things be done to reduce the impact of floods
that plague mountain and other communities? Some efforts
need to be made to stop people from building on the flood
plains -- federal,state or local prohibitions. People
are tempted to build on flood plains because land is
level, lower priced, plentiful, near roads, and less
populated. But when they least expect it, the water can
spread quickly across the land and inundate their life's
work. Flood insurance restrictions and higher rates can
have some effect. Awareness of past local devastation is
a better caution sign.

Clearcutting and surface mining have exacerbated
flooding in some of the more steep-slope areas of
Appalachia by removing valuable forest vegetation. In
fact, the fragile forest cover serves as a sponge to
absorb storm waters so as to release them more gradually;
forests and vegetation are the best flood control agents.
Retention of the covering does not guarantee the absence
of flooding, but it can reduce its impact and severity.
Floodwalls may assist certain populated areas, but these
are expensive and often ugly, confining, and even

As long as the rainfall is in the neighborhood of
four feet or more per year, one can expect local
downpours and tides to occur. Even in deserts,
infrequent storms can deliver enough water to severely
flood normally dry areas. Warnings by the weather
service as to possible flooding are critical, and have
improved in accuracy through the years. Sirens, radio
and telephone alert systems are all valuable devices to
make residents aware of unexpected flooding. People make
evacuation plans and talk them over with family and
neighbors. Even so, floods come quickly and some
sleeping people are awakened only when the water has
already entered their rooms. Panic sets in and the
ability to get loved ones out to higher ground can be
quite difficult.

Some heavy rainfall areas will never be free of
floods, but we can all learn and teach others to be more
alert, to respect the potential harm from flooding, to
judge the depths of water, and to know when not to drive
on flooded highways. Many victims wait too long, and
then panic or misjudge the force of the floods.

Prayer: Lord, You promised never to flood the world
as in the time of Noah; You did not extend that to local
floods. Teach us to respect and prepare for possible floods
as best we can.








Eastern redbud,
Cercis canadensis
*photo credit)

April 15, 2009    In Defense of Taxes

This is that ill-fated day for tax-paying Americans,
but it may be the best time to see that taxes are
certain, and necessary and defensible. We are becoming
a nation of "spend now; pay later." And although many
readers who are of moderate income must pay dearly on
this April day, let us remember that many wealthy
individuals and corporations have manipulated their
assets and incomes so that their crafty tax lawyers allow
them to pay less than you, the moderate income taxpayer.
The billionaire Warren Buffet pays 20% and his secretary
30% of their salaries. Fairness is forgotten and he even
admits it himself.

Fair taxes is the proper phrase, not "no taxes." So
often the no tax campaigns are waged by those who ought
to pay more, and they are getting out of what in fairness
is their duty to share their wealth. They use their
fortunes to tie the tax code in knots. The federal tax
code is some 67,000 pages long and no one knows all the
details -- even tax lawyers. Fairer income taxes ought
to liberate those on the lower end from any payments and
increase the payments of those on the upper end. The
first U.S. federal income tax in the middle of the Civil
War was 3% on those making $600 and 5% on those making
over $10,000. The dollar is worth much less now and we
could say no taxes below ten thousand dollars, a 5-10%
for those up to $100,000 and the rest of income over
$100,000 (after allowing for personal health costs).
Then it is not a question of how much do you make, but
only how much can you keep of what you make.

This rather simple flat tax on the rich would raise
more taxes than an elaborate system for the lower income
people, and give all a chance to use their innovative
skills at far lower income levels. In fact, there is no
evidence that the wealthy are better motivated or that
the drive for wealth improves performance. Greed makes
people do odd things, not necessarily better things for
their neighbor. A non-profit economy would be one where
no profits beyond living expenses are allowed.
Exemptions need not be proven only extra living expense
(e.g., a family with three youth in college at one time,
or the cost of an elderly dependent).

Taxes are the mildest manner of equalizing the
wealth of the world, so all can now have the bare
essentials of life and the very rich can not accrue
massive fortunes. With those fortunes they are able to
exert the power of their own purse on the well being of
others or they may influence governmental policies --
including those affecting their own ability to retain
their wealth. Taxes are ultimately a fairer and more
moderate way of raising the livelihood of the poor and of
controlling the excesses of the affluent that have
damaged the world in which we live. While some of us
make too little for income taxes, we all pay many hidden
taxes on many items and services.

Prayer: Lord, help us to promote taxes as a means
to a fairer life for those on the bottom of the income
spectrum. Help our policy makers to see the need for fairer taxes.






Daffodils in the April snow
*photo by Sally Ramsdell)

April 16, 2009     Health Care in Hard Times

Health care reform is in the air these days but the
horror of paying hospital bills in the thousands and tens
of thousands of dollars is enough to make the patient
doubly sick again. The cost of health care has escalated
to such a degree that it is out of the reach of most
people -- even some with partial coverage by private
insurance. The lowly have medicards; the wealthy have
savings; the great middle group have great fear. High
health care costs determine how many employees a small
business can afford; bad health is for many a curse and
even a cause for bankruptcy.

The first and foremost health consideration is to
take care of ourselves for the need of health facilities
is stressful in itself. The old phrases seem hackneyed:
eat right; get plenty of sleep; exercise daily; give up
smoking and drugs of all sorts.

Unfortunately some who get ill many times do not strictly
abide by these rules; others who have never smoked get
lung cancer. If ever there should be rationing of
medical care, one might say, "eaters, couch potatoes, and
smokers to the end of the line." That is too harsh;
however good health is a gift that is not eternal and we
ought to do everything to preserve it as long as we are

What about looking beyond the victims to the health
industry itself? Cut health costs by reducing
bureaucratic red tape that is now imposed on medical
facilities and on personnel; medical records need to be
further computerized to save unnecessary paperwork. This
$50+ billion added expense hurdle is being lowered and
hopefully minimized by current proposed federal
legislation. Likewise unnecessary but expensive testing
is required by doctors to avoid malpractice suits. Here
caps on the malpractice suits will not suit some lawyers
but they would reduce both physicians' and all
caregivers' fears and reduce insurance rates for both the
physicians and the patients. Why should any case amount
to more than several hundred thousand dollars? Greed is
behind the scene.

A few years back John Abramson's book,
America showed how Americans were influenced by the drug
companies' $3 billion annual advertising campaigns;
gullible TV ad viewers pressure their doctors to
prescribe certain medicines, some of limited value and
are overdosed to the tune of a half trillion dollars a
year -- and this drives up health costs. Ours is the
only nation in the world that allows medical advertising
at all. What do viewers know, except that they can beg
the doctor for this or that medicine that they were
attracted to on the television screen? Abramson's
underlying thesis is that many of these expensive drugs
are no better than inexpensive alternatives or healthy
eating and exercise programs. Our culture is too
infested with drugs including both expensive prescription
and illegal varieties. Medicines must be respected; they
may be beneficial, but they may have ill effects. Avoid
them if you can.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for good health or
healthier times; guide us to always preserve this health
by every means possible.







Phlox divaricata, blue phlox
*photo credit)

April 17, 2009     Pessimistic or Optimistic Ecoview

How do we approach our current environmental
stance? What motivates us to further action? We could
choose to paint a dark and foreboding picture of
ecological collapse on this fragile planet; we could give
all our attention to undisturbed pristine areas. Is it
thorns or roses or maybe a little of both? In some ways,
both world views contain truths and inherent weaknesses.

We may follow the lead of writers like Thom Hartmann
in The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight, and launch into a
list of statistics like his book introduction: within
the last 24 hours 200,000 acres of rainforest were
destroyed, 13 million tons of toxic chemicals were
released into the environment, and 45,000 people died of
starvation of which 38,000 were children. Not a rosy
picture! He moves from what could be termed deep
pessimism to the causes of these conditions and then to
some reasonable solutions we might take. But pessimistic
introductions bother me. I want to shout, "Wait a
minute. Let's qualify some statistics as to destruction
and release and causes of death." But to overly qualify
would lose the impact and make even fewer people willing
to read the arguments. How many close such books for
peace of soul?

The opposite picture may be the scenic hike or a
reading of Rand McNally's America: A Celebration of the
United States; this book has exquisite photography which
makes one love our land -- boaters in the Midwestern
sunset, a cow resting on a Vermont farm, a view of the
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone -- all of which bring
back great memories of yesteryear. We are tempted to
forget ecological dangers and affirm the goodness of what
we have as a nation and planet. We need these moments of
beauty to raise our spirits, and yet virtually every
picture needed qualification: the lake may have been
polluted; the cow may be given supplements that could
enter the milk and food chain; and it takes fuel to
travel to the Grand Canyon. However, over-qualification
here would have ruined the impact of the coffee table
book. Why be a spoiler?

Realism is a needed spiritual insight and seeks to
be balanced. We must listen to the prophets who tell
stories that contain unpleasant truths; we must see
through a photographer's eyes a more perfect portion of
an imperfect world. In fact, we attempt to do both in
these "Daily Reflections." By balancing both optimistic
and pessimistic views we discover our human condition.
We are in a delicate and vulnerable world requiring
improved conduct; we are destined for a more perfect
future world to which our imagination may take flights of
fancy. The key is balance. We may reserve
qualifications; we may enjoy moments of beauty with peace
of mind. We need motivation to make the necessary
changes to heal our wounded Earth. I vacillate between
the apocalyptic statements and the retreat to the still
untouched hills. Isn't good spirituality a realism that
accepts and balances both views?

Prayer: Lord, give me wisdom to see disasters that
could beset us and future possibilities that will benefit us.







A leisurely hike at Land Between the Lakes
*photo credit)

April 18, 2009      Spring Hikes

Hiking is good when we have worries and need a
physical break. That exercise could occur any season of
the year, but it is ever so good on a bright spring day
when the weather is mild and the summer insects are not
yet bothersome. Some say this or that season is best for
a given exercise -- but really all have advantages for
hiking. Winter hiking gives a clearer picture of land
formations and tree forms along with brisk air and
freedom from mosquitoes and gnats. Summer does not
require so many wraps and includes the sight of rich
foliage and the presence of tasty berries. Autumn has
its sounds and colors. However, in my opinion spring
hiking is so welcome that it overwhelms hiking pleasures
in other seasons.

Spring hikes can be divided based on date: late
March/April and May/June. The former involve the carpet
of wildflowers just before full foliage, which (with some
exceptions) occurs in our part of the country in the
first part of May. These earlier spring hikes are most
perfect in our country right after mid-April.

* Awesome sights -- We see wildlife scurrying about;
these varmints tell us that life is quickening and they
have work to do. The streams are generally more active
at this time of year and the sights and sounds of rushing
water are so very soothing. It may be a nice time to take
along a camera.

* Fresh experiences -- When new leaves spring forth
there is tenderness and youth to all vegetation. The
season makes us young again and we acquire a springy step
in our travels; like little children we focus on the
forest floor where the flowers are peeping through. Take
a wildflower book with you on the hike and attempt to
smell some of the delicate spring fragrances; wildflowers
are only here for a short time.

* Delicate tastes -- This is the season for picking
greens and mushrooms. Look for them and taste a few of
the native greens to keep in touch with the land itself.
Carry a bag to gather a few dandelions, water cress,
young poke or any plentiful exotics.

* Exciting sounds -- Every season has its particular
sounds but those of us blessed to live on a migratory
flyway know that we only hear a number of these passing
birds at this season, going north, and for a briefer and
less vibrant return trip in the fall. We hear the rustle
of the ground squirrel and the field mouse. And the
sound of rushing water resonates and is so refreshing
just before being dampened by the fullness of late spring
* Warm Feeling -- Usually spring trips begin in the
morning when it is relatively cool and continue to a
warmer period in the afternoon. The extended sunlight is
energizing and the weather is generally more pleasant
than winter or summer. Carry a backpack to store your
sloughed off morning clothing. Take a water bottle.

Prayer: Lord, give us the insight to enjoy this





Mayapple, Podophyllum peltatum
*photo credit)

April 19, 2009     St. Thomas, Easter and Divine Mercy

Blessed are those who did not see but who believe. (John

Thomas became the first to miss a Sunday church
gathering -- first of the many who for various reasons
are absent. But mercy is shown him. In today's Gospel
reading we find the theme of forgiveness repeated in
connection with the Easter event. The merciful power to
forgive is the power to give new life -- and the Church
is given this awesome power to participate in the
resurrection in a special way. That is an added
dimension of the power that extends in the other
Sacraments including Baptism and Eucharist.

Look at St. Thomas who comes late and professes his
deepest belief in the most profound manner -- and is
forgiven for his tardiness. Thomas moves on with the
other disciples to spread the Good News; Christians of
India today are the direct descendants of the ones to
whom he preached back 2000 years ago. We have the
fidelity of these people who continued carrying on the
Apostolic tradition even amid the hardships of being
under the dominance of non-christian groups at various
times. The Thomas Christians continue to profess their
sound belief and continue to spread the Good News.

Easter is a good time for us to honor faithful
believers in our midst who have professed their ancestral
faith and continue traditions extending back for
sometimes eighty generations of fidelity. We may take
for granted the bedrock members who come every Sunday,
support the church, go to special events, always speak in
a positive manner, and live their faith in a quiet and
meaningful way. These are the truly faithful ones who
strive to live as the Lord wants them to and who show
their love and devotion through kindness to their

For the faithful ones God shows special mercy -- and
this Sunday we celebrate divine mercy. It is comforting
to know that God's mercy far surpasses all the mercy that
we could ever show to others. Forgiveness is the great
expression of mercy and the new life received through
forgiveness is the gift of mercy that God has bestowed
upon us -- and we can extend to others. We put faith
into the ability of others to change their lives, and
show a confidence that they will do it. We encourage
them to practice their faith, live faithful lives, hope
for better things to come, and prepare for the coming of
the Kingdom through loving deeds. We assure the
discouraged that a better future is ahead. God's
forgiveness and mercy extend to all creatures as well as
to all our fellow human beings. This mercy extends to
our fragile planet, which we are called to protect. We
are earth healers, the ones who discover God's mercy to
us, of which we become mindful at Easter, a mercy to be
shared with others.

Prayer: Lord, accept our sincere gratitude and help
us extend your mercy to all the world around us.





A great listener.
*photo credit)

April 20, 2009     The Art of Listening

This is Wildlife Week. It is a good time for us
both to appreciate and to protect our wildlife; also it
is a time to learn from the fauna. One of the more
wonderful traits that animals in the wilderness have is
that they stop often and listen. We observe that rabbits
and squirrels and many birds do this over and over. They
know by instinct that such practices are needed because
of possible life-threatening danger. They have refined
their senses for detecting predators and foreign

We human beings, especially those of us who are
immersed in our action-filled world, need to listen with
our whole being -- not just for the disturbing threats
all about, but to the word of God which comes in so many
times and ways. The story of Jonah is one in which a
foreign people, the people of Nineveh, listened to Jonah
the prophet and all, from the king on down to the most
humble subjects, changed their ways. Even the animals
were involved in the reform. Listening to God became a
community exercise.

While we would find it difficult to slow up a noisy
world with the power of an Old Testament prophet, still
we can initiate the art of listening on an individual or
small group basis. We all know people who are called
good listeners; they are prized members of the community
because people can go to them with their problems and
know they will listen. There's an art to these
listeners, a turning of their whole being to hearing what
others have to say. Their facial features and body
language all say, "I have time to hear what you say, and
am allowing it to sink in."

Today is the day each of us should stop and listen
to the word of others, to hear those who need a hearing,
and to discover what is being said for our ears only. It
is the pleading, searching, or warning of friends,
relatives, caregivers, experts, or just concerned
citizens. It may be the additional word spoken by God
through unexpected sources -- for God speaks to us
through others, even through wildlife. These may be
pulpit homilies, Internet messages, health warnings,
media stories; they may come from a parent or child, a
leader or follower, a person of influence or a homeless
person. All in all, we must listen so that God's word is
received through our attentive ears. It may be a whisper
or a shout, a child's cry or the rustle of a ground

We are greeted with the sounds of nature coming to
life in springtime. The source or instrument making the
sound may not have a full understanding, but God still
speaks through them; the challenge we face is to listen
and hear what nature's creatures have to say to and for
us. Some call out for care and protection. We must
listen and then act; what we hear comes from a variety
of sources; how we respond comes from our unique gifts.
Let's listen for a special message may come only once.

Prayer: Lord, guide us to become attentive to the
world around us. Help us to listen, understand and act







Fresh blackberries, gathered from an abandoned pasture
*photo credit)

April 21, 2009    Fresh Fruit and Vegetables

In spring during pioneer times people moved out
quickly into the pastures and woodlands in search of wild
greens. The craving for Vitamin C and other nutrients
after limited winter diets was quite noticeable. This
search for greens commenced as soon as the new sprouts of
dandelion, poke, cress, and other greens became
noticeable. The pioneers' April searching is not as
urgent today because we have access to supplements and we
are able to get fresh vegetables and fruits much of the
year thanks to refrigerated, frequent and dependable
transportation and the availability of frozen foods.
Some fortified cereals and other foods also help.
However, more expensive fresh fruits and vegetables mean
poor folks may be denied those benefits.

The general awareness of a balanced diet has
resulted in nutrition charts with recommended diets,
which some would like to follow but find the entire
produce aisle outside of their purchase range. In good
times fast food junkies get their slice of tomato and a
leaf of lettuce on their hamburger. In bad times even
these items cannot be afforded. Many people simply state
that they don't like salads and thus won't eat fresh
vegetables; they may like fruit a little more and so
will have an occasional banana. Well over half of this
country, which is blessed with available food, does not
get proper servings of fresh produce. Breadwinners do
not push because out-of-season fruits and vegetables are

One answer is to encourage use of fresh produce in
creative dishes such as fruit salads, sauteed vegetables
with ethnic meals, fresh fruit toppings on desserts, and
sandwiches with increased use of fresh vegetables.
Cooking with frozen foods is a way of getting locked-in
freshness. Prepare snacks such as carrots, celery, and
sliced fruit wedges. One way for the economy-wise family
to meet fresh needs is to go to pick-your-own orchards in
the fall and store apples and pears in a cellar or cool

For freshness, nothing beats the repetitive message
of this website: grow your own garden and have fresh
produce much of the year. If you have a greenhouse, you
can almost cover the entire year with freshness. Even if
greenhouse-less, gardens can suffice when planted early
in spring, and fall crops are extended through the use of
mulch and protective covers.

Some take pride in disliking fresh fruits and
vegetables and eating mainly sweets, fries and meat
sandwiches and dishes. They may be heading for troubles
ranging from diabetes to heart problems. Individual
habits are not the only thing that must be changed.
Fresh foods could also be available in popular fast food
outlets, if the managers would serve them in creative
ways. Furthermore, school lunch programs should
encourage fresh produce on menus even though such budgets
are tight in these hard times.

Prayer: Allow us, Lord, to know what is good for us
and to enjoy it.







Spring beauty, Claytonia virginica
*photo credit)

April 22, 2009     Earth Day Commitment

On this date in 1970 I was a post-doctorate fellow
at the University of Texas; I will never forget one
aspect of the large gathering on the campus lawn under
the famous Texas tower. I don't recall what the speakers
said but the person sitting near me cheered wildly, but
squashed his filter cigarette in the turf of the lawn.
What seemed odd then has become a festering problem with
the years -- we like selective parts of the environmental
message. The problem is how to get people to see that
this selectivity could damage our Earth, especially if we
forget personal responsibility.

The first Earth Day was filled with enthusiastic
but rather naive people. We did not understand the depth
of the damage and what areas would affect our wounded
Earth; we did not know the time and effort that would be
required to repair the damage; and we were unable then to
see that our economic system must be changed to deal with
this emerging crisis. In 1970 our conscience was already
being pricked by Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, which
focused on the problem of pesticides killing bird
populations. Throughout the 1960s we heard disturbing
reports of factory emissions polluting the air, but these
had not yet been given prominent coverage in the media
that reaches the general public. To do that would take
an activist push similar to that occurring at that time
in the civil rights and the anti-Vietnam movements.

Gaylord Nelson, a senator from Wisconsin, was one
of the kingpins in raising the consciousness of a nation
to doing something. He modestly said that Earth Day
"organized itself," but that is a little misleading. A
number of concerned citizens in all walks of life spent
considerable prior time organizing rallies, getting
speakers and musicians, and notifying the media of the
events of that April 22, 1970. Better than just those
gatherings was the hype that the events received in the
newspapers and television. It was as though we were made
aware in a short space of time that things were going
wrong and that our consumer culture was partly to blame,
as we would see if we delved a little deeper.

After the array of laws at all levels, we are
starting to see that our consumption patterns have
something to do with the problems we are in. People have
became aware; youth are taught about the environment; the
environment has become a part of our way of thinking
about work, study, travel and all aspects of life. We can
damage and destroy our fragile Earth; it is not enough
to simply know; we must do something. A commitment is
needed by each of us: we need to regard our actions as
affecting all other people on Earth; we need to do
specific actions in order to heal our wounded Earth; we
are to let others know when they undertake damaging
environmental activities; we should implement green ways
to improve our own lives; and we must constantly press
our government at various levels to support renewable
energy programs.

Prayer: Help us Lord, to make a new commitment this
day to bring environmental issues to the forefront of our




Remnant of summer 2008
*photo credit)

April 23, 2009    A Catastrophe or an Opportunity

We are waking up to what is before us, a financial
catastrophe -- a new depression?. All the efforts at
throwing money at the mounting debts are not saving the
day; we have to come to our collective senses for
purchasing without restraint, hedge funds, outrageous
bankers' perks and massive waste on the part of our
people simply have to come to an end. For some few of us
who have been talking about these dangers for four
decades the current situation could not have come too
soon. We simply must come to our senses; even with high
levels of undesired unemployment and many home
foreclosures, still we discover good in what is

Some of us can truly say, "We told you so." But
such utterances only wear on the patience of the
distraught and discouraged. Turning the current
situation into an opportunity for change is a hidden
benefit. Let us seize the moment for it could turn nasty
when some have super amounts of money and others are
penniless. Before the meltdown and financial crisis many
who saw the need for change felt powerless to change our
consumer culture, the advertisements, peer pressure,
technical gimmicks, get rich schemes, endless credit card
purchases and mortgages with virtually nothing down. We
saw global warming efforts way behind schedule. Some
said only that a catastrophe would change us but we could
hardly pray for what was to come. The problem with
catastrophes is that they are uncontrolled; no safe
landing guaranteed for all; some especially the poor
suffer. All things considered, our wake up call has been
about as mild as could be expected.

Our American Constitution is the oldest in the
world. It has worked well during stormy weather. We are
people of law and order and we have learned through
social programs and other means to treat our fellow
citizens with respect. What we need is an expansion of
the definition of "citizens" to include the rest of the
people of the world as well as flora and fauna to some
degree. An orderly and democratic people do not expect
that violence should accompany a change of heart or
pattern of action. People do not have to be beaten into
submission -- and catastrophes can trigger violent events
that can bring unwanted changes.

We have the opportunity to seek to control the
course of events. We need to question the so-called free
enterprise system, markets determining the course, free
trade, the glory of capitalism. We must put the cards on
the table. People hurt: fewer restaurant visits; less
travel; less credit card use. Changes need to be made on
global, national, state and local levels -- and within
our homes. Change is here; let us prepare to meet change
with the best instruments we have at our disposal:
democratic regulations. Bankers and their types
precipitated this crisis; let us make sure they are
restrained. The lowly must rise and take control. Yes,
we are on a fast learning curve.

Prayer: Lord, teach us to see this time as an
opportunity and to seek to control events to the best of
our ability.





Star chickweed,
Stellaria corei
*photo credit)

April 24, 2009    National TV-Turnoff Week

As our country turns from analog to digital
television this spring, maybe each viewer ought to turn
off the television for one week. This becomes an
opportunity to discover just how hooked one can become on
television watching. One of my neighbors thought it was
inconceivable that I could know anything about the world
or have any entertainment medium since I have no cable --
and thus no television reception. If nothing more, being
without television opens non-viewers to different ways of
saving time and makes them aware of wasting time watching
mediocre television.

* Move about outdoors. As the days become longer,
evenings could just as easily be spent in walking around
the neighborhood getting to know the people and the flora
and fauna. Too many people become sedentary and are
glued to TV even while on vacation.

* Read more. Television viewers often become
functionally illiterate even while using their eyes,
which could be used reading good, available materials.
We ought to resolve to read a book a week and use
television time to do it. Reading enhances our creative
powers and gives us new insight into the world around us.

* Vary your information sources. We should get news
in a more concentrated form and without the
advertisements that consume so much of the TV news
program. We can use the radio or read a periodical or
use the Internet to gather far more information in a
shorter period of time than when watching television.

* Interact more. People may wish to talk and share
happenings and just be present to each other in a quiet
way. Here is your opportunity to cultivate one-on-one
and not be the passive observer of professional
television personalities. Soon the silence of not having
the television blaring will feel more like a blessing.

* Communicate more. This is now the time to write
letters, send an e-mail or make a phone call to a
neglected soul. It may be the time to make a neighborly
social visit to a shut-in.

* Reflect more. The jumble of all the images that
come over the television tube can disturb us. We need to
pull things together and keep the TV off as a good way of
doing this. The same needs to apply to shutting off the
radio, to text-messaging, or to staying wired to the
Internet, which can also become addictive.

* Conserve energy. The average television is said
to be on six hours a day and left on even when not
watched. Such operating for a length of time consumes
energy, generally from non-renewable energy sources.
Pull the plug out of the wall, for some energy is
required even when many electronic devices are not on.

Prayer: Lord, you give us the gift of free time;
help us to use that gift wisely and well with a true sense of
refreshment that comes with silence and quality rest







The Alaska Highway, north of Fort Nelson (British Columbia)
*photo credit)

April 25, 2009     Some Questions for Car Users

This reflection assumes that the vehicle is energy
efficient or uses alternatives to petroleum-based
products. We may need to use the car for various
reasons; we need to get to work; we must attend meetings;
we may realize that driving actually takes less time than
flying for trips of fewer than five hundred miles (if we
live a distance from an airport) plus saves fuel (public
rail lines are better if at all possible). With our
financial worries and possible rising fuel prices, we
should review our driving habits.

Can we multitask (multi-errand) the trip? When we
have a number of errands and some can be delayed, group
the tasks so that a number of chores can be done in a
single trip. Can we deliver or pick up items on our way
to a necessary meeting?

* Can we make larger purchases to cover a longer
period of time? So often we do things several times a
week that could be performed every two weeks or every
month. I now buy groceries once a month (with a rare
additional supplementary trip). I used to shop for
groceries every week but planning has reduced trips.

* Are we able to carpool on an ongoing basis or for
single trips to a special meeting or event? If well
planned with punctual people, this can prove a major fuel
savings and hopefully allow for less driving by different
members of the team. A number of metropolitan areas now
have driving lanes for those carpooling, which shortens
the time for the total trip.

* Can we take vacations closer to home? This is
something that in our financial downturn is emerging as
a major means of saving resources for many hard-strapped
families -- and the trip organizer may not have to spend
as much time in stressful driving. It generally turns
out there are enjoyable attractions near home.

* Is the trip or meeting really necessary? Increase
the number of business communications by phone, e-mail or
letter or by tele-conferencing. Some trips are simply
unnecessary or they resemble impulse buying; we could
call it "impulse going." We could have spent our meeting
time resting or working in the garden and so could
others. This applies to events where people want us to
be warm bodies. Delegate one to go and three to stay at
home and receive a report back on the happening, a method
that takes far less time than all going.

* Can you walk or ride a bike to the store? Many
car trips are for short distances and could be replaced
by other means of getting around. It is time to plan
such exercising and to allow the car to rest. Persuade
youngsters and others to bike to exercise classes; many
car trips could be saved by this practice.

Prayer: Lord, make us aware that we can do things
in better and more conservation-directed ways even when
we drive efficient and well maintained vehicles.




Enjoying the sun
*photo credit)

April 26, 2009    The Road to and from Emmaus

The disciples recounted what had happened on the
road to Emmaus." (Luke 24:35)

They have a story to tell, and even though they are
tired and the road is long, they hasten with spring-like
steps to the brethren gathered in a locked room and a
hidden place. They become the first evangelists who
bring the Good News to others.

There is excitement on the road; the excitement of
the resurrection, unexpected, and yet somewhat
anticipated throughout Scripture. Jesus is in our midst
even when we are wrapped up in our own cares and
concerns. We see him now dwelling especially among those
who are overwhelmed with worry, illness and financial
trouble. Those of us with spiritual hunger are also
wanderers, never fully satisfied, always looking and
searching. Do we see in an anxious world Christ himself?
To be Christ's follower does not mean following behind as
a passive imitator but to become Jesus in the world in
which we live.

The story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus is
the story of our own lives and our journey in Faith. On
our way to Emmaus we find ourselves bewildered and
crushed by the Calvary events in our own lives. We walk
in faith but with heavy hearts seeking the security of
our homes. We are possessed by our troubles and yet we
take note of the stranger who is passing by. By
extending hospitality to the wandering stranger we find
Jesus among us. We listen to him and experience the
Scriptures with him. With burning hearts we share in the
breaking of the bread. We suddenly have our eyes opened:
Christ is risen!

Going to Emmaus is our journey to liturgical
service; rising and going forth with the Good News is our
journey out to those who want to hear the word, but are
isolated in their own troubles and doubts. With the
excitement that we acquire in meeting the Lord we now
strive to move forth and take Christ out to others even
when physical exhaustion seems ready to overwhelm us. We
retrace our steps to tell others about our experience.
Our growth in faith is a gradual process of comings and
goings, of coming to the Liturgy of the Word and
Eucharist and then conveying our experience with the Lord
to others.

Emmaus resembles our lives both as individuals in
faith and as a community of believers who exude victory
and hope. As a people we have experienced the Lord in
showing love for our fellow human beings. We become
people on a mission. The Emmaus episode is a transition
-- a risen Lord extending to the disciples a mandate to
share their journey with others. Our community is called
out of its desolation and personal pain to break loose,
to exert itself, to see Christ in our midst, to feel his
assuring presence, and to extend who we are to others in
our midst and beyond.

Prayer: Lord, inspire us to extend Emmaus to an
entire planet.



Delicate droplets of water after a spring rain
*photo credit)


April 27, 2009     Spring Rains and Storm Water

After two successive years of drought here in
Kentucky we are praying for plentiful spring rain. Yes,
we hope for the seasonal gentle showers of April but we
could have stormy weather as well, especially in the
latter part of spring (May and June). The best way to
prepare for storms is to avoid the trees when outdoors,
unplug electronic devices inside, and even get lightning
rods for structures especially when located in isolated
high places.

An added consideration is storm water that must go
somewhere fast. This is especially troublesome in paved
and roofed areas where the water accumulates rapidly and
has little chance of soaking into the ground. Storm
water is often not of the best quality to store in
artificial lakes: it is likely to contain sediment and
debris, pesticides and fertilizers from fields and lawns,
droppings with harmful bacteria from livestock, wildlife
and pets; and automotive petroleum products. These can
poison aquatic life and be harmful to potential swimmers
and those who are tempted to undertake water sports.

While we cannot control the storms of spring, we can
control storm water in different ways: reduce paved
areas by use of gravel; divert excess rainwater to
cisterns or containers for watering greenhouse plants and
other uses; go organic and avoid commercial fertilizers
and pesticides; mulch areas that are tilled and
temporarily barren; plant drainage and swales in aquatic
plants that grow well and take up excess moisture; avoid
dumping auto fluids and other contaminants through storm
sewer systems; use a carwash that treats or recycles its
wastewater; refrain from throwing hazardous materials
into sinks and toilets; compost or mulch all yard waste;
and dispose of pet wastes through the regular toilet

Many construction operations are messy and storm
water can lead to further disturbances. Such sites
require vegetative cover, sedimentation controls, silt
fences, and other precautions to avoid storm water
runoff. Livestock must be kept away from streambanks
and be provided with water from properly managed sources.
Logging should not occur next to streambanks and should
be preceded by a state harvest plan. Revegetation should
be done as soon as possible in all disturbance

When the proper steps are taken, the runoff into the
storm water catchments can be relatively pure and can be
used for fire protection, irrigation, scenic beauty and
as a haven for ducks and geese. Such catchments need to
be protected from those wanting to use them in an
unsupervised fashion, for they can become a neighborhood
enticement. When properly landscaped they may serve as
small scenic lakes.

Prayer: Lord, you walked upon the stormy waters and
calmed the raging sea; teach us to endure the storms of
life with equanimity and to use the water from the heavens well.





White throated sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) bathe on a spring day
*photo credit)

April 28, 2009       Green Buildings

Winston Churchill heard his staff complaining about
the crowded conditions of his prime minister's offices
during the Second World War. Several workers were jammed
into each room. He insisted that much more work was
achieved when the people were more crowded together.
That may be true to a degree. One does not need
spaciousness to achieve better quality work. In fact,
the opposite may prove true depending on the type of
collaborative work.

As for spaciousness, worshiping communities often mention
how they prayed better when they were in a smaller space
and closer together. As for domestic conditions, often
the one who moves to a larger house tells how much
trouble it is to keep the bigger space clean, maintained,
heated and cooled.

According to the National Association of Home
Builders the average new single family dwelling was 1,570
square feet in 1980 and increased to 2,235 square feet a
quarter of a century later.

Architects are often like car salesmen; they want to get
your business except that the appeal is through a design,
not through the finished product itself. If the building
has more accessories when it is being built, there's
saving for they need not be added later. Costs will be
higher and the tempting contract a little larger. Why
not sell a larger green building to the prospective
client in order to have more green? Tell of the need for
this or that room for specific activities (sewing rooms,
mud rooms, dressing room, additional rest facilities at
various locations).

The client is ushered ever so deftly into the arena
of needs and wants -- and finds it easier once the
elementary structure is detailed to bring it up with a
little more of everything. One must have a larger office
for this, a place to change clothes, a guest room, a mud
room, an additional shower here or there. There must be
larger rooms for the children, who will soon be gone,
larger basements, garages and on and on. America has
doubled its spacial demands in every part of life --
education, worship, commerce, work, and domestic living.

Greenness includes good insulation, building
materials with no harmful outgassing, use of native local
building materials where possible, fire-proofing,
renewable energy alternatives, absence of asbestos and
toxic materials, proper exterior shading, water
conservation measures, and devices to turn off lights or
modify heating according to need. However, greenness
ought also to be related to the size of the building. Is
this space necessary? Each size reduction saves
building, heating, cooling, and maintenance resources.
Once I asked a minister who had an enormous parking
space, "Why so much?" "It gives an air of prosperity to
the parish" was the unexpected reply. He admitted it
was seldom completely filled and on such occasions other
parking could be used. Whether interior or exterior,
true green is space-conscious.

Prayer: Lord, teach us to know what is needed, to
find ways of avoiding what is unneeded, and to donate the
rest to the needy.



White violet, Viola canadensis, after a spring rain
*photo credit)

April 29, 2009    Faltering Empire or Opportunity

Is America following the path of the Roman Empire?
Rome fell: the empire of straight well-engineered roads
and aqueducts, the mightiest army the world had ever
known, the universal language and legal system, and the
cultural influence of art and literature and academia.
All seemed so invincible and yet fell away in the fifth
century A.D. (some say in 476 when there was no new
emperor to replace Romulus Augustulus). After a thousand
years Rome crumbled. The influences and causes are many,
but most scholars agree with Edward Gibbon's eighteenth
century classic, The History of the Decline and Fall of
the Roman Empire, that the barbarians had much to do with
it -- and that the fifth century A.D. was definitive.

If America, the United Kingdom and its dependencies
are considered one federated whole, then the empire has
lasted almost a thousand years since 1066. English is
the dominant world language; America has well engineered
road and water systems -- though in need of upgrading;
the mighty American army based in many strategic
locations throughout the world is powerful and consumes
half the world's military expenditures; immigrants flood
across borders (Rhine River in Roman times and the Rio
Grande and Cuban straits today). Roman military
discipline did deteriorate with the addition of
barbarians into the military ranks and the decline in
proper drilling needed to engage in close-order combat.
Cf. Arthur Ferrill's The Fall of the Roman Empire, Thames
and Hudson, 1986. Is modern American military discipline

Rome regarded itself as somewhat invincible
throughout the Pax Romana. But weaknesses only at times
half noticed appeared. Suggested causes of Roman decline
have been challenged: suspected depopulation (statistics,
which are very inexact, did not show major changes in the
course of the last two hundred years); decline in
morality (it actually was regarded as rising in the last
two hundred years of the Empire). Romans may have lost
the sense of their own destiny and become bogged down in
the affluence of the noble class (housing was quite
spacious right before the end); original state paganism
lost its power to influence others -- though Christianity
actually flourished. Small landholdings gave way to
larger corporate estates, as we in America witness today
in corporate agriculture. The inability to obtain
necessities close at hand(grain for Rome and petroleum
for America today) reduces independence and increases the
need for outside dependencies.

For many years the US has rejected a multilateral
United Nations approach: the Land Mines Treaty; Law of
the Seas; Kyoto Global Warming; UN Global Program against
Business Corruption; Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and
on and on. With the change in administration policy, the
idea of "empire" may give way to a global cooperative
endeavor, as Pax Americana proves costly and outdated.
Is this America's chance to become truly global?

Prayer: Lord teach us to know that power passes,
and that this is our opportunity to empower the rest of
the world.




Washington Co. creek in flood following a
 wet period of spring rains
*photo credit)

April 30, 2009    Gambling for What?

Saturday is Derby Day. I recall going to an active
race track only once and seeing a rather haggard-looking
woman clinging to the wire fence staring at the ongoing
race. That haunting memory has stuck with me because I
judged this person to be desperate for a win. Did her
financial future rest on the particular horse rounding
that turn? I'll never know. Again when traveling west
by auto we were attracted to a sign on a plain Las
warehouse-like structure in Las Vegas, Nevada, which
advertized steak breakfasts for $1.29 -- and we got that
bargain, but the adjacent casino got my single nickel.
So much for my gambling.

My disinterest in personal gambling for money is not
shared by a large number of people, or why else such a
multi-billion dollar gambling industry? Is it really
entertainment, or an addiction, or the first leading to
the second? Is it tied to the desire to by-pass other
ways of becoming financially successful, since avenues
seem to close to the upwardly mobile want-to-be.
Religious gamblers pray hard for a win; they hear of
someone who has won a fortune; they are convinced that
this is their lucky moment, or it may be the opportunity
to overcome a major debt or obtain the sum for a major
purchase. Unfortunately, their cravings are fed by a
pervasive materialism that can lead to personal ruin.

This attraction to gambling leads to
disproportionate amounts of gambling in certain places
while gambling is restricted or forbidden in others.
Gambling proponents crow about the revenue that can be
received, if more casino or other betting formats are
allowed. In our state proponents argue that $700 million
dollars could be gained annually by allowing casino
gambling, or the equivalent of $1,094 wagered by every
man, woman and child in the commonwealth; even so, of the
revenue gained after winnings, only one-third would enter
state coffers and the other two-thirds would go to the
wealthiest people running the gambling industry -- hardly
good economics. Besides, the anti-gambling advocates
point to how gambling brings ruin and discord to many
individuals and families.

Improving social justice should be considered a form
of "gambling" our time, effort and total energy -- but
for a beneficial cause. We want justice for all so we
are willing to give our resources and to consider this
as a game worth expending our personal resources on; the
motivational activity involved can even be considered as
entertaining and addictive in a good sense. Besides, in
this way of "gambling for justice" all are winners and
there are no losers; no impoverishment is involved.
Furthermore, the social justice motivation is a direct
refutation of the impulse for immense material gains that
can captivate and mesmerize millions of people. Social
justice "gambling of our time and energy" leads to
enhanced community "social capital."

Prayer: Lord, teach us to direct our energies to
sound forms of entertainment and to experience the joy of
helping others through the "gambling" of our resources
for all.


Copyright © 2009 Earth Healing, Inc.  All rights reserved.

Albert J. Fritsch, Director
Janet Powell, Developer
Mary Davis, Editor

[Privacy statement |  [Accessibility Pledge]

Use FreeTranslation.com to translate this page into