can one dare fashion such a title? The good reason is simple:
creation-centered people focus on creation and overlook or avoid the need for
redemption. The environmental crisis has all to do with the misdoings of people
who misuse the environment. A purely rational focusing on creation forgets the
addictive nature of our consumption-based economy and its horrifying effects on
Earth and her resources. Merely focusing on the goodness of creation ALONE has
as much positive effect as conducting tours to well-managed distilleries for
alcoholics. Creation-centeredness does not get at the problem (see our reissue
of Earth Healing: A Resurrection-Centered Approach on this website).
We as individuals tend to
deny our wrongdoing, excuse ourselves of the blame, and seek to escape to a wide
assortment of allurements that will consume our attention. Our society fails to
confront individual wrongdoing and looks elsewhere for solutions. Environment is
in the detail -- and part of that detail is involvement in the practicality of
appropriate technology and renewal processes that will heal our wounded Earth.
Emphasizing the glory of creation as such does not make the necessity to
confront environmental degradation go away. Talk about curbing human-induced
climate change is countered with increased fossil fuel emissions in 2010 and
probably in 2011 as well. Can Earth damage be halted without taking those
detailed practical steps that seem uninteresting?
What people fail to realize is that some of the early promotional money to fund
creation-centered spirituality came from the affluent and super-rich back in the
1980s. The unspoken caution was: Don't question the political/ economic/social
system and the misdeeds of the caretakers of that system; undertake some
tweaking of the status quo and everything will be okay. Focus on creation in an
academic way; it sounds good.
integral approach (resurrection-centered spirituality) involves a conviction
that to save our wounded Earth practical, radical change is necessary. If
addiction to consumer products is so widespread, a confrontation of the
addiction (redemption-centered) is utterly necessary. However, this approach
goes beyond changes at the individual level and includes the entire economic and
political system. Rational persuasion goes only so far; voluntary conversion to
simpler living goes only so far; we must work to change the system through
stricter environmental controls and regulations and fair and comprehensive taxes
on the wealthy.
smugness of creation-centered spirituality includes its avoidance of radical
change. Such change does not come simply through individual change; only by the
grace of God can this Earth be saved from the utter destructive path that it is
on through the relentless advance of materialism -- and we all must participate.
Lord, teach us to see the big picture and to respond with a generous heart by
working through and among the poor.
Awaiting a devoted friend.
December 4, 2011
Practice Patience in Troubled Times
The Lord does not delay
his promise, as some regard "delay," but he is patient with you.
On various occasions I am
told I lack the virtue of patience. Such an admonition makes us humble. Astute
observers are correct, and yet to practice patience is quite difficult for those
of us who are aging, living on the fast track, eating (even home-prepared) fast
foods, driving often near or above the speed limit, and using fast-track forms
of communications. In short, lack of patience in our fast-moving world is a
cultural defect afflicting more than a few of us. We expect more, from
cooperative traffic lights to instant checkouts, from banking service to
electricity delivery. Lack of instant service frustrates us and we forget a
holy impatience is possible and even needed. If we see someone beating up
another, we would do more than say to the poor victim, "Brother have patience
for the Day of the Lord is coming and your oppressor will get his just
desserts." Rather we show our impatience and attempt to halt the assault either
through our powers of persuasion, passive resistance, physical restraint if
necessary, or by calling 911 for police protection. Thus when troubles involve
another, we assist them, and merely not knowing them does not allow
standoffishness. Failure to defend another is never a mark of patience but of
is something to do with our expectation of the Lord. We help prepare the world
for the coming but realize that we are imperfect, and even our sincere efforts
may lack total success. By realizing our limitations we are challenged to grow
in patience. In fact, if we reflect upon it, limitations become an opportunity
to grow in the Lord. We trust in God's own patience and mercy; we beg to do
better with divine grace. However, others, upon seeing us not lose heart in our
imperfect efforts, may admire us. We are doing the best we can and pray for
improvement. In turn, those who observe this that we do may take heart and
impatience involves not being satisfied with efforts we and others undertake to
bring about social injustice to others; this requires an internal balance,
namely, a holy patience with our own limitations and shortcomings. Even these,
when sincerely acknowledged, have a sense of powerful witness to the need for
God's grace. We can stand honestly before the Lord and before our fellow human
beings; we admit limitations; we offer ourselves as a witness to the need for
all to improve together. We may even beg from others some hints on how to be
more patient; they accept delays and lack of success and yet retain a trust in
Lord, help us to see ourselves as people in need of your mercy; show us the
balance we need to have between a holy impatience with injustice to our
suffering neighbors and a holy patience that our imperfect works are at least a
noble try at helping them. Help us do this with equanimity and good humor.
Appreciating the December evening sky.
December 5, 2011
Renewable Utilities Need Not Be Massive Projects
of the difficulty with transfer to renewable energy sources is a large-scale
mindset -- large wind or solar farms, hydropower plants, biomass plants near
burning wood wastes, or geothermal systems producing electricity. We have been
conditioned by our economic system to think large and mega- in scope. The
government is partly to blame for funding large-scale showcases. We hear about
larger profile wind farms and solar industries hiring hundreds of workers and
yet going bankrupt during this difficult financial year. Competition for
lower-priced solar photovoltaic equipment has been fierce; new ideas are slow to
become commercial and gain attractive economies of scale.
renewable projects mean higher profiles, larger employment and output numbers
and broader access to investments and government funding. However, ought these
to be major considerations? In fact, smaller renewable projects, though not as
attractive from a media stand point, can make major contributions if more
numerous and widely distributed. In fact, many have held for years that these
small-scale solar, wind, geothermal and biofuel resources when coupled with
comprehensive energy conservation would reduce new powerplant needs to zero, and
enhance a more sustainable energy program for the nation as a whole. Thus,
failure of big projects should not delay renewable energy advances.
a host of environmental groups call on Congress to slash oil, coal, ethanol, and
nuclear subsidies with savings of $380 billion over the coming five-year
period. How about returning some of this in the form of loans and tax
write-offs for small-scale renewable energy projects? The 45 cents-per-gallon
current ethanol tax credit is now regarded as the very first subsidy to go. How
about a quick start by halting the tax breaks to the big oil companies with
their record-breaking profits? As we have stated on numerous occasions, loan
guarantees for the nuclear industry are horribly far-fetched, since renewables
come at a far safer and lower cost than that industry and are growing far
on the small-scale may come slowly, but they can surely come when applying the
newest technologies in wind and solar -- and the fuel sources are essentially
free. On the other hand, the hidden environmental costs of non-renewable coal
and oil especially are never fully publicized. The carbon dioxide emissions in
2010 were the highest in the U.S. since 1988; and total global emissions (mainly
through China and India and other emerging economies) also rose even with strong
conservation measures being effected by some European nations. In fact, the
goals sought at the beginning of this century to avoid major global climate
change by 2050 are not being met. A major undertaking must be made to reverse
large-scale powerplant construction and to focus on decentralized domestic solar
and wind projects.
Lord, teach us to be concerned about our domestic quality of life, and to turn
our minds to simpler things.
Gift of home-baked pawpaw pie.
December 6, 2011
Thirty Possible Non-Monetary Christmas Gifts
year this website makes some sort of effort to reduce Christmas commercialism
and, thus, to attempt to put Christ back into Christmas. This always comes
around today's feast of St, Nicholas, for in many countries of Europe and
elsewhere this is a period of giving gifts to youth. Today, a convenient gift
is some money or a purchasing card at specific stores in the vicinity. When
two-thirds of the sluggish economy is based on consumer buying it appears
unpatriotic to do what we suggest: Buy essentials.
of money, here are this Christmas gift suggestions:
Promise to visit an homebound person each season (or more frequently) in 2012.
Exchange periodicals with a friend who has some of the same reading habits.
3. Assist a neighbor in
pruning, watering, raking, composting, or weeding.
4. Help some youngster with
homework, or promise to give him or her some quality time in
5. Fast once a week to
assist another to abandon the smoking practice.
6. Offer a day of sacrifices
for a sick person and let them know exactly when it will be.
7. Connect with a loved one
on the Internet.
8. Pick and share some wild
greens, berries, nuts, or fruit.
9. Invite a reader to trade
10. Give some time for
garden work or assistance.
11. Be open to go at any
time to chat when a depressed person has a bad moment.
12. Help with hints for
"year-round" gardening and spend time showing an amateur just how to go
about doing it.
13. Donate a special cooking
dish to someone this month.
14. Review clothes wardrobe
and offer surplus to charity.
15. Watch over a residence
when another desires a vacation.
16. Do a good deed for a
17. Share info from Internet
18. Remember a loved one who
passed away on a special date.
19. Celebrate or host a special occasion during
20. Volunteer to do
something special at church.
21. Assemble information for
someone on this year's political candidates.
22. Read aloud Scripture to
an elder with poor eyesight.
Carpool on some special event this coming year.
Remove the snow on one of those rare events of a storm.
25. Connect newly arrived
residents with like-minded people.
26. Bake something for another.
27. Recycle a treasured item
and explain why it is special.
28. Take a hike together in
29. Promise to decorate the
grave of a loved one.
Carol, decorate, or extend Christmas greetings.
Lord, at least allow me to do some of these in 2012.
The Albert Fritsch Memorial Smokehouse.
© Kit Yoon (click
here for blog post)
December 7, 2011
Smokehouses and Fire Safety Day
My dad smoked hams and took
great pride, rising in the middle of the night to stoke the hickory fire as an
essential part of the smoking operation. This generally was a December exercise
though much depended on when the "hog killin'" occurred. The cold weather and
the perfect condition of the fattened animals had much to do with the times and
the subsequent meat-smoking operation.
food materials is a convenient low-cost preserving technique used through
the centuries. Many primitive people found that by applying smoke to salted
meat and fish, and even to apples and certain fruits and vegetables that the
materials could be preserved through the winter months. One must realize that
some Appalachian apples were treated with sulfur for preserving, and that meats
are treated with salt and nitrates (health effects must be noted). The wood
used for smoke is selected for smoke flavor: hickory is the favorite in eastern
U.S. and mesquite in the western part. Pine and other softwoods could give off
tar and volatiles that mask the good flavors. Actually, the utilitarian reasons
for smoking food compliments the gourmet aspects of scent and salt- &
sugar-cured flavor, and preserved texture of the food. Enjoyment is a
collection of various sensations.
considerations today limit the popularity of smoked products. Of course,
smoke has its small amounts of carcinogenic substances. The poorer folks who
could not eat large quantities of smoked meat most likely would have died from
other causes long before the smoke ingredients did their damage -- and that is
sufficient cause for telling those living longer to eat everything in
moderation, for excess of anything harms us. Enjoy smoked products with limits
as to amount and duration.
demand care in construction, because builders tell us that construction
materials can enter into the taste of the product. My brother Charlie sought to
build a perfect smokehouse so it could replicate the taste of smoked ham and
sausage that our dad had achieved. My mother's people prided themselves in
meat-smoking expertise, causing some competition.
in constructing a building include an eight by twelve foot structure with a
concrete floor. Asphalt roof tile is avoided due to possible flavor
contamination, though certain wooden shingles are possible; a metal (steel) roof
is preferred. The building siding can be rough-cut, neutral wood (no pine or
synthetic formaldehyde plywood or treated materials). Obviously there are no
windows to the smokehouse and the only major aperture is a front door. However,
eaves are vented to allow accumulated smoke to exit.
Prayer: Lord, the
Scriptures testify that good aroma pleases you, Creator of all our senses. Help
us preserve what is good, and to see that, by enjoying such higher quality food
experiences, we serve you more fully.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Good Shepherd Church,
December 8, 2011 Mary,
Mother of the Poor
this day we recall Mary's Immaculate Conception, God's special gift. Doesn't
this make her wealthy? On the contrary, we also see that Mary's total purity
and transparency opens her to being "poor in spirit," sharing with the poor, and
identifying as being in solidarity and thus among the poor.
Poor in Spirit: Mary is the first and most purely the one who is "poor in
spirit." This quality of a Kingdom person that Jesus speaks about in the
discourse on the Beatitudes (Matthew Chapter 5) concerns a radical dependence on
God, the knowledge that all that we possess we owe to our Creator. Mary shows a
total trust in God in the Magnificat upon her visit to Elizabeth; she is
the precursor of those called to totally trust in God's will. While some trust
in their talents or wealth, trust in God makes one forsake the false gods of
money and material possessions. By pondering these gifts in our hearts and by
trusting in God we abandon self-centeredness and jealousy; we discover a freedom
that results in a groundswell of gratitude. We enter the world naked and leave
it so, except for acquired love, God's gift to us.
Also in her Magnificat, the hymn of total dependence on God, Mary shares
with her cousin and with all of us her unique situation of being most blessed
among all. Instead of separating from us as an elite person, Mary invites us to
share the discovery of hers and our blessedness by God's generous hand.
God showers blessings on all creation, and utter gratitude is to be our initial
response. We share in Mary's blessing through our Baptism in which we are
immaculately conceived into the community of believers -- though we are people
who stumble, and our imperfections hold us back. However, our moments of
acknowledging God's gifts floods us as well as Mary who is able to recognize
spiritual poverty transformed into plenty. Through greater sharing in
community, we gain a better grasp of our unique individuality -- particular
blessings God gives us to share.
in Solidarity with the poor: In the middle of a federal security prison
while celebrating the Liturgy with humble people on the Feast of Our Lady of
Guadalupe (December 12), I was able to understand a little better Mary's
solidarity with the poor. While some regard their individual possessiveness as
their own "right," others see the fullness of their impoverished condition and
cry out for God to be with them. Mary, fully united with her son, hears the
cries from prisons, hospitals, and abandoned homes. She appears to the poor in
special ways and at special times. Mary offers compassion, a suffering with
others, just as she did at the foot of the Cross. In the fullness of her pure
heart Mary sees the Calvary of everyday life among the poor. She is mother to
us all; she stands with us. Mary says without hesitation, "We the Poor."
Prayer: Lord, help us to
imitate Mary's spirit of poverty, her desire to share her blessedness with all
of us, and her willingness to be in solidarity with all the world's poor.
A coal-fired powerplant in western Kentucky.
December 9, 2011 Non-Renewables
Must Give Way to Renewable Energy
from coal to natural gas is a popular energy option in the past few years with
the ability to fracturing shale formations and freeing the gas. However, is
this focus on a change in fossil fuel energy sources effective in curbing
expected climate change due to greenhouse gas emissions? Natural gas combustion
emits less carbon dioxide levels than coal, but coal emits sulfur oxides and
other emissions that actually block sunlight with a counter-cooling effect. Tom
Wigley of the National Center of Atmospheric Research and the Univ. of Adelaide
in Australia reports that using more natural gas could also release more methane
that has more than twenty times the warming effects of carbon dioxide; the
natural gas shift will accelerate climate change.
energy substitution made impressive gains in 2010 and in 2011. It accounted for
13.97% of net U.S. electrical generation during the first half of 2011 (26.14%
increase over the same period in 2010); wind increased by 35.1% and solar by
43.6% on a much smaller base. At the same time nuclear power declined to 19.12%
of net U.S. electrical generation (a decline of 3.8% compared to a similar
period in 2010). During the same period natural gas increased by 2.4% and coal
dipped by 4.8%. However, coal, while declining in the U.S., is in a global boom
period with China starting one new coal-burning powerplant per week.
the continued high fossil-fuel utilization, even with some cleaner combustion
methods and hypothetical trapping of carbon dioxide will result in the predicted
two to four degree temperature rise. Though sounding small such rises will have
a profound global climate change effect, resulting in melting of glaciers and
rising of ocean levels; these will displace tens of millions of some of the
world's poorest people (especially in Bangladesh and Pacific Island nations).
When snow- and ice-cover at the poles melt more sunlight is absorbed into the
open water and reduced reflection back into the atmosphere results in increasing
water temperatures and release of methane in land permafrost areas. The warming
will increase. Add to this environmental effects from fossil fuel use include
mountaintop removal in Appalachia, oil spills in areas of ocean drilling, and
damage to groundwater sources for drinking due to increased fracturing of shale
formations in natural gas extraction. Also tar sands, especially in Western
Canada, will be a source of dirty fuel extraction.
urgently need to convert non-renewable energy sources to renewables ASAP. Yes,
global carbon dioxide emissions reached an all-time high in 2010. Fossil-fuel
perks must be transferred to developing renewable energy sources -- wind, solar,
hydropower, geothermal, tidal, and a certain portion of biofuel, provided it is
not derived from food sources. A rise of about a half of one percent renewable
energy of total energy expenditure is the stated 2012 goal, yet insufficient to
curb negative climate change.
Lord, give our policymakers a dose of common sense.
A mighty old tree. Bernheim Arboretum and
December 10, 2011 Trees:
Celebrations or Vestigial Paganism
celebrate trees and many of these ponderings appear on these "Daily
Reflections." However, our ancient Germanic ancestors may have thought trees to
be gods. To admire trees for beauty, color, shape, utility, toughness, shade,
fruit, nuts, moisture retention, wind control, and added property value is one
thing; to give trees divine attributions is another. Trees certainly attract us
with their height, strength, and power. Those peoples of old turned their
veneration of trees into divine attributes and thus a trace of idolatry is still
entered into my early and later life: picking fruit, climbing, trimming, and
raking leaves. In fact, a prize family tradition was an annual hike on our
nearby hillsides to select a cedar tree for Christmas (we were depression
children); we enjoyed cutting it, bringing the prize home, inhaling the aroma
that would fill our humble domain, and preparing the stand on which it would be
decorated by the women of the house (distinct tasks were apportioned). It was
also the boys' task to take the shotgun and blast down some mistletoe to hang in
unsuspecting parts of the living quarters. The decorated tree became a center
place with its blinking lights and its tin "icicles" that were recycled from
year to year as were the cotton, the top star, and the "made in Japan"
ornaments. Under this beautiful tree were placed humble gifts to be opened in a
family circle on Christmas Eve.
takes its toll on good things and distant memories. Upon maturing I have had my
doubts about Christmas trees and have even said so to our late editor, Sally
Ramsdell, who had a Christmas tree farm and sales program for a period. As my
sense of resource conservation grows I have come to see cutting live trees for
decorations as wasteful. Digging them up and replanting in one's yard after
Christmas and as shade or wind breaks has value. However, an artificial tree
allows reuse and less expenditure of materials in annual selections and purchase
-- and then disposing of the dried waste material in January.
have now reached a third stage running from affirmation of the humble cutting of
a Christmas tree to a neutral stance, and now in older age to a more
cantankerous approach. Is the Germanic Christmas tree too reminiscent of the
practice of worshiping the god Thor? Didn't Boniface hack down the last grand
tree god and must there be some sort of residual respect verging on adoration in
the bones of descendants who saw the tree fall? I am now convinced that
Christmas trees are residual or vestigial remnants of a long forgotten paganism
that comes to light with the coming of God among our own at Christmas -- and it
is deserving of being rooted out. Am I right about this, or is this a way of
transforming older pagan practices?
Lord, give us the grace to see the beauty of trees left in the woods; help us
find the Lord in our hearts and homes and know where to look for both.
December hike in Carter County, KY.
December 11, 2011
Advent Joy Comes with Good News
The spirit of the
Lord God has been given to me,
for God has
God has sent me to
bring good news to the poor,
to bind up hearts
that are broken;
liberty to captives,
Freedom to those
in prison... (Isaiah 61:1)
up! The Light of the world is coming. This is Gaudete Sunday, a time to
rejoice. We show our enthusiasm for what must still be done in 2011 and our
preparations for next year. Yes, the shortening days are almost over, and a new
growing season will soon begin. Advent is a time of careful preparation for the
coming of the Lord. Actually we know that this is a time of Good News through
deeds -- the actual coming of the Word of God, while Pentecost ushers Good News
through spreading the word, which is preparing others for their own advent
season. Our Advent efforts this month involve practical solutions: dispensing
charity, giving practical gifts, cleaning up environmental disasters, placing
prisoners in community service, and making practical plans for 2012. Late
autumn is time to prepare for a slower winter ahead.
We rejoice in knowing that
we participate in the coming of the Kingdom of God that has already begun in our
midst. We recognize imperfect human actions as cause of the damage done to our
world; we are energized to participate and to constantly give thanks for what
God has given us. We look back to the first coming of Christ; we look ahead to
his second coming. Seeing all advent as a gift, and responsibility flowing from
that gift, converts our hearts at this moment to ever deeper gratitude. No, we
are not satisfied with present world conditions, but rather satisfied that we
are called to assist in renewing a broken world. That means we are to be
grateful for being called to be agents of change.
focus our attention on Jesus, the liberator, who goes before us. Amid the
terrorist bombs and financial downturns there is a spirit of freedom stirring in
the hearts of people everywhere. This should be affirmed with enthusiasm (the
God within). This enthusiasm expressed by those of faith can be contagious and
reach out to the homeless, unemployed, those in prisons and hospices, the
elderly, the homebound, and those overlooked in any way. All are invited to
take part in this liberation. The world need not remain captive to those of
military or financial power; all may be able to share in what God has meant for
us to participate in the commons. To proclaim a favorable year of the Lord is
to say we all are to share in generating justice and not leave this to the
graces of the elite.
Lord, make us the steady people who testify to your goodness, but being thankful
always for gifts given. In these hard times, keep us from being dispirited by
injustice all around and help us to be constantly enthusiastic in spreading the
Good News to others, helping them be transformed into agents of joy and change.
Snow squall, Rowan Co., KY.
December 12, 2011
Celebrate International Mountain Day
can celebrate International Mountain Day in several ways: go on an
international tour of another mountain range far from home and spend some time
sightseeing; take a virtual trip through viewing a film involving mountain
settings; hike into the nearby mountain range or spend an afternoon picnicking;
read about distant mountains or review photos of mountains on another continent;
or just appreciate highlands that one lives near (though not everyone lives near
I make a suggestion? Obtain a copy (instructions on our website -
click here) of my
co-authored Mountain Moments, with well over two- hundred color
photographs by Warren Brunner, a Berea-based elder with a skilled eye for
capturing good photos. Several who have copies of the book tell about sitting
and just paging through and viewing the many scenes (and interspersed texts),
and finding that the mountain-related pictures ease their tensions.
from Mountain Moments:
Mountains have strengths and weaknesses. High places mean power and haughty
might, but those seeking such places will be brought low on the Day of the
Lord. The Appalachian range is hardly lofty by younger mountain standards
(Rockies, Himalayas, and Andes), since at best this range reaches a mile above
sea level. Being older and wiser, the Appalachians teach us that all creatures
need to bow low before the majesty of God. The irony is that in doing so, one
receives a more elevated state for, through humility, we discover our true
worth. Note that we speak in spiritual terms, for we do not advocate mountain
top removal nor the physical cutting of each of us down to a legless state. In
finding our true condition we also find our true elevated state, for ultimately
humility breeds honesty, and in truth rests justice for all.
have appreciated the many modes that we discover in our lives when considering
mountains near or far. The beautiful is just one thing; others could include:
the majesty, power, grandeur, loftiness, challenge, mystery, haunting
attractiveness, and sheer energy contained in our association with mountains. I
always see mountains as the hands of Earth lifted to the heavens in prayer of
praise -- and that these have been such for billions of years before the advent
of we human mortals on or near their surface. We are the agents announcing the
Good News of what they so silently portend. They have been here longer and
deserve our utmost respect. To reshape them for the pure greed of getting the
coal cheaply is a desecration. Unfortunately, the leveling of mountains for
quick energy is a global problem, and thus makes this International Mountain Day
all the more worthy of our attention.
Lord, help us to celebrate the great gift of mountains, and to draw from them
the utter emotions that assist our own practice of respect for your creation.
A hurried shopper.
December 13, 2011 Consumer Addiction and
Many who are first will
be last, and the last, first.
spends much of his public ministry curing the sick. When the ill seek curing,
Jesus obliges. However, he does so in an effort to elicit faith from the sick
person. Total integrity of the human person is his goal, and it is ours as
well. For Jesus, forgiving sins is a cherished goal, and the forgiven person --
whether he or she be Peter or Paul or Mary Magdalene -- joins the ranks of
disciples in a full sense. In following Jesus, we help restore others to
integrity and bring wholeness to our troubled world, and do so in part by asking
them to help save our wounded Earth through the use of their own talents and
recognized in its full reality, can become an opportunity to assist others (as
we mentioned in various reflections) through understanding the power of God at
work within the condition of an illness that cannot be easily remedied. By
offering their sufferings with and for others, the ill enter into the healing
ministry through joining in Christ's sufferings on Calvary. For the willing
sufferer, the ones obedient to God's will, their respective conditions become
platforms for helping to change the world -- care-giving while on the sick bed.
about going a step farther? We have come to believe that social addiction
afflicts the consumers of the world. What about those who overcome some
addiction and want to go beyond mere staying away from substance abuse (e.g.,
Alcoholic Anonymous)? Is it possible to direct attention to enlisting those on
the road to recovery? Do builders of a new integrity have their own Hippocratic
Oath: we must do all in our power to heal others who suffer from the addictions
of which I was once plagued? My own concern about tobacco users is a case in
who used substances such as tobacco or "consumer products" in an unconscious
manner, and then were able through one or other method to break the spell, now
have an experience worth sharing. Our culture is addicted to consumer purchases
and even thinks it is patriotic to do so. Scaling back and publicly down-sizing
in a deliberative manner allows the ones so blessed to have an ability to assist
others on a one-by-one basis. Through their own public interest work they can
bring about structural change -- to bring the material profit-motivated consumer
with insatiable urges to his or her senses.
challenge to be compassionate and caring while also hard-nosed and effective is
immense. Agents of change have a unique role to play: they discover new means
of success when profound change of motivation is called forth; and they ensure
that they remain on the road to recovery and integrity.
Lord, let us see the ex-addict as a humble person worthy of being enlisted to
tackle the consumer culture of our age.
Ice on leaves.
December 14, 2011 Heaven
and Earth Kiss
like dew, you heavens,
and let the
clouds rain it down.
Let the earth
to spring up.
deliverance, too, bud forth
which, I YHWH,
shall create. (Isaiah 45:8)
is a gentle substance; it seems to come down from above and yet condenses down
below. We look up to "the Heavens" and in a loose terminology regard this
earthly phenomenon as coming from an outside source. Dew arrives quietly at
night when we are asleep; it settles down on our landscape. When we stroll in
the dew-covered grass as the sun is rising we see it sparkle as though a million
jewels. We turn in one direction and these are rubies, in another and
sapphires, and emeralds in another. They are truly God's creature blessings
that will soon evaporate. And when dew wets the plants in dry times, it helps
give them life as well.
Isaiah scripture passage is appealing for here we see the coming down from
heaven -- that eternal leap of the Word; and at the same time the springing up
from our evolutionary roots through a long lineage that comes to Mary in the
House of David. Incarnation is that coming together of God and humanity into a
single blessed person who is the center of the universe -- Jesus Christ. Herein
rests the mystery of the Incarnation.
is the meeting of Heaven and Earth; this is a work of God's mercy and care. God
walks again with the people and divine power and love is manifest. Creation is
a blessing that includes a vast array of gifts that are now visible in their
entirety through this coming together, this sacred moment of history. The
coming together is momentous, and Mary at the center of this incarnation event,
is the one who shows her passivity in humility (that is, knowing her greatness
and blessings but understanding that these are totally from God); she also shows
her activity through the balanced response that involves her total consent to do
whatever God so desires. She presents the double blessing to all humankind of
what is given and recognized as given.
kiss of Heaven and Earth gives way to the new-born who is the savior of the
world. The offspring, springs up in human ways, is born, cries, grows, learns
to walk and run and read and write, acquires a trade, makes friends, reflects on
the Scriptures, and departs on his mission. This tiny vulnerable offspring
becomes "Light of the World" with heavenly grace and an Earth-tanned
appearance. Salvation comes in deliverance that is initiated at the Incarnation
event -- an event where and when Heaven meets Earth.
We see the meeting of God and all of us as a sacred event worth memorializing --
and so we prepare to celebrate Christmas throughout this Advent season.
A view through the treetops.
December 15, 2011
Environmental Protection is THE Pro-life Issue
my intent was to say that environmental protection is "A" pro-life issue, but
several recent developments may lead us to take a more dramatic stance, and
change "A" to "THE":
The politicizing of pro-environmental stances now reaches a point where
there is a fundamentally new situation. The first Earth Day in 1970 was
politically neutral; today environment is regarded as a strongly Democratic
partisan position. The issue has not changed but rather aggressive
anti-environmental thinking is now proclaimed by an increasing number of
legislators and presidential candidates who call themselves "pro-life."
A false concern has been fostered by corporations and the same promotion
agencies with a small group of scientists-under-hire who cast aspersions on the
medical research showing smoking as cancer-causing -- and the three decades of
manufactured doubts offered tobacco companies the time to make tens of billions
of dollars of profit. History repeats itself with oil companies and so-called
doubts are being artificially inserted into political debate.
3. The fate of our Earth
hangs in balance, since the United States has had a leadership role in resource
utilization and consumption; the vast emerging world strives to imitate our
consumer practices. Unfortunately, what we do, they want to do as well.
Chinese and Indians and others want nothing more than to consume with the
impunity of wealthy Americans -- and our Earth cannot handle the processing and
pollution that results from such consumption. If we fail to impose curbs, then
the spasm of consumption will grow all the greater and ruin our Earth.
The potential bridge exists where what is pro-life will bring together
all people of good will. This desire to protect and enhance life calls for a
new solidarity that strengthens our resolve to save our wounded Earth at this
critical time. Life in all its forms is threatened, whether that be plant or
animal or human. Fostering quality of life in all its forms demands a basic
respect for this "seamless garment," an interdependent web of life.
A teaching moment involves the inadvertent quibbling over whether it is
"a" or "the" pro-life issue. Critics will see the connection and even argue
that this is a legitimate issue worth distinguishing. Death under any form is
death, and so is life -- even Earth vitality. Destruction of life on this
planet is a form of addiction that must be addressed immediately with an urgency
affecting people throughout the world. Allowing resource consumption to go
uncontrolled causes everyone to suffer.
Lord, give us courage to become public on this issue and to champion the
vitality of our Earth -- a pro-life issue.
Moon on a cold, blustery December night.
December 16, 2011
Downsizing Expectations and Radical Sharing
Downsizing of lifestyle has
become a necessity for many families in these troubled financial times. For
instance, cutbacks have occurred in such luxuries as restaurant meals, computer
games, TV subscriptions, extended vacations. The degree of the downsize usually
depends on the financial condition of the individual or family. We have heard
some have to decide between cigarettes and food, or TV and basic utilities, or
even severe limitations on food budgets and rent. Amazingly, even with the good
will it takes individuals and couples to make such sacrifices, it is often
assumed that this is a temporary situation and that better times will soon
come. In such cases, expectations are NOT downsized.
Earthhealing efforts for affluent people to simplify their lifestyles ought to
be a permanent downsizing commitment; this is done for the sake of the human
community sharing a commons. People can fast before a medical
test and be back on the routine food diet in a day; they can fail to drive while
sick or during a bad weather incident. The temporary inconvenience is ordinary
and can be handled with grace and good will on the part of many. However, the
material expectations of many go unchanged; with prosperity comes more affluent
lifestyles, and children are taught this early by parents, schools, and even
the effort to refrain from downsizing worth it? The ones who seek to keep up
with the neighbors can find out in sincere conversation that neighbors are
trying to keep up with you -- and that the panic to remain or become prosperous
is a false expectation that denies peace of soul, proper sleep, and undue stress
on all members of both families. The challenge is to accept downsizing as a
more permanent and sustainable condition of our community and nation, and to see
this as somehow as a worthwhile goal to which all ought to aspire. Yes, it is
patriotic to downsize, for thus the rest of the struggling world has a better
chance of sharing in resources now consumed (with accompanying pollution) by a
privileged and powerful wealthy society.
need not stop here. Downsizing can also be seen as a benefit, and thus
the permanence is something to be praised. In downsizing, gas-guzzling vehicles
are forsaken because they cost more to maintain and operate, second homes are a
burden to keep, longer vacations can be a bother when too numerous, home-cooking
surpasses costly restaurants in creativity and flavor, and extra electronic
devices are unnecessary and quite intrusive in the blessedness of rest time.
All in all, the stress to make much money becomes a consuming interest that says
volumes to youngsters and even causes them stress in their educational and
recreational programs. Why be the greatest in a worldly sense? Why not
downsize and spread the word and thus challenge the system in the process?
Lord, give us the courage to see a downsized life as a goal worth doing, encouraging,
preaching, and demanding.
A hearty serving of Kentucky burgoo.
(* photo by Mack Male, Creative Commons)
December 17, 2011 Burgoo:
The Kentucky Food Specialty
asked me, what does "Kentucky burgoo" tastes like? Oddly enough, there is no
distinct taste for authentic burgoo in the Kentucky tradition, for we are people
who do not always like precise recipes and we enjoy variation in tastes.
However, specific recipes can be found on the Internet, but these are well
doctored and quite different from the original stew, the name of which
originated in nautical slang and referred to an oatmeal porridge; eighteenth
century Kentucky pioneers meant by burgoo a community salted and possibly
spicy stew that contained meat (preferably wild game) and vegetables (edible
vegetation and herbs at hand). A secret in old fashion burgoo is the long
cooking time (usually a day) and the open air cooking pot. This demands a
concession -- twenty-first century environmental consciousness dictates
replacing open fire with a crockpot; this closed crockpot also cuts cooking time
considerably (to about eight hours).
Most modern burgoo consists
of combinations of pork, chuck beef roast, and chicken (generally legs) and
various meat stocks. However, the secret to modern authentic Kentucky burgoo is
"wild game," which means hunting it yourself or contacting hunters who will
donate their in-season catch. This may be rabbits, squirrel, geese, deer, elk,
and turkey or even more exotic raccoon or possum. Some of these involve the
Commonwealth's thinning of overstocked game that is allowed at various
prescribed hunting seasons. I have access to venison (deer) and use this as the
basic ingredient since I neither hunt nor buy meat. For meat variety, I would
prefer wild boar but they are harder to obtain in these parts, and so I allow
the substitution of donated pork that my brother Charlie has cured. When venison
or pork sausage is used, little browning is needed, but for chunky meat portions
this ought to be done before cutting into manageable pieces for cooking.
modern burgoo includes the following vegetables: fresh peppers, potatoes
(preferably new ones), onions, carrots, celery, along with canned tomatoes and
frozen corn and lima beans. My favorite vegetables are always those at hand
during the growing season. One can add okra but that was probably not in early
pioneer burgoo. I like carrots, onions, peppers, winter squash, and tomatoes
(when in season). Others that are easy to add include collards, kale, or
cabbage and just about any other member of the brassica family. Some would say
to slice larger vegetables, but the better way after a period of long cooking is
to keep them as whole as possible, and thus they retain their texture. Cut up
the cabbage. I add dried potato flakes to thicken the liquid stew. If meat has
insufficient fat content, one ought to add cooking oil.
Add salt, herbs, and spices
according to taste and creativity. I grow garlic, basil, parsley, dill, and
various peppers, but I leave out spicy peppers and offer eaters a bottle of hot
Lord, teach us to cook native foods and to relish ways of giving satisfaction to
those who enjoy good simple foods.
Early morning view of a December snow.
December 18, 2011
House of David
is the last Sunday of Advent. We have moved through this season from seeing
Jesus at the end of his public life telling us to always be watchful (Mark 13:
33-37), to the beginning of that ministry, when he is pointed out by John the
Baptist (Mark 1:1-8), and that he will baptize with the Holy Spirit (John 1:
6-8, 19-28). Now we move further back to before Christ's birth (Luke 1:26-38)
and approach the time of his full coming into the world. We are preparing for
the coming of the Lord and see the total sweep of history leading up to the Word
becoming flesh and dwelling among us -- the heart of our Christmas celebration.
The Angel Gabriel says that God will give this new-born the throne of his father
is from the House of David, that overlooked shepherd boy, the slayer of Goliath,
the harpist entertaining the distraught King Saul, the anointed at an early age,
the unifier of Israel, the establisher of Jerusalem as a seat of power, the
psalmist, prophet, aging monarch, and ultimately saint. Now if he can get the
last ranking after all that, why can't many others as well? The Scriptures in
the Old Testament gives David more narrative space than any other figure. He
was destined to start the House of David with the assurance that "your house and
your kingdom will endure forever." The "house" is more than his son Solomon's
temple; David's structure is a human family with a Messiah descendant.
families have bright and dark sides, and David's was no exception. The Holy
Book pulls no punches and offers no excuses. David, the innocent youth, moved
through life and sinned seriously by taking Uriah's wife to himself and then
having Uriah placed on the front lines and killed in battle. When confronted by
the prophet Nathan as to the one who stole the little lamb from the poor person,
David was righteously incensed and wanted to bring justice to bear; however,
Nathan's words, "You are the one," struck David so deeply that he repented his
terrible deed and in his sincere repentance again found favor with God -- for
God is always forgiving. Even more so, Solomon, son of that sinful event, was
kingly heir and builder of the grand temple of the Lord.
human house with a divine destiny manifests its strengths and weaknesses. That
tells us again what we as Church are always called to do and be, namely, to
acknowledge misdeeds and to seek sincere repentance so that our merciful God
shows us favor. David confessed; so should we as we prepare for the coming of
the Messiah in our own lives. In some divine way, we are invited as adopted
sons and daughters into the House of David. We are favored by this special
invitation through our baptism; we are God's people; we need to learn from our
past mistakes and experiences and show true repentance. Then the Christmas
spirit fills our hearts and the mystery of Word-made-flesh dwelling among us
fills our spiritual life and inspires us to act in a truly godly manner.
Lord, allow us to see your mercy with our family and community, and to always
act according to gifts given to us.
Oak leaf, encased with ice.
December 19, 2011 When
Being Called Radical Is a Compliment
with hesitancy and considering this an accusation say, "You sound like a
radical." My only answer is, "I hope so." To go along with a dysfunctional
system and not set oneself apart is not a wise thing to do in this age. We must
be radical if we hold true to our convictions. "Radical" from the Latin word
"radix" means root; we must get to the root of our environmental crisis and seek
to find solutions based on proven ways and resources at hand.
worked on environmental issues for over four decades, it has become apparent to
me that problems are not solved on ad hoc or individual cases one-by-one.
Individual actions are good and sometimes needed but not perfect; cleaning up
roadside garbage does not address the consumption of convenience waste
containers with no deposit for return and no regulatory oversight for paying
litter fines; nor is wasting electricity at enormous levels going to be fully
addressed at the level of individual conservation efforts -- though that is
needed also. We must accept a social or collective blame and confront real
problems for what they are.
radical stance is not a popular one. Some advise that taking such a stance will
not get donations from wealthy donors nor votes from the electorate. True
enough! However, ought we to be looking beyond money and votes to say what
needs to be done? We must change a material profit-motivated system that allows
some to be super-rich and influence the election of policymakers and ignore the
essential needs of America's 46 million and the entire world's poor. We must
see that an economy based on consumer spending for "wants" and not "needs" is
unhealthy and unsustainable -- and material appetites are insatiable. Being
"Radical" goes a step farther than exposing a misleading practice; corrective
measures must be made at all levels: locally, we continue conservationist
measures; regionally, we work for policy changes in policies dealing with
blatant waste; nationally, we monitor and press Congress to live up to
environmental and social justice obligations; globally, we work to change
systems through use of the Internet for communicating, educating, and organizing
a radical position may be proposed based on longer term success and commitment.
If we believe in the future, then we trust that what we say today will be
brought into effect in a future that may most likely be beyond our lifetimes.
Roots are nurtured for trees that take years to grow. Accepting the risk of
being misunderstood or marginalized has a certain prophetic quality. "You mean
you do not mind that others scoff at what you say?" The answer is that we are
pained, mainly because others do not understand and join forces in our efforts.
Perhaps we trust too much in the ultimate outcome to let the threat of
opposition dampen what needs to be said here and now.
Lord, in awaiting your coming we listen to the exhortations of John the
Baptist. We are to make straight the way, and this takes effort at
road-building -- a radical proposition.
A tufted titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor), claiming a spot above backyard birdfeeder.
December 20, 2011 Must We Feed the Birds?
feed birds: I was always resolving to initiate a birdfeeding project since
in 1998 fellow Jesuit Jim Grummer suggested that bird feeding is legitimate, as
so much of natural habitat has been disturbed. A good convincing argument,
and so an artificial assist to our wintering wildlife ought to be encouraged.
Furthermore, birds are under stress from predators such as diseases and cats and
hawks. Birds have a hard time in our winter landscape, and even though we
hope for milder weather, birds still must endure what is lying just ahead, and
that could mean a harsher winter season. Vulnerable wildlife, our
companions in stressful times, do raise our spirits and entertain the shut-ins
and birdwatchers of all ages (see "Become Friends with Wintering Birds"
12/14/09). None of us like to see other beings suffer, and thus hungry birds
need assistance at this time.
to start: First we need a bird-feeding device, but this depends on which
birds we intend to feed and other factors: how do we protect the feed from
squirrels, raccoons and other critters wanting to devour bird feed as well? Do
we have answers for the domestic cat problems? Do we make the feeder close
enough to observe and yet removed from clashes with windows? Do we give birds a
clear vision so that they can avoid the hawks overhead?
(see Internet) indicates just how complex the overall feeding process is: type
and location of feeders, selection of proper bird seeds, protection of feed
against weather, and how to protect birds from window crashes, cats, and from
ones to favor: We have a wide variety of wintering birds, some of which can
handle their winter needs such as owls, crows, hawks, and wild geese (the last
could go further south except they are opportunistic in taking advantage of corn
fields with unharvested grain). The more favored for our largess include the
colorful cardinals and bluejays -- quite aggressive in their own right -- and
the smaller chickadees and wrens and songbirds that dart about in winter time,
their twitters and tweets always lifting our spirits. Most often, the species
of birds will be somewhat combative and yet, with sufficient variety of feed,
all can eventually get their fair share.
have noted that the holly trees outside my window have red berries that in
mid-winter are suddenly attacked by a swarm of starlings, and the fruit consumed
in a matter of minutes. The same holds true for the persimmon (though fruitless
this year) tree, that on a winter day is subject to a flock of hungry
attackers. Granted, this occurs throughout our region, but is there enough
fruitful habitat for all the hungry bird species? Maybe feeding the birds is a
good 2012 environmental resolution.
Lord, allow us to be sensitive to wildlife in need and to do something about
it. Help us encourage those who are in the feeding practice and expand the
process in these hungry times.
December 21, 2011
Oil Spill Clean-up Using Wool
This is Forefather's Day, and it's a good bet that many Americans and
others care less. However, our ancestors give us many good lessons in taking
responsibility and we owe respect through taking advice. One salient feature in
their collective wisdom is their practical conservation ethic: if you make a
mess you have the responsibility to clean it up. No descendant wants to clean
up the thoughtless practices of a previous generation -- and one simple solution
is to clean up right after accidents occur.
Simple cleanups may take
time and patience. In this past summer when Hurricane Lee came hurling ashore
on the Gulf Coast, tar balls appeared on the beaches, remnants of the
Deepwater Horizon oil disaster spill in April, 2010. News accounts
mentioned that the BP Oil Company sent workers along the shore to pick up what
could be found of these congealed globs; so much for the manual cleanup that had
taken millions of dollars and many booms and buckets and tons of oil
dispersants. At times in our modern era, it seems the more we try to become
convenient, the more it takes to repair the unforeseen resulting
inconveniences. Maybe our forebears would tell us something about messes left
after cutting woods, damning waterways, or waging wars.
simple environmental cleanup technology for oil spills that is bound to become
more popular with the expanding ocean oil drilling: wool. Yes, it is
found that wool strips can mop up oil spill on the surface of water bodies.
Italian researches suggest that since wool "repels water and absorbs oil" it is
a natural and efficient mop for the oil spills. Tecnomeccanica Biellese,
an Italian engineering firm has found that course wool can absorb ten times its
own weight of oil at a time. Like a wood fabric that can be cleaned, these
woolen mopping strips laid down on the water surface can be brought into mother
ships with water dripping off and the attached oil collected for commercial
use. The oil-free woolen material can be reused over and over. Is the Wool
Recycle Eco System method really so? Time, experience, and future spills
cleanup applications depend on costs. The patent holders estimate that ten tons
of wool can recover one-thousand tons of oil and that cleanup of the Deepwater
Horizon spill with its estimated five million barrels of oil would have been
doable if the application would have been made at the start, namely by the use
of about seven thousand tons of wool (Reference: The Economist Technology
Quarterly, September 3, 2011, p. 10). Actually, producing that much natural
product would take a great number of sheep but at least it would not be a
petroleum-based cleanup material -- and a godsend to the sheep growers
throughout the world. Our forefathers would glory in clean up practice more
than oil drilling in our vulnerable water bodies.
Lord, teach us to accept all forms of assistance when accidents occur; inspire
us to take corrective measures.
Morning sunrise on cold Kentucky December day.
December 22, 2011
Welcome the Winter Solstice
year we pause to reflect on whether any good things can happen on the shortest
day of the year, and always think of one or other, and find them worth noting in
a whimsical way:
Being the shortest day of the year makes it the longest night of rest for all
who need to relax;
Remember all the Christmas errands that must be done before Sunday;
* At least the shortening of
the daylight has ended and for the next six months we can look
Darkness comes soon and leaves late but that makes us welcome tomorrow's sunrise
with extra vigor and delight;
Short days are like shortening lives that occur with everyone starting right
and with each year of Winter Solstices we commit ourselves to
making the best of
mortal life's ever-shortening span;
Longest nights make us aware of the need to read and reflect in a less hindered
manner in the upcoming winter, so compose a list of what ought to be achieved in
this new season;
Somehow the long nocturnal season of darkness (coyote, screech owl, wolf, hound
dogs, etc.) makes night sounds clearer, more distinct, and ever more haunting;
Welcome a new growing season, for the roots of the apple trees will come to life
in a few weeks;
Winter scenes are now approaching with the expectations of new-fallen snow and
extended winter walks;
Get out the snow removal equipment and any sanding material for the driveways;
Blazing home fireplaces feel more comforting than at any other time of the year
And no other day offers so much challenge to so many -- but isn't that what life
is all about
on this shortest day?
Lord, we trust in you as days will soon lengthen and an eternity stretches
Elegant patterns emerge in frozen Kentucky creek.
December 23, 2011
Prisoners, Community Service, and Economics
Christmas my thoughts turn to prisoners who crave to be home for the holidays,
family people who hurt and know their loved ones hurt as well. This year my
federal contract for serving prisoners has just expired, and travel difficulties
have made me choose not to renew it. Why be the oldest government contractor?
Virtually the only benefit (I loved serving prisoners) is being free to speak
about current prison practices. The jailing process is expensive, one hundred
dollars plus per day to lodge these poor souls, and results in long-term
personal and social detrimental effects. Is this a truly restorative or
transformative approach to justice, or just a way of placating vindictive
voters? Should non-violent offenders be imprisoned at a terrible taxpayer
expense? Reference: Ernest Drucker, A Plague of Prisons: The Epidemiology of
Mass Incarceration in America, The New Press, 2011.
justice: Prisoners find this season the hardest time to endure prison life,
to comfort fellow prisoners, and to be nice to guards. Even the compassionate
prison personnel (and there are many who are not hardened) find it difficult to
deal with prisoners in such seasons of exterior joy and happiness. While the
razor wire of the Manchester prisons shines with a "holiday sparkle" especially
at Christmas, still joy is hard to find within. Many realize that their own
loved ones suffer (often expressed through phone calls) by their absence, and
that adds to the "holiday pain." The ones needing correction are needed by
justice: Offenders agree that restoring right balance is needed in the
damaged society; however, community service is an excellent option that can be a
win-win situation. How about allowing these prisoners to work as local
volunteers for non-profit groups (not the low-wage prison manufacturing
operations)? The entire community (offender, offended, and general public) can
all benefit from such service. Healing is given a productive opportunity to be
achieved (see June 4, 2008). Ernie Muhly has pointed out that asking offenders
to be more accountable in community is a two-way street; we must ask communities
to be more responsible in how they treat offenders, and this obligates them to
discover ways to help convicts to reintegrate into society.
Service can lead to restorative justice. The ex-prisoner is now able to
prove him or herself and to exhibit responsibility in doing good; the agency
gets assistance; a genuine liberation has occurred. The correctional justice
system could pay minimum wage for a forty-hour week and still save 60% or more
of the incarcerating cost of each prisoner on community service release. The
monitoring and paperwork could be the responsibility of the non-profit system,
where the prisoner works -- and its only expense. The total community benefits
from the prisoner and the genuine needs being met by the prisoner changes his or
Lord, as we near Christmas, help us earnestly promote the liberation of
prisoners for the benefit of everyone.
Sighting on a Christmas Eve hike.
December 24, 2011 Make
Christmas Special for Young and Old
comes but once every seven or so years: a double feast -- Sunday and Christmas.
How do we make this double feast most enjoyable to all, the young and the old,
without tiring too much each group? Yes, for those with energy and mobility it
is to be a challenging day: a time to shout, sing, discuss, joke, carol, laugh
with, cheer games, and meet another's vocal tones with near matching
repertoire. Activity seems the order of the day, but this usually leaves some
elders exhausted. Granted, we like to think of Christmas with all the thrills
and starry-eyed enthusiasm that we had early in life when Santa visited, gifts
were opened, and all the lights were aglow. Hopefully, the day will include a
time of worship for the coming of the King of Kings -- and some prayerful
blessings before a major meal. Also hopefully this is not a feast only for
children; it is also a feast for elders -- Joseph, Wise Men, shepherds
(generally all adults in that era).
Day of the Young: This calls forth extra energy by the young, parents of
young children, those who want to entertain the young, and those who are old but
think they are young. Youthful enthusiasm gives a different flavor to Christmas
than that of older folks. Some churches make it an important part of the eve of
this day to have a young people's choir, a play, and skit where the young recite
the Christmas narrative with toddlers dressed up as shepherds and angels, and an
older child playing Mary cuddling a real live "cherub" who is friendly enough
not to cry at this occasion. All in all, youthful Christmas reflection comes
through action whether it be preparing the house, caroling, or just preparing
for actions to come tomorrow. They should pray for suitable weather.
A Day for the Elders:
Yes, older folks are involved in cooking, gift-wrapping, decorating, driving,
parking, greeting, visiting, eating, watching TV, and playing with the new games
of the young ones. However, the day must be more -- a day of praying in
different ways depending on one's age and inclinations. Ought it be a day of
the Lord with a quiet moment, a getaway to a corner, a shrine, a wooded walk, a
garden apart from others? Take this precious savored moment and thank God for
all the gifts given, but especially the gift of Jesus Christ. Make this
reflection into a prayer of thanksgiving for peace, family health, and life
is a feast for everyone of every race, male and female, sick and healthy, young
and old. Young people sing and recite words written for them -- and they often
do it well. Mature people can give a moment of reflection and say "Thank you,
Lord." Let this night before Christmas become a sacred time for all.
Lord our God, with the birth of your Son, your glory breaks on the world.
Through the night hours of a darkened earth, we people watch for the coming of
your Son. As we wait, give us a foretaste of the joy that you will grant us
when Christ's glory fills the Earth with a fullness we celebrate in many ways.
Muted tones of winter, beauty to inspire.
December 25, 2011 Current
Knowledge Extends Our Christmas Blessing
Sun and moon, bless the
Lord; Stars of heaven bless the Lord;
Nights and days, bless
the Lord; Ice and snow bless the Lord;
... and on and on...
(Daniel 3: 63-ff.)
this and all major feasts the prayer of the church includes this oft-quoted Old
Testament passage recalling the praise of God by all creatures. Since the
praise of all is given constantly, it still reaches a crescendo at the historic
moment when the Incarnate Word came to dwell among us. However, this crescendo
continues in our own time, when newly acquired scientific knowledge increases
and our wealth of information tells all the greater the extent of praise to the
countless galaxies stretching for billions of light years, bless the Lord;
of stars in each galaxy of different hues and shapes, bless the Lord;
that flashes now or did 2000 years ago at Christ's birth, bless the Lord;
Land masses laced with
rivers, lakes, swamps, deserts, and plains, bless the Lord;
plates moving, slipping, sliding and causing earthquakes and volcanoes, bless
oceans with waves, currents, storms and hurricanes, and subtle affects on global
climate, bless the Lord;
bacteria, and all minute creatures that inhabit land, sea and air, bless the
of a multitude of types and those that have evolved for millions of years, bless
of forests holding soil and moisture and furnishing fruit, nuts, and wood, bless
and all land animals that frequented the land, sea, and air for countless ages,
bless the Lord;
and other sea creatures with their migrations, way of communication, and unique
habits, bless the Lord;
of the air of a thousand species with unique plumage and beautiful and varied
songs, bless the Lord;
beings of cultures barely tapped and with thousands of strange sounding tongues,
bless the Lord;
seeing ways for all people to communicate in instant messaging and enormous
volume of content, bless the Lord;
care providers, who are foremost in innovative techniques that add to quality of
bless the Lord;
seeking peace and freedom, bless the Lord; and
and people, who chant God's praises in solemn and joyful liturgical celebration,
bless the Lord.
A blessed Christmas to
all our readers!
God of power and life, glory of all who believe in you, fill the expectant world
with your splendor and show the nations the light of your truth -- Jesus Christ.
The Kentucky River.
December 26, 2011
Time to Rest and Time to Act
Like Jesus who had to break
away from a needed rest period to attend to those who sought him, we are
sometimes required to give up free time for pressing matters. We have to
balance the Judeo-Christian emphasis on Sabbath and other rest periods, and the
need to assist others when they urgently seek help. We need time to pray, and
offer the blessings of Christmas to all with whom we come in contact. As 2011
draws to a close, we thank God for all gifts given during this year of
Israel, I brought a milk glass from the previous meal down to breakfast and was
met at the door by someone who was visibly shaken. I did not realize that the
dish could not be included in the current meal by the rules of the religiously
observant boarding place. Were the small rules too overly important to the
hosts or was there something I was culturally missing? These are culinary and
culturally established rules and at first sight seem to be somewhat oppressive,
and yet they were meant to show respect for the Lord. Do we have a respect for
all religious traditions?
read in the Gospels that Jesus was engaged enough to do what had to be done and
yet free enough to take time off to pray. He teaches us to be innovative --even
when our rest sometimes must be sacrificed. That requires a freedom to move as
the Spirit directs us. Jesus, Incarnate Word and Lord of the Sabbath, is not
enslaved by the Sabbath. He freely goes off to rest and have spiritual
refreshment, not only on days required but at given times in his ministry. He
encourages his disciples to go and rest after their emotionally expended
"high." Yet he is free to become active when called upon by the spiritually
We acquire the art of
physical, emotional and spiritual balance, a condition that is of importance to
those we serve. We become a "Christmas event" or coming of the Lord to those
who have difficulty finding themselves. As models for others to follow and as
healers of our wounded Earth, we discover when to rest and when to be active; we
realize the importance of Sabbaths and annual feasts and occasional jubilees and
celebrations in our lives. We are to master our personal demands, for these may
differ from those of companions and loved ones. We ought to be free enough to
take care of ourselves and also rest for the sake of others.
Do I make the time to rest,
or do I see life as more and more work? Am I a workaholic in a world where the
average time spent working has increased during the past decade while the
labor-saving devices should have shortened work time? Do I pack more and more
in shorter periods of time? Do I appreciate the rhythm of rest and activity?
Am I free to judge correctly when a rest period must be shortened or abandoned
for the sake of helping others? Do I know when to start and when to stop? Am I
Lord, teach us to rest when we ought and work when we ought, and to know how to
be at ease with each.
A sycamore leaf in an early winter snow.
December 27, 2011 Extend
Seasonal Warmth and Comfort into 2012
As a kid we probably asked at some point in the holidays -- "Why can't this last
all year?" And parents rolled their eyes! They may have then asked themselves
how to answer that one. Feasting is our special seasonal holiday but do not the
Jewish, Hindi, Sikh, and Moslem people have feasts as well? Isn't this time the
season of African-American Kwanzaa (December 26 to January 1), which
celebrates family, community and culture? Special festive periods for all
groups are times of joy, warmth, family togetherness, and love. Perhaps all of
us ought to discover how we can extend celebration not of our single feast but
the plethora of other feasts throughout the year.
care: To feast well means we must feel well enough to do so. Maybe we ought
to resolve for the new year to select recreation practices that require less
energy and resources (hiking, walking, biking) as opposed to high intensity and
noisy forms (motor boating, joy riding, extensive auto travel). Another
approach is on the opposite end of the activity spectrum. Maybe our comfort and
joy can be better expressed through more rest and sleep and less work. Either
more or less activity may ensure a physical balance that carries us through the
actions: Our works can have immense significance if offered up to the Lord
in a kindly manner. Do we enclose ourselves into our own cocoon and forget the
broader neighborhood that our cheerfulness helps solidify? Do we find others in
need and respond as the Good Samaritan to individuals who hurt? Do we extend
our respect and warmth to the birds and squirrels and the plants and herbs in
the garden and nearby grounds? Respect is extensive for it is not reserved only
for single individuals who hurt, but to entire classes of flora and fauna, e.g.,
in Our Work: When we extend our outreach to every person we make "local" a
broader action. This reflection was first drafted on September 10th, the feast
day of the Jesuit brother, Blessed Francis Garate of Spain (1857-1929). For the
last forty years of his life, Brother Francis was the doorkeeper at the
University College in Deusto (Bilbao). The astounding thing is that he was
known for his constant fidelity, hard work, cheerfulness, charity, and
courtesy. He treated all, young and old, notable and beggar in exactly the same
manner and always showed great joy in his work. The impression he made on so
many was a legend and yet his was a humble work.
on How We Do. Let's make this extended warmth and joy a New Year's
resolution. Okay, we do not always keep resolutions and often cannot remember
specifics at the end of January. However, if this becomes an ongoing theme of a
daily review, we may do better. Godspeed and good luck!
Lord, give us the true sense of this holiday spirit, and make it part of our
A mighty chimney rock. Bell Co., KY.
December 28, 2011 The
Power of Suffering with Jesus
makes me happy to suffer for you, as I am suffering now, and in my own body to
do what I can to make up all that has still to be undergone by Christ for the
sake of his body, the Church.
On the feast of the Holy
Innocents we consider the seemingly senseless suffering of so many people in
this troubled world. The innocents suffer, but why? However we gradually
become aware that a law of Conservation of Suffering occurs: no effort is lost;
all goes to building up the New Heaven and New Earth. We affirm this belief
through our Earth healing ministry and authentic efforts we undertake. Our work
is not "make work;" it is meant to be real healing; it includes selfless
caregiving by unsung heroes and heroines; it fosters advances of medical
technologies (e.g., today, leprosy can be easily treated in early stages); it
encourages healers to use all resources at his or her disposal to alleviate the
condition of the sick, and to follow in Jesus' footsteps.
healing ministry extends beyond being directed towards the sufferers and
includes the active willing offering of sufferers themselves. Whether these be
at home or in a hospital, hospice, or senior citizen's home, they have something
positive to offer to the world. Far from being a "burden" on society, an
untapped spiritual resource yearns to be utilized. This needs to be
communicated to sufferers; they may offer what they endure with Jesus for the
sake of others who need healing. Through willing suffering one's faith can
grow. People realize that God's power can act within a cheerful giver -- and
all the more through the offering of suffering people. Ever so gradually we are
aware that no suffering is ever lost; all will ultimately lead to God's greater
limited in mobility, at least sufferers can offer their impoverishment in union
with Jesus who suffers on the Cross -- an act that extends in space and time.
Calvary is ongoing and makes good the present suffering as an immediate energy
source for global healing -- something localized that is transformed into a
global action. We can offer our sufferings along with Mary, John, and the holy
women at the foot of the cross. We are one with the Lord and in that saving
moment we enter into Christ's work of salvation through extending Calvary in
space and time in each Liturgy. I make a point to ask shut-ins to
offer one or more days of their lives each week so that others search and read
our "Daily Reflections," and linger awhile. The willingness to do so makes the
praying person enter into a single global action as part of salvation history.
Faith involves the power in this union of sacrifice. Proclaim Good News to
others, so that their sufferings need not be lost; ensure them that God works
through their willingness. Make this a precious moment to do great deeds -- a
fulfilling of suffering at its very source.
Prayer: Lord, help us to
convince the innocents of this world that by offering their sufferings they help
heal our wounded Earth.
Mas alla (beyond)...
December 29, 2011
365 Ways to Prepare Oatmeal
In an effort to share my food
budget with a Indian orphan, I have heard comments that my food variety is
compromised -- due to paucity of commercial items on a limited budget. Thus,
for the past three years I have attempted to vary soups (2009) and salads (2010)
each day (see the Special Issues on the above website). This year I have just
completed varying oatmeal dishes without losing my enthusiasm for that versatile
grain. At the end of the year I have achieved 365 varieties with two days to
spare. Please see "Special Issues" on this website.
Actually, oatmeal variations
like those of soups and salads were not exhausted in the single year span.
Oatmeal has much use in its being mixed with other dishes such as legumes or
stews, but only a few of these are noted here. Essentially the oatmeal
variation feat was achieved by varying the ingredients used in three basic types
of preparations: cooked oatmeal as cereal with fruit, nut or berry variation;
mixing of oatmeal within scrambled eggs with mainly vegetable variations but did
include some nuts and berries: and mixing oatmeal as part of pancake mix with
variations of fruit, berries and/or nuts). The various liquids or sweeteners
were not included in variation, nor the other basic ingredients in pancake mix.
I only used Save-a-Lot
Food's Old fashioned Rollin' Oats for all the meal preparations. I liked
the texture of this basic form of oatmeal and found the quicker cooked beyond my
favor. Yes, some people use "metal cut" oatmeal and other varieties but I am
unsure why they are superior, nor was I willing to do the added work of
preparing them. The oatmeal I selected could be prepared in two minutes in the
microwave, and the egg and pancake preparations with virtually no extra time.
there other areas of potential food variation at low costs? One could suggest
principal meals, deserts, baked products, or vinegar-related applications, and
see whether 365 variations of these exist as well. Yes, of course they do in
all four of the suggested categories, but some of these require cooking and
baking skills that are time-consuming for someone who likes fast meals. I do
not buy meat products and am at present somewhat limited on eating deserts, and
so a new 2012 foods project is emerging as problematic. However, the use of
herbal vinegar (wine, apple, etc.) stands out as a challenging possibility. The
options are related to what simple people can do easily with low-cost accessible
foods. These may include a wide variety of meat (if donated), fish, or
vegetarian meals that one could eat for lunch or a main meal. The goal is to
incorporate a specific type of vinegar that will give a unique flavor and is
worth mentioning to others. Again, suggestions are most welcome from our
Lord, enrich our tastes for spirit and matter; help us be creative in using the
simple but essential things of life.
Spirobolid millipede, Narceus americanus.
December 30, 2011 Domestic Planning and Fidelity
Holy Family Day it is good for us to review the past year and prepare for
the next one. Many at the domestic level have a genuine sense of gratitude for
surviving 2011 and they have a hope that 2012 will be better. This combination
of past review and future hope becomes the present moment, a NOW of our
lives; when we focus on the place of our residence where things have happened
and hopes are to be fulfilled this becomes the HERE of our lives, a locus
of our attention and action; when we realize that we must work together to be
successful, this becomes the WE working as a cooperative body. Knowing
the time, place and community situation affords the best possibility for healing
our troubled Earth and its inhabitants at the domestic and at broader levels of
Past achievements are measured but we realize that the measuring devices are not
perfect nor are the ones doing the measuring. Some of this judgment is left to
the Lord. In wrapping up the year we ask pardon for our mishaps and failings
and know they are fully forgiven. Faithfulness involves willingness to look
back thoroughly and find there a forgiving God of mercy and love, a faithful
God. We pray to keep our feet planted firmly on the ground of where we have
come from, for that helps us obtain the orientation, the HERE, from where
we continue our journey into the future. Our past experiences become the
history of caution and enthusiasm with which we prepare for our future.
Do some people exist from day-to-day and never plan anything ahead? Do some
glory in this informality about tomorrow or the distant future? However, this a
low quality of life and a lack of sensitivity for the welfare of a community and
a domestic setting as well. Yes, some who have terminal illness focus more on
the importance of today. In such cases, we need to give some space for even the
Lord says as much at times. However, watchfulness, stewardship, and astute
planning are asked of every responsible citizen and all who must be homemakers
in some degree in order to know the NOW. Planning adds to our physical,
mental, emotional, psychological, financial, and environmental health and
today. Our past and future come together within the local and domestic
scene. Domestic means home and the word "eco" for ecology and economy indicate
the order in our lives that include experience from the past and careful
planning for the future. To see ourselves where we have come from and to hope
for a future requires prayer today. We depend on God's help for we simply
cannot do it all ourselves, no matter how hard we plan in rational ways. The
unanticipated will throw some plans awry -- but not all. Even if we do not
survive 2012, our hope is that WE will continue or at least those who
survive at the domestic scene. Our prayers are down-to-earth and a promise of
Lord, help us to look back without stumbling backward; help us look forward
without totally wandering; help us to be able to do both as we trust in our
journey with you.
Work in progress as butterfly visits flower.
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)
December 31, 2011
Eagles and Butterflies: Sally Ramsdell
On this last day of the year
we want to celebrate the memory of Sally Ramsdell, our Earthhealing team member,
who passed away on August 22nd (notice found on that day). This entire December
set of monthly reflections has been illustrated by her wonderful photographic
treasure. We suggested to her to submit some of these wildlife masterpieces to
the National Wildlife Foundation for 2012 calendar consideration; however, her
battle with cancer in the summer took her attention -- except to do editing for
us virtually to the end.
the last day of 2010, we memorialized a second Earthhealing team member,
Kristin Johannsen, who died on October 7, 2010. A third 2011 deceased editor,
Davis, was honored on her 75th birthday on September 30th. Three in ten
months! We miss them.
Eagles and Butterflies
I suspect eagles admire
their grace, busyness,
and flying style,
and their ease to
know what's down below.
I suspect butterflies
they soar and try to
reach up high.
And I doubt whether
they ever eat each other;
you see, butterflies
and eagles aim for
You understand Sally
was our golden eagle,
ferreting flaws that
watching what had
begun as simply fun.
Sally, also admired
the butterflies --
their color, beauty,
Captured in photos
we never tire to admire.
Sally soars on above us
like an eagle;
she flits about like
a butterfly, a
social soul with ease
who strives to please.
The moment Sally died her friend looked up,
a soaring raptor's
shadow passed above;
a second shadow
passed by, a butterfly.
Prayer: Thank you,
Lord, for good people like Sally, Mary, and Kristin. Those who recently
enriched our lives so much are now enriching the heavenly court and helping us
still in many ways.