Thank heavens, February is our shortest month! Eagerly, we look amid naked grayness the first signs of a refreshing season. We listen for the stark groan of the mourning dove; we find the first blooming dandelions among fallen leaves, we listen for sap is rising; we breathe in the fresh air! We feel hope springing eternally. At first glance the countryside appears lifeless, but we perceive a profound renewal starting to occur. Commercial shops brighten the environs with decorations and displays, with bright red hearts and bunting. On the first warm day of February we seize our spade and hoe, and dash out to turn soil for the first sowing of peas -- at least I follow my mother's tradition of doing so here in Kentucky. Prepare, for spring is coming; survey the landscape; alert the neighbors. Spring calls us to bring forth new life.
Early out in longer daylight, and yet colorful to behold, Maroon petals make me unique; See, I am an eye-medicine, A rare red dye, a love potion, and a harbinger of springtime.
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February 1, 2021 Favoring Fossil Fuel over Renewable Energy
We observe the lengthening days and the warmth of the solar rays beginning to penetrate our daylight hours. The desire to use more renewable energy strikes us most deeply in mid-winter. In saying this we ask, "What progress is being made in challenging global warming through favoring renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, tidal, and certain biofuels). Certainly wind turbines are being built globally in unprecedented numbers; renewables are replacing coal powerplants at a rapid rate; solar is coming on fast as the fuel of the future.
Environmental awareness is running high, but so is the rising demand for air conditioning and private vehicles in developing lands. The objections to various renewables for scenic or minor reasons such as turbine noise are minor in comparison with the severe impacts of fossil fuels: elevated carbon dioxide levels, escape of natural gas (with methane at 23 times CO2 impacts), mountaintop removal, toxic substances loosed into the environment, unprotected fly-ash piles, gas and oil pipeline breaks, and oil spillage in deep water drilling and waterway transportation. Unfortunately two facts constantly stare us in the face: global fossil fuel consumption has been expanding, not contracting; current fuel financial assistance still favors fossil fuels over renewable energy sources.
In one way the world is waking up to the demand to convert to renewables; in another way people are slow to sacrifice the interim fossil fuels during a transition period -- and this reluctance is quite critical. This makes us wonder what is to happen at the end of this century well after we are gone. Will the global temperature continue to rise when we have seen the hottest years on record in the last five years? Is a feedback loop occurring in the melting of permafrost and release of immense amounts of greenhouse potent methane gas with accelerated ice sheet melting, ocean current changes, and water level rises that cover highly-populated shorelines? A host of nations are promoting investment in renewables but is it coming fast enough? And where does the U.S. stand on this?
One disturbing fact is easy to correct: namely, global fossil fuel subsidies are set to be abandoned even while the market is now favoring the lower priced renewable. It makes no sense to continue such tax breaks and subsidies, for makes us aware of the power of Big Fossil Fuel producers even after years of proclaiming the environmental advantages of solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower and tidal sources. We can hardly expect other nations to take the lead even when the U.S. is number one in oil and gas production and gaining now in fossil fuel exports. The world is facing immense difficulties, and word is out: renewable energy promotion is critical to saving our Earth.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to know the signs of the times, to see how we have damaged mother Earth, and the urgency to repair it.
Preparing for the coming Spring.
February 2, 2021Giving Light to All on Candlemas Day
Yes, with you is the fountain of life; by your light we see the light. (Psalm 36:9)
On Candlemas Day, it is fitting that we review the many ways we can do more than be enlightened by sources; this is an exercise in ways we can give and share light with all around us:
1. Encourage others to use their talents better and thus benefit from the many opportunities at hand;
2. Teach someone or a group about an area in which they need to be educated such as how to garden or how to respect drugs;
3. Lighten up the meeting with a sense of humor when the mood of many in the room is more or less depressed;
4. Show how energy conservation and choice of proper lighting (fluorescent or LEDs) can easily brighten a house;
5. Go outdoors with others and participate in full spectrum sunlight (if shining today), thus improving everyone's disposition;
6. Enliven the gathering by some music or singing. Make this a pre-Lenten Marti Gras celebration;
7. Give a light touch to meals or the house by rearrangement of stacked up materials and furnishings;
8. Tell a story to lighten the spirits of those around you; it is a perfect time to listen to something new;
9. Relate the potential of solar PV panels to offer luminescence at no- or very low-cost to the domestic environment;
10. Read an informational book and become personally enlightened so that the light can be shared with others;
11. Use a social media outlet to share insights;
12. Note times of inspiration and record them, for the lights of our insight shine with ever greater intensity;
13. Pray for the light to see good and avoid evil;
14. Let some outdoor lights burn as a welcome to the wayward;
15. Light a candle and do not curse the darkness; and
16. Keep extra candles in case the electricity fails.
Prayer: Lord, you are light showing the way to our spiritual growth; inspire us to burn with the desire to come to you.
The Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura).
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)
February 3, 2021 Mourning Dove: Harbinger of Spring
They call you Zenaida macroura, how sad. They brand your song mourning, that's bad. Little is it known by the naming folks That you, gray bird, have other strokes.
First you're a dove, global sign of peace Bringing back olive branches on release, But few olives grow here you understand, You're not nesting in a peaceable land.
Instead, you're hunted game by my macho cousin, Who loves to bag you by the dozen. Astounding, since cooked you're hardly a bite, It's body counts that bring delight.
I'd settle that mourning describes your coo Except that you have another service too. You break bitter winter's endless sting, Great and glorious harbinger of spring.
When I heard that sound on February second, How glorious it broke the silence, I reckon. Witch hazel, groundhog, wooly worm, others? Mourning doves, if I had my druthers.
Prayer: Lord, give us the grace to observe nature in its fullness and to learn from all. Give us the courage of the mourning dove, a creature willing to announce the spring in a public way. May we be encouraged to proclaim the coming of the Lord to all the world.
February 4, 2021 Honoring Our Constitution by Initiating a Second
The U.S. Constitution is the oldest one in continuous use. We can best honor this document by making it more relevant in the age of globalization. A constitution is the special place where we can address disparity of wealth, the greatest danger today to our democratic structure. Consider these eight points in preparation for a Second Constitutional Convention:
1. Express the basic right of all people to life from birth to death. This includes the basic right of individuals to health facility access. Natural species have a right to corporate life. This enhances the realistic dream that all our sisters and brothers on this planet will go to bed tonight with a full belly, under a decent roof, and with basic security.
2. Encourage the democratic process, wherein all participate in determining their own destiny, and through which they can assist non-violently in returning what rightfully belongs to the commons.
3. Promote renewable energy sources, and thus move our nation onto a path of leadership to a new global economy where fossil fuels will be left in the ground.
4. Champion equal opportunity for work and for earning a living. It must be enshrined that our government is the ultimate employer; we need not await private initiatives that take from a pool of human beings who are regarded as economic commodities.
5. Abolish the U.S. Electoral College and replace it with popular vote; this is a fair way to ensure that votes in more populated states have equal weight in presidential elections.
6. Limit personal wealth to a just level so that there is no privilege and power associated with concentrations of private wealth. The thrust is to reduce the tax burden on lower-income people, but increase taxes on luxury items and on items and practices linked to alcohol and tobacco. Commit our government to a program of equality through just and fair taxes.
7. Promote a spiritual profit-motivation by discouraging a material profit motivation -- for, in this needy world, material profits for some are at the expense of others.
8. Reaffirm local decision-making. The basic commitment is to perform as many tasks as possible at the grassroots level and thus the need to implement the principle of subsidiarity.
Some fear what may occur with a new Constitution, but this fear is challenged by a major effort to see that all segments of society are represented at a constitutional convention.
Prayer: Lord, give us the courage to support needed changes as a way to improve the quality of life and to heal our wounded Earth.
Ice coating on Queen Anne's Lace, Daucus carota.
February 5, 2021 Feeding Hungry Folks Venison
When we see people who lack access to nutritious food and then observe wildlife eating and bounding about, we add two and two together, "Eat locally-grown deer meat." Venison is delicious and nutritious; it is organic and inexpensive if you are a good hunter and ready to harvest good food. Though mentioned in the past, we need to focus more directly on the subject of wildlife as food, because food prices rise and nutritious food is beyond reach of poor folks in many places.
Harvesting deer is similar to the practice of poor Africans in their search for protein sources from "bush meat;" the big difference is that much of African wildlife is in sharp decline and even endangered. Here, deer (which I never observed locally when I was young eight decades ago) is now virtually ubiquitous. A major rural, suburban and even urban complaint in virtually every part of the continental U.S. focuses principally on deer. Wildlife is graceful, beautiful, and plentiful, but can be pests that enjoy chomping on shrubs and flowers. All said, deer preferences are finicky. In fact, using hot sauce or sprays will keep them away from specific flora, but only until rain washes away the agent.
Definitely these animals are hard to divert, though barking dogs will keep them at bay for a while. Deer are smart and adaptable; keen observers in overrun areas talk about seeing evolution at work among these animals. Deer platforms and blinds have been fashionable in the past, but recent generations of deer survey the platforms to make sure no hunters are present before entering an area. Smart! However, these animals still find busy highways puzzling. They must cross a congested roadway at considerable damage to life or limb both to themselves and to the drivers and passengers in moving vehicles. Appalachian roads are littered with bad deer decisions.
Amid wildlife proliferation, a solution to human hunger and animal pest control is harvesting. The hunting season could be prolonged to provide meat as venison sausage. Furthermore, I have learned to cook a type of burgoo which includes venison as one of the ingredients. The gamey smell/taste of venison is softened by herbs such as oregano, bay leaves, or thyme. Also added are fresh parsley, collard leaves, chopped carrots, sweet peppers, corn, cabbage and vegetable juice. As the cooking progresses, dehydrated potatoes are added as a thickening agent. Venison sausage is also excellent with scrambled eggs, and in various stews and soups of infinite variation.
America's harvestable deer population is over ten million and growing; at least one-tenth could be harvested each year without noticeable decline. This could be an ample protein source for our poor folks, and for others who allow occasional meat dishes.
Prayer: Lord, inspire us to harvest Earth's super-bounty, and to do so with respect; may we be grateful for our food supply.
The Lord's Incarnation: A Scientist View
During the height of this severe health event, we, who refrain from in-person social contact, call out for Jesus to come and help us. This is a golden opportunity to reflect on the deep mysteries associated with Christ's first coming or Incarnation. Our thinking about this mystery is colored by life's experiences and our maturing faith. Traditional Christians who observed the brilliant and rare conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter on December 21st, the so-called "Christmas Star," are reminded of the Wise Men following a star to Bethlehem. Likewise, again this year, the sight of Christmas cribs and decorated trees give a comforting feeling even in times of pandemic; physical things trigger religious feeling, reminding believers about an historic event two thousand years ago -- the first coming of Christ as Messiah.
For other Christians with modern thinking in the manner of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the "Incarnation" may be a process that occurred over the long evolution of our universe, in which spirit and matter are present and moving to deeper actuality. Certainly, such a thought may have many ramifications as to the process of coming to some cosmic end or to de Chardin's Omega Point. However, in such thinking, the Incarnation as historic event seems not to be as primary as the process of incarnating, which some regard as occurring in all creatures endowed with matter and spirit. The focus is creation-centered in many ways, not a redemptive act.
However, either a traditional evangelical or a new cosmological approach seems to tell a partial story. Can there be a joining of the two strains of religious experiences to make something even richer in appreciating "Incarnation?" Understanding the Incarnation includes events in history (Christmas and the future Parousia); it needs a process that is more than mere speculative knowledge. The two views of the Incarnation need fuller understanding that incorporates the ideas meaningful in each way of seeing things. Only by expanding "process" do we see our participatory and practical role at play in our journey (process) in faith. Only by expanding "event" to the second coming do we see the full effect of the person of Jesus in our day-to-day lives.
Incarnation, when God becomes one of us, is when Heaven meets Earth. The Kingdom of God is now fully initiated through an historic moment. An event is a present focal point of past preparation and future fulfillment. For believers with a scientific bent, the process of an evolving Earth opening the way, for the coming of the Lord at this unique moment in history has a Scriptural foundation. The long-awaited Messiah comes from the House of David and from heaven as well.
Love and Loyalty now meet, Righteousness and Peace now embrace; Loyalty reaches up from Earth and Righteousness leans down from heaven. (Psalm 85: 10-11)
Again, Isaiah the prophet writes: Send victory like a dew, you heavens, and let the clouds rain it down. Let the Earth open for salvation to spring up. Let deliverance, too, bud forth which I YHWH, shall create. (Isaiah 25:8)
A believing scientist finds the simultaneity of event and process easy enough to conceive; this is so when recalling the modern understanding of wave and particle theory in contrast to classic mechanistic theory of previous centuries. Shouldn't the macrocosm be in harmony with the way the microcosm works? In 1927, Heisenberg introduced the Uncertainty or Indeterminacy Principle, stating that position and velocity of an object cannot both be measured exactly at the same time. As expected, much scientific discussion followed. For brevity, we skip the interesting details; this new quantum mechanics was moving the world away from a clockwork universe of mechanics with its assumed certain predictability into a world of statistical probabilities. Recognizing human limits as to measurement was actually a step forward in scientific thought and advancing wisdom. We consider both the nature of waves and particles in relation to each other, and consider a universe composed of them.
This knowledge of matter affects the way we think about all physical matter; this springing up of Messiah through Mary's womb involved matter as we know human beings to be composed. In some ways, this Incarnation mystery expands our understanding and yet in other ways it accentuates our profound lack of predictability as to certain pathways and results made by individual believers. Now the scientific believer transposes our understanding to the world of salvation history. The Christmas season recalls an event when God's promise culminating in becoming one of us humans -- the greatest cosmic event after the Big Bang and in anticipation of the future Parousia event.
Focusing on process without event is speculative; it is hardly related to the practical world in which we are called to renew our planet. Focusing in an evangelical way on Redemptive event at the coming of Christ strips us of the richness of the preparation of the first coming as well as the participative aspects leading up to the coming of Christ again. Theory and practice have a scientific interplay of which we realize limits to our knowledge, but also are invited to further our journey of faith through collaboration in Church. Limits allow us to focus on what needs to be done and serve a practical imperative on completing the task ahead. This new focus increases our respect for all creation as well as the need for divine assistance -- for humans are imperfect.
What is said about the microcosm has similarities in the macrocosm embracing the universe around us. We have an oncoming event, the Parousia (Christ's second coming event) and to reach this we are called to participate in hastening the day of the coming of the Lord (II Peter 3:12). This insight is never fully reflected by either of the two positions discussed (redemption- and creation-centered spiritualities): evangelicals passively await the one who is Jesus-and-me; speculative people shun practical technology of the scientific/engineering world.
Just as human misdeeds cried out for a first coming at Christmas, so we are invited to work now through our powers of being baptized into the resurrected Lord's undertakings. We died with Christ and rose with him, and our actions ought to be Resurrection-centered (embracing creation, redemption and physical involvement). We are called to renew a wounded Earth and work in collaboration with people throughout the world to hasten the coming of a New Heaven and New Earth (see our book Resonance: Promoting Harmony When Confronting Climate Change). It is interesting how many believers fail to see the need to do honest sweaty work to bring on the coming of the Lord -- and think patient waiting or wonderful words are sufficient.
We can't predict the Parousia, but in faith we can affirm it and use our talents to help bring it about. Here science offers a tone, a modifying effect to theological thinking about salvation history. Our enthusiasm (the God within) is enlightened by limited working in a knowing and practical manner. We do not know the definite route of our pathway, the ultimate degree of our involvement, the presence of misdeeds and detours, or how much of the planet can be saved and renewed. Our freedom opens the door to follow the technical advances of Dark Age monks, who championed wind and watermill technologies so as to liberate serfs to have time to pray. Theirs was counter to the distain of pagan Greek and Roman cultures to the physical labor of slaves. Christianity sees value to gritty work, a privilege to help hasten the day of the Lord -- ennobling our future through work and prayer.
In the course of salvation history God invites and inspires us to perform good deeds; these hasten the second coming, but in the same undertaking our freedom includes our misdeeds, which retard progress. Will people say "yes" and address the ill-effects of climate change, or through a contrary spirit retard the progress? Through the gift of Baptism, not through our DNA, we join and are empowered as part of the divine family. Freedom is at the heart of our actions and is the basis of our indeterminacy; we can choose to say "yes" to God's offer and help bear the incarnate Christ to the world, and bring on his coming in time.
The believing scientist does more than affirm the world of mere speculation. Our is a world of past historic event leading to culminating effect in the Parousia --the Christmas ahead. We help make that future, which does not follow mechanical clockwork, but is fashioned by free decisions for better or worse. We affirm through the event of our Baptism and entry into the Body of Christ to help make salvation history. Through humble acknowledgment, indeterminacy leads us to seek divine assistance to help renew our wounded Earth and advance to the Parousia. Come Lord Jesus!
February 6, 2021 Confronting Injustice as Christian Virtue
I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were burning already! (Luke 12:49)
Why am I so confrontational? My answer is that it is neither my particular personality nor a sense of dysfunctionality, but because I am a Christian. In fact, I regret not being more confrontational on various occasions. The Luke quotation above is on the wall in front of me; it strengthens my resolve when tempted to remain silent and let matters take their own course. It is the countermeasure to all who seek to caution that my passion for justice ought to be toned down in order to retain benefactors. One doctor once suggested that certain anti-depressants could help tone down social activists, and he even had a name for the malady.
Rather, my prayer is that more would burn with the fire of Jesus. All too often the virtues' list of people, and especially Christians, include how patient they are, how tolerant of what others do, and how much they are supportive of the current system. Amazingly, Jesus does not extol these so-called virtues. Some will remind us that Jesus says to render to Caesar what is Caesar's, but this must be seen in the political context as a method used to trick Jesus into affirming one or other competing systems -- that of Rome or that of Jerusalem. He says to give each its due in taxes, etc. He does not say to promote the Roman Empire or current religious practice for which he has strong words. Jesus does not mince words in speaking of rulers -- "Tell that fox..."
We find Jesus willing to confront others, whether personal or the system itself. Jesus calls the Scribes and Pharisees hypocrites for preaching one thing and acting in other ways. Jesus takes a whip and drives out the moneychangers, and cites the passages that this is to be the house of prayer FOR ALL THE PEOPLE. His defense of the commons has a minority of today's Christian followers, especially from the more "prosperity-minded" sector of Christendom. Will these in the silent majority learn that saying nothing when democracy needs defense is not a Christian virtue -- rather it promotes mammon and does not follow the Spirit's gifts within us? Fire is to be used against injustice of any sort.
Wealth cannot be condoned when destitution abounds. Again and again, we must raise the issue: why not share the wealth that is accumulated and is not being used. If the wealthy are unwilling to share, or to pretend that this is what keeps an economy running (even while dysfunctional), then citizens must take matters into their own hands. Christian virtues must come into play, namely, to take non-violently what is rightfully ours. Downsizing the rich affords them a better chance for salvation. Overturning the tables of moneychangers hurts no one physically, only economically. Such actions can arouse opposition. Ask Jesus.
Prayer: Lord, allow us to confront the establishment and to do so with heart, lips, and arm; let our actions be loving and public.
February 7, 2021 Discovering Job's Trials Are Ours as Well
Remember that my life is but a breath... (Job 7:7a).
In the book of Job we discover desolation on the part of one who suffers. However, this is not specific to one person; rather, all of us suffer desolation at one or other time through awareness of our mortality and our unfinished work. Some amount of short- or long-term depression is in each person's life. It is true when looking back as much as looking ahead; our past services were not perfect and this pains us. The approaching Lenten season is an opportune time to reaffirm that the Lord is willing to accept us and forgive us for our past performance. In God is our trust and recourse to desolation. Job discovered this; so ought we. That ever-shortening span of life ahead makes the reality of Lenten review all the more imperative with each passing year. Focusing solely on ourselves apart from God adds to our desolation.
Group desolation may prove more problematic than remedying our individual conditions. Our country and our world has been enduring deep desolation over the possibilities of catastrophe associated with climate change. Many try to satisfy inherent wants by purchase and consumption of material goods, but the appetite for more is these is insatiable. The treadmill of gaining, maintaining and seeking ever more materials is self-perpetuating.
Saint Paul (I Corinthians 9) says he has made himself all things to all people in order to save at least some of them. He accepts that his work has some benefit and feels the need to act accordingly. We join Paul and find hope in the power of the Lord's Resurrection. Will we succeed? The question haunts us, for the tasks needed to save our wounded Earth are daunting. Many people strive to become materially secure, refuse to change behavior, and fail to conserve limited resources. Along with Job we search for an answer and discover that true success is rooted in God's designs, and that trust must emerge when we see and understand the futility of our own limits. Belief in the Resurrection is to place a sure promise at the heart of our efforts to bring people to see the problems facing us -- and to act accordingly. The Lord assists us to break through the fog of desolation. In trust we can serve God and bring a promising and renewing spirit to others.
Our trials in these troubled financial times are real. We stand before God as an addicted people who think that more and more material things will satisfy us. However, painfully we realize that a new economy must be in the offing, for material greed is insatiable -- and the first steps at this realization often come through realizing the causes of desolation. Jesus implores the Father for help; so ought we when we are down and out. This upcoming season will help us rediscover our spiritual roots.
Prayer: Lord, you heal the brokenhearted and bind up our wounds. Help us gain the patience it takes to endure these times and circumstances with the sure trust that you will conquer all.
Two white oaks, gracing the skyline, Anderson Co., KY.
February 8, 2021 Finding Private Wealth Incompatible with Democracy
Why quarrel with wealth itself? Isn't it because in this world of haves and have-nots, the disparity of wealth held in private hands damages the democratic structure of our society? Wealth is commonly defined as the abundance of valuable resources or material possessions, but it is the control that is important. We can speak of "wealth" applied to valuable lands, personal talents, or spiritual attainments. Furthermore, a materialist context depends on the "value" placed by a particular culture. Democratic systems expect a proper control over acquired or retained wealth in the form of equal or just distribution.
Those who defend the right to immense personal wealth argue in many ways: "Don't you realize that prosperity Christianity and blessings of wealth manifest divine favor?" Hardly so, for in reading Scripture we find God's favor is always with the poor, and so should ours. Prosperity in a world of unjust social conditions is a mark of false prophecy and should be exposed as such. The struggle involves rejecting the "nobility of wealth" in a democratic society where extremes are ultimately intolerable. We who trust in God's call for justice in Christ seek a redistribution of wealth for the Common Good -- and ultimate victory.
"Wealth shows the plenty of the Creator." No doubt when wealth theoretically means an abundance of resources, the bounty of God's gifts is recognized. However, when wealth focuses on what is accumulated and controlled by privileged people then this bounty becomes restricted to some and unavailable for others. The greater demonstration than material wealth is the wealth of a democratic will of the people to control and distribute bounty to those in need -- and this also expresses the Creator's gifts.
"The wealthy are worthy of honor." This has been the generally accepted understanding of royal privilege in times past, but hardly that of a republican form of government. Honoring private wealth no matter how obtained and retained is ill-conceived and leads to breakdown in respect for all forms of government, for it gives excessive power to the ones with wealth. On the other hand, the wealthy have a duty to share excess, and citizens must see that this occurs. The right to livelihood using wealth extends to adequate nutrition and also to accessible health facilities and to educational opportunities for all people.
"The wealthy will conquer you." A temptation exists in our minds to stay silent and dare not question wealth for fear of losing our support from those who otherwise like the ministry that we undertake. Fear of retribution from the wealthy is the funders' blackmail; keep silent about their holdings no matter how unjustly they were obtained or they will withhold funding from you. Really?
Prayer: Lord, help us save the wealthy from themselves by turning our talents to liberating them from their material chains.
Help us see the urgency of our own prayer.
The "Pasty," with potatoes and other veggies. An ethnic Cornish meal.
February 9, 2021 Championing the Humble Potato
Taking time out from pressing environmental needs to champion one or other of our sources of nourishment is wise. Let's discover the ones which are healthy and promote them in order to ensure our continued health. A perfect candidate is the prolific, tasty, and multipurpose root vegetable "potato." Do we take Solanum Tuberosum for granted?
An historic moment: Potatoes are truly versatile; they are highly productive over a wide temperature range. The high Andes is the home of a wide variety (5,000) of potatoes of various sizes, shapes, colors (white, yellow, brown, shades of red, tones of blue and purple), and tastes. See Charles Mann, "The Eyes Have It," Smithsonian, November, 2011, pp. 86-106. The humble potato started in the Andes and was tamed by clever inhabitants, since early varieties have toxic substances that are controlled by clay. With the Spanish conquest, the potato was introduced to Europe where, in historian William McNeill's words, "By feeding rapidly growing populations, [it] permitted a handful of European nations to assert dominion over much of the world between 1750 and 1950." The monoculture of cloned potatoes (slices and not seed yield new ones) made crops more susceptible to potato blights and the Colorado beetle, which were treated with the first chemical pesticides.
A prolific crop: Tubers are staple crops that when compared to grains are far more productive; the underground product is not subject to being in an exposed seed pod subject to the rain and wind when in the ripening stage. Potatoes are adaptable to a diverse variety of weather and soil conditions. The yield can be upward to 10,000 to 12,000 kilograms per acre depending on climate, weather, and availability of nutrients. In comparison to grains, the calorie per acre content is three or four times more. It was these yields that allowed the vast expansion of the population of Ireland in the 19th century, until the awful potato blight of the 1840s from which the population has not yet recovered.
A culinary delight: Potatoes offer creative cooks a wide variety of outlets: baked, fried, scalloped, mashed, and made into soup alone or mixed with other vegetables. We can make a rapidly concocted potato soup by heating dried potatoes with onions, margarine, milk, and with seasoning of one's liking; augment this with fresh parsley, black pepper, and soy sauce and a touch of hot peppers. The boiled potato invites eating with various sauces; it may be fashioned into potato salad with various salad dressings and pickles or a tangy German potato salad. Potato "fries" are an American favorite and are money-makers at fast food places. Potatoes go well with many meats, fish, vegetable dishes, and potato flour in baked goods. Potatoes can be fermented into alcoholic drinks. Note: some prefer to peel potatoes and toss out the most nutritious portions below the spud's surface. Don't peel.
Prayer: Lord, give us insight to see and promote the simple foods that will benefit both our hungry and affluent alike.
Spotted on a February hike: Pipsissiwa, Chimaphila maculata.
February 10, 2021Walking for Your Health
Running, sprinting, and jogging are good physical exercises; so are walking, strolling, hiking, and skipping along for other folks. During my 43 years of jogging I championed "jogging for health," but natural aging makes me now champion a slower pace for healthy exercise. While accepting the art of walking as good legitimate exercise, many busy people prefer faster and more exerting exercise. How can we convince joggers that there are other forms of exercise even though it means slowing down?
Walkers learn to break away from indoor routines when weather and less snowy conditions persist; outdoor walkers get fresh air and full spectrum sunlight, and overcome February's proverbial "cabin fever." Brisk walking also allows sweating out toxic substances, though to a lesser degree than jogging. However, walking also refreshes the lungs, lowers blood pressure, controls weight, and reduces stress.
Equipment: Walkers, like joggers and others, ought to invest in good equipment, though it is not as critical as in more demanding sports. Good walking shoes or boots are a must for those cautious about their feet and ankle conditions. The footwear ought to be broken in, but how can it without walking? Socks should be absorbent; outer clothing need be adequate and able to protect against rain, snow, and especially worrisome wind. For some, a walking stick can give good assistance. I have had several such sticks, but prefer a heavier white oak favorite one.
Routes: Choose a selected pathway that is free of traffic and fumes, has a firm enough surface, and is free of snow and ice. Never walk where it is icy, but that is easier said than done in winter months. Take a route that is less congested and has a scenic background if possible. Some prefer a familiar route and to know exact distances; others prefer to vary routes according to particular whims. I have had three different routes: one is a park with others exercising (closed part of the winter and at dark); another is a residential area where the elders sit on their front porches in summer and enjoy a passing conversation; and the third was a forested hiking route, which is now too difficult for me.
Timing: Keep to daylight hours as much as possible for walkers, like joggers, may stumble and have a spill. Walking may invite companion participation depending on speed in which travel occurs. "Ideally take a brisk walk," but that is too much for some of us who are aging. Rather, take the exercise to the degree you find comfortable. At least one half hour daily walking time is generally prescribed by the doctor, but if combined with other exercises could vary. A hidden advantage of walking is that there's time to reflect: walkers can meditate quite easily.
Prayer: Lord, help us see our movement from place to place as a sacred procession, a symbolic reenactment of our journey of faith, a mini-pilgrimage, a day or so at a time.
A moment of reflection along a quiet woods trail.
February 11, 2021 Encouraging Inventiveness in Earthhealing
On Inventor's Day, the birthday of Thomas Edison, we realize that many of us have creative ideas, but that these are not always profitable, nor patentable (nor do they need to be). The entire patent picture is somewhat complex as, in recent years, companies patent all sorts of variations on devices; these are meant to cover all aspects of property rights when competitors come close to their product. Patents involve gross profit-making that goes under a guise of invention. On these days of reflections on Facebook we talks about use of our body (hands, feet, etc.) in creative ways, and especially the dexterity of our hands -- for a multitude of activities: crafting, cooking, sewing, and landscaping.
While there is much individual inventiveness still to surface, we ought to look beyond individual creativity and include cooperative or team inventiveness. Our complex modern world expects us to cooperate in teams where skills of others add to the total finished invention. The team leader is not necessarily the most inventive person, but the one who influences creative individuals to work together for final results.
Earthhealing requires such cooperative skills. Local communities need skilled designers, promoters, and managers of community-based tourism. Technical people must work together to establish small-scale green energy (wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, and certain biofuel) sources. Local groups may cooperate to create community gardens, grow commercial crops, and even help establish markets for products. Cooperative credit unions, small businesses and crafts, and other areas can be highly fruitful, and all of these welcome inventiveness in order to flourish.
In this age of globalization, we can anticipate the continuation of large-scale businesses and factories. However, the emphasis on sustaining small communities shifts attention to making healthy local communities that furnish locally their own food, water, fuel, and building materials. Furthermore, these could be interlocked with small groupings in other places, and inventiveness depends on facilitating communications and exchanging ideas among these like-minded people, often at a distance. Inventions of global interest may be a new light bulb, but it is also ways to conserve and reuse resources.
On a still broader level is the inventiveness required to develop ways of redistributing the wealth of this world to address the essential needs of the poor. It involves resources of all types and that includes the tax-haven money of this world; it includes enforcing and distributing processes themselves so that precious financial and material resources are not squandered and misused. Necessity is the mother of invention -- and necessity conditions (hunger, illness, illiteracy) cry out for attention.
Prayer: Lord, Creator of all, enhance our creativity for those who are in need, and not for some to make fortunes on new devices.
February 12, 2021 Suggesting Ways to Avoid Cabin Fever
Sometime around the middle of February when the winter weather seems relentless and unending, a person may be struck with "cabin fever," or the enclosure of the interior space to where it appears like a prison. Many of those living in the temperate zones are affected by this sense of claustrophobia during the season of winter. Hints to break this malady include:
* Go outdoors at opportunities during daytime, especially on these sunny but cold February days, for the full spectrum sunlight does wonders even in cold weather;
* When weather and personal energy permit, perform a garden-related operation: spading the ground, sowing peas, repairing fences, and trimming grapes and fruit trees;
* Step outdoors on the star-lit night and take in the night sky, for the vastness of outer space and the immense distance from the twinkling heavenly bodies stretch our imaginations to the limits and allay petty concerns;
* Visit friends even though much of the time is in the vehicle taking one to and from the place. The change in scenery has an important quieting effect on cabin-induced nerve problems;
* Be diligent in attending regular religious worship and find the opportunity to assist others who need companionship and encouragement;
* Feed the birds in the backyard and spend time at the window observing their feeding and other habits;
* Take in a new book, a DVD, a lecture, or an Internet class, to break loose and reach out to broader vistas of interest.
Travel books and TV and Internet travel scenes may help cure the cabin fever;
* Get a houseplant to add to the indoor color, for these give the comfort needed for an otherwise drab season. The Christmas cactus and other blooming plants must be given prominent places and purchasing a bouquet may bring a smile;
* Cook an ethnic meal and couple with acquainting yourself with the land of culinary origin and all its other interesting practices and arts; and
* Redecorate the house thus giving the place a new look to help raise the spirits of all dwellers. Add a touch of color while awaiting spring flowers and returning birds.
Prayer: Lord, help us see the coming Lenten season as an opportunity to enliven our own spirits and those of loved ones, friends, and neighbors who find winter a major challenge.
Curbing Climate Change Is a Moral Issue
Though a fading few climate change or human-participation deniers persist, still these few can cause trouble. A climate change catastrophe must be avoided, and this stands out as a major concern among all people of good will. We cannot remain silent. Those who say "it's not my problem" are mistaken, and must be confronted, for the quality of lives of future generations are at stake. Not only individuals, but governments, must act and impose restrictions on those who waste resources. Individual libertarians affect society, and they will be held accountable for their actions.
Speak out! The moral question cannot be swept under the rug, for each hears only what is comforting and pleasing. The issue of climate change control is so paramount to the continuation of life for all people and their wellbeing; all need to be confronted with what is occurring right now. Individual actions, for better or worse, have social implications. This moral imperative finds silence to be reprehensible, for when we are responsible for our civic and moral duties we must speak out and do so forthrightly. There's no option called being totally quiet when it comes to harming others through wastefulness and selfishness. The response to "mind your own business" is "climate control is OUR business."
Act out! Speaking is not enough; we must act out through conserving resources and living more simple lives. When done collectively, this will result in less total energy use and will help retard the advance of global warming to within reasonable growth rates (less than 1.5-degree Celsius rise from current levels). Change was the environmental message at the first Earth Day in 1970, and has been consistently so ever since. We wrote a book at CSPI called 99 Ways to a Simple Lifestyle; actually, this took hard work by six volunteer staff under my direction for over a half year -- more total effort than any other project. While the content is still quite valid, the thrust was for voluntary action by concerned readers. It did not address the difficult issue of how we get more people, much less everyone, involved.
Call for universal action! The situation today is far more urgent than environmental actions perceived in the 1970's. We realize a more universal collaboration is now needed to achieve a sustainable environment; this goes beyond volunteerism. The need for volunteerism was prominent among our researchers, and we were convinced it would sweep the land when others saw an urgency for change. We're smarter now; we must admit our collective misdeeds.
Furthermore, the sense of privilege resulting from inequality by billionaires (due to low taxes), permeates our society with the desire for individual privileges on the part of lower income folks. We must challenge the libertarian myth -- "less government is better government." Actually, energy conservation and renewable energy sources requires governmental regulations. Today, it takes more than volunteerism to curb climate change successfully.
Why talk about sowing seeds in a winter only 60% spent? Yes, a host of reasons exist of which the following are but a few:
Sowing peas in February continues a time-honored tradition in our family and neighbors who like early sowing as a sign of readiness to tackle a difficult growing season.
Sowing peas satisfies the restlessness of the gardener wanting to get things going in 2021. Preparing ground (provided not frozen solid by the winter freeze) is the best way to start.
Sowing peas manifests faith in the promise of harvest. Some sowing is premature, and seeds will rot and have to be resown later in spring. The act of sowing has great symbolic value.
Sowing peas allows production of garden produce that is early, mild, and full of flavor. The anticipation of such flavorful produce makes one's mouth water, and this becomes an energetic stimulus to go out and conquer the world of gardening in 2021.
Sowing peas energizes sowers who must be reminded that the joy of harvest comes after the sweat of sowing. Without the beginnings of the process, the results can never be achieved; so it affirms the work of the sower of many seeds -- material and spiritual.
Sowing peas confronts neighbors who think you are crazy. They are encouraged to see the need to start garden work ASAP.
Sowing peas answers the question, "Can't you wait until spring?" A holy impatience consumes so many of us. Putting out peas in February is a testimony that we want to heal our wounded Earth starting now, and help hasten the New Heaven and New Earth.
Sowing peas is a form of proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom.
It is a spiritual experience that will start the gardening year. We hope for success and we trust in God's gift of favorable weather to allow the harvest to be plentiful.
Sowing peas gives bragging rights in conversation. To start early tells others that we are organized enough to do this on a planned schedule, and we hope that extends to our entire life. While this seems trivial, it is one way of overcoming slothfulness.
Sowing peas accompanies the weather in our noble commonwealth; this act tells the world that ours is a fertile and productive land, a worthy and cooperative endeavor between land and people.
Prayer: Lord, allow us to continue the simple ways of life so that all might benefit from such humble procedures; allow us to continue to teach all to be good healers and to be in tune with the needs of our wounded Earth and people.
Tree identification tags at the Mary E. Fritsch
Appalachia - Science in the Public Interest (ASPI).
February 14, 2021 Healing Troubled People, Troubled Earth
I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation. (Psalm 32)
Today we reflect on the Gospel where Jesus has compassion for the leper; he cures him. The cleansed leper is to appear according to the Mosaic Law and be declared cured so that the social outcast status can be removed. Jesus charges the cured leper not to tell anyone about his cure, but to carry out the legal prescription instead. So far so good. But as one might expect, the cured fellow is bubbling over with enthusiasm and announces his healing; he disobeys the command by Jesus, which in turn restricts the Lord's ability to preach openly to those wanting to hear him.
Today, let's consider what the Lord expects us to do -- and how often we fail to do it. We are expected to be praying people and address the troubles plaguing our world. Our attention needs to be focused in troubled times, for we soon confront limitations.
Contrition: We start each Mass recognizing our imperfections and hope to be purified to a greater degree in order to receive the Lord with others. We perceive our inherent powerlessness and turn in prayer to the Almighty power of God, our Lord and companion. We must believe that healing is found in our total dependence on God -- and this vital faith is a gift that requires prayerful nurture.
Petition: In today's reading, the leper approached Jesus with the words, "If you will do so, you can cure me." This is a prayer of petition, a coming to God from one who is isolated through processes outlined in Chapter 13 of the Book of Leviticus. The outcast status was the result of people in those times sincerely trying to deal with a communicable disease. Jesus addresses the troubled soul immediately. We beg God to come to our rescue so that we can break isolation and grow in the Body of Christ.
Praise: God has already conquered all and thus troubles are of a passing occurrence -- though very real to us here and now. We praise the power of God at work among us and so see our abilities to tackle problems as God's power at work. The Resurrection is a victory, and we affirm this power through praise to the Lord of all. Troubles occur, but God invites us to receive divine power both within and without. Our praise in perceiving divine power at work or expected in the future is part of our humble service.
Thanksgiving: Often we pity ourselves for being face to face with our own and others' troubles. Why Lord? But on second thought, this is a privilege that God has given us, to live in these troubled times and to be furnished with the gifts of endurance and optimism, and to see these as divine gifts.
Prayer: Lord, we beg you to help us confront present troubles; we ask forgiveness for misdeeds, praise for the time to affirm your good name, and thanksgiving for letting us live in troubled times.
February 15, 2021Expanding Washington and Lincoln Insights
Many of our American presidents have made singular contributions to our nation either while in office or prior to or after that time. Recall the military exploits of Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, and Dwight Eisenhower. Others did so as presidents such as two whose birthdays we celebrate this month, namely, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Our current efforts at limiting wealth ought to incorporate two major presidential insights: the Washington concern for a union of colonies and the Lincoln insight in the process of abolishing slavery.
George Washington came to realize with other American revolutionaries that thirteen independent colonies would not address commercial and safety needs; for furthering commerce and security, these United States (colonies) must become THE United States. That was an emerging Washington insight, first seen during the Revolutionary War; his conviction grew during the Articles of the Confederation period and the struggling period before and through the 1787 Constitutional Convention. It was solidified in the period from 1789 to 1797 during his eight-year presidency. True to the tradition of our founders, we must be willing to abandon more local "sovereignty" for cooperative structures to meet global financial and environmental demands. Fidelity to Washington's goals of going from state to a federated national level now involves transition from national to global structures.
In a similar manner, Abraham Lincoln realized that our nation could not continue to exist half slave and half free. People should not remain "property" of others. Extending this insight, one realizes that a safe and prosperous world cannot exist with one-tenth haves and nine-tenths have-nots, or 1% rich privileged class and 99% lower grade Americans. Americans must be first in calling for efficient governing structures to handle global issues beyond that of a single nation. Along with others, the United States must work to overcome the wealth disparities and the source of global insecurity and distrust. We aspire to be number one, not as quantitative producers and users of goods, but as a leader in a more perfect global union to a higher quality of life.
For us today, global destitution is economic enslavement for many have-nots. It is our sacred duty as Americans to lead in freeing the world from its bonds of poverty. Global regulations must include all areas of the commons: air, water, specific land areas, health facilities, educational opportunities, intellectual property and communication networks, silent space, commerce, and movement of people. Our national interests must transcend our borders to all the world. Thus, emerging global structures must address the financial, personal security, care-giving, nuclear proliferation, and environmental crises of our age.
Prayer: Lord, expand our awareness of our historic treasures and the good that certain leaders have done to improve the quality of our nation; help us bring these insights to a troubled world.
Share homemade goods with others on Fat Tuesday.
February 16, 2021 PonderingMarti Gras: Fat Tuesday
In various parts of the world Christians observe this day before Lent. If done in moderation, this can be joyful and a reminder that Ash Wednesday will usher in serious reflection. None of us refuse celebrations, for the human spirit needs this partial withdrawal from worldly concerns. Really, Mardi Gras brings to a fitting close an extended Christmas season. Do have a good time, but leave room to reflect on the "fat" (Gras) aspects of the day.
In years of more rigid fasting, homemakers would rid the household of animal fats prior to a meatless 40-day Lenten span. This was achieved by special dishes, sauces, and baked goods that involved a heavy dose of leftover fats. My mother's people loved to do what many Southern people do, and that is use plenty of lard in everything from fried chicken to peach turnovers. Making use of lard's high boiling temperature meant that meat was crispier and less prone to food-borne contamination. All meat dishes were well cooked, but at the price of artery-clogging substances moving through the body. And so obesity, heart disease, and diabetes were the price of using too much of the wrong cooking fat.
Reflect on animal fats a second way; these require enhanced amounts of resources when compared with vegetable oils. Quite often animal fats take much more agricultural resources (land, water, and feed) than growing soybeans, peanuts, corn, or olives for vegetable oil. (Coconut oil is an exception because of use of tropical forests for palm plantations). Granted, some grazing lands are not useful in other cropping, still it takes grains and other cropland products to fatten livestock. All in all, resources needed to breed, raise, shelter, transport, and butcher livestock are far greater than those needed to grow and process vegetable crops of comparable food potential. Recall that 70% of the land mass in agriculture is in grazing and the result is only 11% at most of the ultimate food. While many meat and animal products make good foods, they are also resource intensive at a time when food-growing choices must be considered in feeding a hungry world.
Maybe, amid today's rare celebration we should ponder whether our meat diets ought to be reconsidered, and Lent is a perfect time to do this. This is not calling for total vegetarianism, for some meat is good for us, and prolific wildlife needs to be controlled and harvested (see February 5); the deer harvest yields ideal food products (organically-grown without tending or feeding in winter) in the proper season. The argument is not to totally refrain from meat products though that may be a laudatory cause. Rather, efforts ought to be made to reduce excessive meat consumption such as large steaks and quarter-pounders with fries and coke. Say goodbye to heavy meat meals; consider more vegetables for that is healthier for people and Earth.
Prayer: Lord, teach us when to celebrate the bounty we have, and to do this with moderation; help those of us in a land of plenty to reflect on ways to share resources with needy folks.
Coming soon! March blooms of the rue anemone, Thalictrum thalictroides.
February 17, 2021Observing Ash Wednesday Ramifications
On this beginning of the solemn season of Lent, we are reminded by the ashes on our head of the passing of things of this world. Mortal life is terminal, and so are all activities in which we are now engaged. Our possessions are not absolutely ours but, as Psalm 124 says, these belong to God. Humbly, we are from dust and unto dust we will return, and yet there is more. Between beginning and end of dust periods we make a lasting mark for better or worse. After the ending dust emerges an eternal life -- or death. Thus, through the cloud of dust comes an anticipated future, and through faith we know that the love we acquire between dust-to-dust is carried with us before the throne of God.
What about the mortality of these Daily Reflections? The idea of such essays was conceived four decades ago, but only made public on the Internet since 2004. Will this service move also to ashes or does it matter? One answer is that it certainly will end and that's that. A second is that if Daily Reflections are given in love, and received in love, their value extends beyond their lifetime. In and through Jesus's sufferings all loving acts are worthwhile; they are part of an eternal sacrifice that means "making things holy." We do not hold a concrete accounting record of the lasting value of what we do, and we are not able to measure the content of each act of love. God is the master accountant, for God is Love and full of mercy. We simply dip into or plunge into the ocean of divine Love not of our making; God is Creator.
Making our actions (including Daily Reflections) effective is our constant prayer and refrain. We hope that our efforts have a love content that is contagious to others, God willing. This is more than a game, a pretending, a neutral time spent spinning wheels. Only occasionally is the feedback positive enough to suspect some reflections have been seen through 43,000 daily hits. Through a Resurrection-centered spirituality we realize that potential effectiveness rests in the enabling power of God. New life is possible for those who believe. We can change minds, if we believe that God enables us through divine power. Something will remain well after this website has turned to dust. True love is eternal, and so are messages sent and received in love.
A variety of issues have appeared in this series. A few are more related to some readers than others. Themes such as halting misuse of resources, introducing healing practices, and radical sharing of what we have with others, must become familiar. One may say, "I hear this often," but we become confident that this is part of making it "often." Will concrete effects result? Radical change may be slow to germinate; the growth process has many donors, for it takes a village to make a citizen. We are servants doing God's work; what we seek will come to be and, in believing, it will be hastened.
Prayer: Lord, you are the eternal accountant; help us grasp that what looks likes ashes is fertilizer for an eternal spring.
February 18, 2021 Greening Maritime Transportation
Transporting goods by sea is far less resource intensive per ton mile than by air or land. Yet the ocean journeys are long and tonnage immense, and pollutants naturally build up. Still the world is not perfect, nor is maritime transport. In fact about 2.2% of air pollution today is contributed by this maritime operation, with greenhouse emissions expected to continue to multiple until the year 2050 unless further conservation steps be taken. And this is not easy, since the system is decentralized and no uniform global anti-pollution regulations exist. With the vast increase in shipping in this 21st century and, with the use of less expensive high sulfur fuels, maritime air pollution has been rising especially in the last decade after the Great Recession.
Maritime transportation occurs in all parts of the globe and much of the vast oceans is unpoliced, as are many coastlines of the developing nations. Enforcing stricter regulations takes expensive security vessels, and traffic at sea is not nearly as watched as with either air or land transportation. In fact, maritime shipping is subject to wide series of environmental impacts: ballast and bilge water that is contaminated being emptied in coastline areas; sound pollution near congested seaports; wildlife collisions on the high seas (the highly threatened right whales have been deeply affected in the North Atlantic); oil spills both in loading and unloading and from leaking tankers; solid wastes and of course the fossil fuels used in running the ships.
In 2010, a report by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) listed measured emissions from one commercial container ship; when the ship approached the California coast with its strict state sulfur fuel requirements, the ship switched from "heavy fuel oil" (3/15% sulfur) to "marine gas oil" (0.07% sulfur); it slowed its speed from 22 knots to 11 knots. Through this procedure emissions of sulfur dioxide and fine particles dropped about 90%. Also due to slower speed and fuel switch, carbon dioxide emissions dropped a total of 58%. Directly related, the International Maritime Organization adopted an Energy Efficiency Design Index requiring ships now built to improve energy efficiency by 10% and in the 2020-24 period improving them by 20%.
Globally, NOAA in its Annual Greenhouse Gas Index shows a steady upward climb of pollutants since 1880. Just since 1990 all air pollutants have increased 29%. However, by 2015 the International Maritime Organization has required switches to very low sulfur fuel, for areas such as the entire coastline of North America (out to 200 nautical miles) as well as the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, the English Channel, and other heavily-used global water lanes. Within this current decade sulfur limits are being tightened on all fuels from 4.5% to 0.5%. Setting goals will not come any too soon. Global enforcement is imperative.
Prayer: Lord, inspire us to monitor and clean up our air and help the global community monitor and control maritime shipping.
Climate Change and a Secular World
Climate change curbing cannot be successful unless we confront the secular world in three ways: involve the government in curbing excessive lifestyle wastes; address the privilege of gross wealth inequality by the superrich; and detect and combat the waning of enthusiasm by seeking divine help.
Involve the government. In answer to libertarian demands for less government are the components of the proposed Green New Deal that have been discussed in our January essays. Recall that governmental leadership is needed at all levels, and if it is absent, as during the previous U.S. administration, the pace of curbing climate change will be retarded. The new administration has already removed recent restrictions on energy efficiency placed by the previous environmental-avoiding administration. Among our urgent changes are demanding legislation on mandatory building codes to implement zero carbon use and stricter controls on recycling collection and reuse of materials.
Demand fair taxes. Money is needed for renewable programs. To do this in the most direct manner is to contest privileges of the superrich (651 American billionaires) and others; this can be done in a democratic manner by what was successfully achieved during the Second World War, namely fair taxation. Unfortunately, with much of the surplus of those sequestered funds in private hands, and the wealthy backing those seeking public office, one finds a reluctance by elected leaders to rock the boat. In former decades a majority of conservatives called for reduced governmental spending. In this pandemic period fiscal responsibility has gone out of the window. It is time for a new bipartisanism to match spending with strict taxing of the wealthy who control over 60% of the wealth of America. Stop tax havens; tax oversized mansions and expensive yachts. Address wealth inequality, for the sake of the destitute who will suffer still more through increased climate change.
Need for divine assistance. Curbing climate change is a moral issue that must be addressed right now. The secular message is that we can save the world by all humans working in global collaboration. But is that the whole story? Successful work takes enthusiasm on the part of all concerned -- and some of humanity is short of that quality. Those who accept environmental reality are tempted to consider the task too big; they excuse themselves and pass the task to others, or say they must turn to allurements for the sake of sanity. Being weak, we need support from others and soon find the secular self-sufficiency argument unconvincing; many will lose confidence that climate change can be curbed.
Believers ae convinced that we need divine assistance. God is in charge and we must humbly acknowledge this. We are imperfect human beings who cannot succeed alone; we need the Lord at our side. Humans have messed things up on this Earth and will do so again when acting like little gods. Only in God we trust.
When in the Novitiate in the 1950s, I was assigned for a period of time to assist an elderly Jesuit (Joe Kieffer), and to tidy up his room. On my way to the infirmary, I went past another elderly brother's room, and he always seemed to have a vocal conversation during his morning prayer period. It became apparent that he was praying to the Lord or some saint in a familial manner, and aloud as senior citizens often do.
Praying to God should be as second nature as a neighborly conversation. Some have certain rituals before praying including a period of quiet time. I find this somewhat disconcerting because I try to converse with God in a more informal manner and often during the day. Those who find prayer foreign may set aside times, places, and physical postures that manifest a sense of respect for the Almighty who loves and has mercy on us. We may develop our own way of praying outside of formal prayer times and places (Morning Prayer, chapel, etc.). Perhaps not having a monastic calling does permit greater informality for those of us whose ministry is less communal. We pray in pauses and breaks of the day or on walks and find God as our companion as we age. It soon becomes evident what it means to hear the Scriptural admonition, "Pray always." Informal prayer times and places become routine and ever more present as we near the end of our earthly journey.
God does not need our prayers; we need them. We beg for things that seem so impossible to attain, and yet all things are possible with God. Are we willing to accept that prayers will be answered after we leave this passing world? The important thing is trust that prayers will be answered in God's good time, for even time is not ours to own. Letting our trust grow is paramount.
Our prayers are so often begging ones, but we have to constantly remind ourselves that we ought to give prayers of praise and thanksgiving. We need to see the gifts given and praise God in ways that other creatures are incapable of, for we can freely offer these prayers as exercises in precious freedom. At times we are dry and need not rely totally on our own words, for to pray the Scriptures or to pray the Rosary are praiseworthy as well, and deserving of encouragement. Yes, formal prayer is praiseworthy, and so we can repeat familiar prayers when composing our own becomes quite difficult. We may find solace in variety.
Prayers of thanksgiving are a common theme in these "Daily Reflections" -- and they ought to remain so. Earthhealing is a task before us, and we thank God for the opportunity to serve at this critical moment in world history. We are called to proclaim the word and must pray to do so well. Healers are uniquely called; we need the will to respond. Amid this land of plenty we are moved to show gratitude for the gift of our mission in 2021.
Prayer: Lord, help me to pray always, and help others to see the comfort and liberation that such a wonderful practice affords.
Proliferating mosses on decomposing log. Slade, KY.
February 20, 2021Knowing Facts About Global Deforestation
Our world suffers from deforestation that is occurring at a very rapid rate. Living within the Daniel Boone National Forest area makes me sensitive, since our Mixed Mesophytic Forest (ecologist Lucy Braun's terminology) is the oldest and most varied temperate forest in the world -- and we ought to protect it both for climatic control reasons, and because eco-tourism is our major economic asset. Facts about serious deforestation issues include:
* The world's rain forests at present rate of decline will be no more in 100 years, and yet these are the lungs of our planet.
Note: extensive Amazon forest fires during the last few years;
* Forests cover 30% of the Earth's surface, but the annual loss was equivalent to the surface area of Panama. However, the rate of deforestation is declining due to growing awareness of disaster and the start of global controls and proper management;
* Forests are cut for agricultural uses (many corporate plantations): cattle grazing (takes 70% of land for only 6 to 11% of humanity's food); and palm oil plantations (vegetable oil source for plant-based meat substitutes) are established in ecologically valuable tropical land. Blaming small farmers for deforestation is focusing on minor causes; rural populations are declining, but still forests are cut for many urbanizing reasons;
* Forest are communities and the damage to part is communicated to the welfare of the whole in healthy growth and sustainable circumstances;
* Forests yield timber in large amounts, often with severe impacts on wildlife habitats in tropical areas. Timber production is especially severe in southeastern Asia where wood products are capital for expanding palm oil plantations;
* Forests are currently lost due to other types of development such as roads, mines, rail facilities, airports, and urbanization.
Road-building exacerbates deforestation for it allows access to still more logging, part of which is illegal or poorly managed;
* As said often in these reflections, forests play a vital role such as reducing violent temperature swings. Deforestation leads to increased climate change for the natural carbon sink in foliage is reduced by less forests. Likewise, deforested lands result in loss of habitat for native species, and more of these are threatened or endangered each year; and
* Solutions include stopping the clearcutting practice and excessive tree-cutting. When timbering is needed, sustainable forest management practices ought to be used.
Prayer: Lord, you create beautiful forests; give us a sense of respect for these fragile gifts together with all their benefits.
February 21, 2021 Keeping the Status Quo Is Tempting
'The time has come,' he said, 'and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent and believe the Good News.' (Mark 1:15)
Amid the turmoil of current financial convulsions, unusual weather conditions, and climate changes that are denied by many, we need to heed the words and deeds of Jesus. He assessed the critical world situation immediately after his forty days in the wilderness amid wild beasts and consoling angels. The world was changing and included the arrest of his cousin John the Baptist. Yet amid this turmoil Jesus launches his ministry.
The first Sunday of Lent is always dedicated to temptations, starting with those that Scripture says were endured by Jesus; the actual content was noted in Matthew and Luke but not in Mark's Gospel. Thus we could digress from specific temptations (see 2019 and 2020) and consider the overall temptation of people to deny the troubled times (some say no climate change today), to excuse themselves from any remedies to disastrous conditions (this is a matter for experts), and to escape once more into the allurements of the consumer culture and substance abuse.
Those who are inclined to turn away and champion a dysfunctional status quo suffer from an addictive culture. This becomes a distraction from the saving and healing of our wounded planet and its inhabitants. The temptation is to refuse to face reality and confront the forces that work against the spiritual life so needed in these times. Facing reality takes a prayerful reflection to see where we really stand and how much we are enticed by the materialism all around us. We must be able to discern the elements of the political/economic/social system that have merit and what parts must be changed. At times progressive elements have touched on the inherent disparity of wealth and its tight grip on the system. Are we to remain silent or are we to confront this system with its conditions of underemployment, hunger, and limited affordable housing? Will we speak up in time to reclaim the commons? Are we tempted to avoid facing reality?
The temptation involves the feeling of being too small to make a difference. If individuals can do so little on their own, why attempt to change? "Let's focus on saving our precious hide." This temptation to withdraw from the conditions threatening our world and fall back on some safe past stance is the work of the devil. Prosperity for a few privileged and those lucky enough to succeed is the wrong way -- and is the temptation to defend the status quo. We must show that a power is at work in the world, the power of the Resurrection of the Lord in which we are called to participate. With this empowerment and through a prayerful discernment period of Lent we can challenge the current system and make the necessary changes demanded for genuine renewal.
Prayer: Lord, help us recognize the temptation to silence, and to be energized through your power to make needed changes.
February 22, 2021 Realizing Spectator Sports Can Be Unhealthy
As we approach "March Madness" (over excitement about basketball final contests) in Kentucky and elsewhere we ask whether sports have some debits as well as benefits?
Sport animosities build and last. When I first started serving here in Estill and neighboring Powell County, I would tell inquirers when asked that I was originally from Mason County. The reaction was amazingly one of distance or disdain. Eventually it became apparent that this has to do with sports, for Mason County was at that time a competing basketball powerhouse. Our state motto is "United we stand; divided we fall," and yet this is not observed in sports. Home players and coaches are idolized; distant ones are not. March madness sickness is really year-round, and I must confess having been infected by it on numerous occasions.
Sport economicsis obscene. Think of the high prices that coaches are paid, the highest salaried persons in many major American universities. The schools are generally principal state ones or those in particular loyal regions or cities. This high popularity results in transfer of large sums of money as the mass media vie to sponsor sports events. Commerce demands high-powered athletic programs, extensive coaching staffs, pressure to acquire promising players, and immense stadiums. Big time campus sports have little to do with academics; student athletes must juggle studies and sports and often await professional drafts.
Gambling temptations are always present, either betting on the games when clean or attempting to subvert players to throw games. The first is overwhelming; the second is risky, for perpetrators are often caught, perhaps because many athletes or teammates cannot keep secrets. Actually, sport rivalry and even corruption can plague nations throughout the world, and may threaten war among competing countries when tempers are waging.
Spectator cheering isn't genuine physical exercise except for vocal cords. Too often those who exercise in minor amounts regard the sitting before television or in an arena or stadium as somehow participating in the sporting event itself -- as though their shouts change the outcome. Watching sporting events is no match for walking, jogging, or gym workouts alone or with friends. Highly tense games can be hard on the heart: an adrenaline rush.
Spectator hysteria is that uncontrollable rage that comes over crowds at a perceived bad call by an umpire or referee. Maybe using video equipment could help decrease the supporter's anger. Such outbursts are not good on the nervous system. Sport madness is itself dysfunctional, but public protest might prove risky; that is how an unnamed monk of old stopped the gladiator events in the late Roman Empire. Who wants to be a martyr for such a cause?
Prayer: Lord, direct our competitive spirit to meaningful causes such as the demand to change our economic system.
February 23, 2021 Working for World Understanding and Peace
On World Understanding & Peace Day we Americans realize that misunderstanding exists as do non-peace times for some nations. We seek to extend understanding among people through popular educational and experience-exchange programs; we look to the internet for ways to connect with those in scattered places; we give generously to victims of earthquakes and floods; we even sponsor groups to go and assist victims of such disasters and utilize our military forces at certain times for such efforts. Is there more that we can do together with others? Have we looked around for peace issues that are related to the poor? Have we focused actions on taking what rightfully belongs to the commons?
A culture of domestic arms. Americans talk about strutting about bearing individual arms. Why allow them ammo? The numbers of Americans killed by gun-related violence is staggering and surpasses ten thousand each year. Bearing individual automatic or semi-automatic weapons tempts those who are unbalanced to shoot before they think. Most do not need to carry loaded weapons.
An untamed military budget. The current financial crisis teaches us that we Americans must trim our military budget, one greater that the rest of the world's combined. Why us as global police? Enough military-industrial complex pressure!
Foreign aid cuts. Foreign assistance is a favorite whipping boy though it accounts for less than 2% of the entire national budget. The poor have little voice; they are not lobbyists. All living Secretaries of State of both parties testify to the need for adequate foreign aid. Don't these funds belong to the poor?
Proliferation of nuclear weapons. This is the result of a world where untamed nuclear energy has been unleashed. Should not our peacetime effort be to see that these weapons are destroyed?
A society on drugs. Medicine advertising and available over-the-counter medicine and agents along with a massive amount of prescription drugs make this entire nation drug dependent, whether legally or not. Rather than bring peace to souls, this disturbing drug condition causes desolation. Why feed the drug corporations with funds needed for proper health facilities for all?
The death penalty continues. We still witness in too many states (including Kentucky) where unfortunate prisoners are being put to death. Life is precious and each person needs one more chance to change ways. Isn't this why abolitionists work so hard?
Lack of health funding. Our nation needs a lower-priced accessible health system. On the global level all people have a right to adequate health facilities. Is this beyond the world's financial ability to care for our needy brothers and sisters?
Prayer: Lord, help us work for world understanding and peace.
Alpine bouquet. Medicine Bow National Forest, Wyoming.
February 24, 2021 Celebrating Flowers in Every Season
More than anything, I must have flowers, always, always.
I agree with Monet's words and appreciate his pleasant paintings and join in his love of flowers. If we are committed to healing our wounded Earth, we discover somewhat by surprise that flowers have a key role to play. Today, on Valentine's Day, many loving couples try to cure broken relations and improve good ones through the healing effects of flowers. A blooming dandelion among leaves today can gladden winter-starved hearts as well.
On sunny February days several of our forsythia bushes send out a blaze of yellow, a floral affirmation of renewal of life. Our outdoor flowers, thanks to green thumb parish volunteers, bloom from February to mid-December before heavy frosts kill unprotected snapdragons and petunias. We will have spring flowers galore and the hillside behind the church full of ground phlox, ox-eyed daisies, and the blooming black locust -- and fruit trees and berry blooms as well. Floral summer is heralded by blooming weigela bushes, black-eyed Susans, and irises. Deeper colors include Sister Theresa's beds of zinnias and the imposing hydrangea; my own garden lilies and marigolds add color, as does the blooming bee balm in our herbal garden. Autumn includes mums, cosmos, and golden rods. Winter is the problematic season for flowers, but my protected salad beds are able to protect a few hardy survivors.
Indoors is well-taken care of by the contributions from our parish flower gardeners -- and these seem to make our Liturgy a more celebratory event. The reds and greens of Christmas flowers actually usher in the floral year and give impetus to the start of a floral 2021. Houseplants such as the Christmas cactus certainly help in domestic scenes. We are blessed in our local church having interior floral arrangements every month except March, when Lent covers the entire month (as this year). Fulfilling our craving for Easter lilies is associated with the Resurrection event. Floral arrangements by Sister Theresa are too numerous to catalog, but all gladden hearts needing consolation.
Monet writes as well as he paints. Flowers were deep in my mother's consciousness, for she grew them and admired them -- and in a wheelchair tour of her retirement neighborhood could name about ten with sureness even when her mind slipped on other subjects; flowers remained for her, the heralds of eternal life. I firmly believe that what we love will live in eternity, and that those appreciating flowers find many decorating heaven. Flowers are God's special gift to all who are desolate. Because of serious content of our reflections flower photos Janet Powell's flower photos give encouragement to readers who have too heavy a diet of environmental crises. Would you agree?
Prayer: Lord, we appreciate the gesture of giving us flowers to brighten our outlook, with the hope that things will improve in the promising beauty and fragrance they offer to us all.
February 25, 2021 Anticipating More Global Extreme Disasters
Global disasters of possible partial human causation (floods, hurricanes, droughts, tornadoes, major snow storms), along with earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, seem to be happening with greater frequency in recent years. The insurance firm Swiss Re that insures other insurance companies estimated a decade ago that global disaster costs have gone from $25 billion dollars per year in 1980 to $130 billion in 2011. Part of this rise is due to climate change and part due to human habitation and development in proximity to disaster-prone regions; yes, part of this is attributed to natural activities and part to Homo sapiens.
At the time this is written, Australia has experienced immense brush and wildfires that have devastated millions of acres during a time of drought. Puerto Rico has experiences a series of earthquakes after the disaster of a few years before from Hurricane Maria. Certain parts of the globe have had their share of floods and volcanic eruptions -- and daily news seems to present a new one somewhere on the globe. In a single year's span the U.S. experiences a multitude of frigid winter events along with summer wildfires, which are partly human caused. Globally, the news media acquaints us with additional events in ever greater frequency.
Is this doomsday talk? Authentic questions arise as to whether disasters are really unexpected, or are these to be expected with rapid climate change and increased world population. People are settling onto flood plains and nearer volcanically active areas with rich soils. Some speculate that ocean temperature rises will spin off more hurricanes in the upcoming seasons though that theory is still speculative. Carbon dioxide, a climate change culprit, continues to rise due to increased combustion of fossil fuels and losses of forest that have mitigating effects on severe climate. Methane, a major climate change player, escapes during fossil fuel extraction and from the warming of the tundra permafrost. We need renewable energy now.
Mother Nature cannot be tamed by human effort, but it ought not be teased either. A deeper respect for the planet's processes and how to fashion our activities in fragile zones would help. We have to do our part from building wind turbines to more flood control projects, from halting deforestation to stopping the development of flood plains and habitations near active volcanoes. We can challenge affluent people who build on hurricane-prone seashores and in wildfire-prone forested regions -- and who then expect expensive taxpayer protection in times of disaster. When fragile areas such as coastlines are populated, one can expect more human suffering and related news events. Thus population plus media can make us all the more aware, but we must not be complacent and forget to work to curb advancing climate change.
Prayer: Lord, help us to see the signs of the times and to treat our Earth with proper respect. Help us do this while trying to curb the release of climate changes pollutants.
Curbing Climate Change: A Spiritual Mission
Motives to become more ecological range from personal welfare and family safety through economic savings; these include curbing climate change with its rising ocean levels and more frequent extreme weather events. We seek deeper motivations in order to retain enthusiasm for renewal that involves conversion from fossil fuels to renewable energy applications. Believers are convinced that Divine Love extends to all creation. In seeking to be godly, we move beyond utilitarian approaches to respect for all creatures in prayer, word and the way we act. This follows the manner of St. Francis' love for sun and moon and all domestic animals and wildlife. The love and respect we show for creation attempt to compensate for the misdeeds that we have caused by human pollution and wastefulness.
Reparation is a duty of those who follow the demands of social justice. If we have individually or collectively harmed creatures, it is our duty to repair damages; when the perpetrators neglect or refuse to do so, then the social body must undertake correctives. Misdeeds have occurred through overuse of resources and climbing levels of greenhouse gases that are warming our planet and causing climate change, melting polar ice caps and precipitating extreme weather events. We become aware that all are to curb wastes, recycle materials and move to non-polluting energy resources. But that is not enough, even if all did what is environmentally proper.
Confronting inequality is a corelative duty, along with curbing and changing energy use patterns. We tolerate the superrich being privileged with low taxes and gaining a major part of new wealth; these live in a world of destitute who lack essentials of life living; they are a modern nobility with no duties -- and this erodes the unity of a democratic society. Furthermore, it makes lower income people observe the privileges of the rich and want to be like them, with lower taxes and new perks through further governmental indebtedness. The poor have suffered from the pandemic and demand subsidies -- that in the sense of fairness should go to everyone in need. Fairness in taxes and in distribution to those with essential food, lodging and health needs cries to heaven; we are the ones called to answer that cry.
Challenging wealth privilege takes courage and prophetic witness because the keepers of the status quo will fight back with all their power. It's not enough to allow the billionaires to go undertaxed, and expect that violence will not break out. As a people we dare to allow the rich to get ever richer and dispense at their volition a portion of their wealth to those they regard as "friends." In a true democracy the people, through elected representatives, should have the task of properly distributing wealth to those in need. Our founding father, Ben Franklin, called for limits on wealth at both the Pennsylvania state and federal constitutional conventions. Proper distribution has a deeply spiritual component; it's related to Jesus cleansing the Temple.
Healing our Earth is a noble undertaking and a work of mercy. Individuals are limited and so we seek to foster global collaboration in rebuilding and healing our wounded Earth. From a theological perspective, we enter into the redemptive work of the Lord through our baptism into the divine family; we are participants in salvation history, which involves healing what has been wounded. St. Teresa of Avila says we are hands and feet of God here on Earth; we have a vital role to play that was not even conceived of by our ancestors. Impressing this role on other fellow believers and people of good will tightens our bonds as one human family working for the common good. We are called to heal our planet and its people.
Hastening the day of the Lord reaches beyond recognition of damage, confronting those who do excessive harm through privilege, and renewing what has been damaged. This still deeper spiritual imperative seeks to help bring on the New Heaven and New Earth, a teleological aspect to our spiritual lives. This looks strictly to the future coming of Christ and is of value to believers who plea "come Lord Jesus." We now operate in the power of the Risen Lord to bring about his coming in glory. In this regard, a new Earth will be fashioned in part by our efforts. What we find of worth has eternal value when wounds of the past will shine through transformation.
What becomes apparent in this reflection is that we have just begun to develop a renewal of our Earth, a Green New Deal or whatever you want to call it. Our spiritual reflections are meant to increase the enthusiasm needed in our global collaboration. While motivation can be for less than perfect reasons, still programs needed to curb climate change are so urgent that we must seek Divine assistance, lest the paralysis of the pandemic and economic troubles overwhelm us. Here a deepening faith is necessary, for human beings are weak and can succumb to weariness in a mission. More on this subject will be forthcoming.
Cranks Creek Survival Center, Harlan Co., KY.
February 26, 2021Exposing the Drug Overdose Epidemic
Methamphetamine is a pox: it burns, it scars, it poisons, it kills, it ruins countless lives and is a tremendous financial burden on our justice and healthcare systems.
William Spatford Smock, MD, University of Louisville
Today, we in Kentucky and neighboring states live in the midst of a profit-induced drug epidemic. Unfortunately, this is becoming a national and even global problem. Opiates are emerging as the true wild card since some have been prescription drugs for a number of decades. In the past few years an extreme synthetic opiate "Fentanyl," with very high potency (100 times higher than morphine) has entered the illegal drug market and resulted in rapidly increasing numbers of opiate overdose deaths (46,394 in 2017 or twice the numbers of all other American drug overdoses combined both in this country and now in other lands).
Unfortunately, in the recent past Methamphetamine (Meth), a highly abusive drug, had starting compounds and reagents being available at American stores, with PSE (a key ingredient) sold over-the-counter since 1976 as a decongestant. Drug companies then started to lobby intensely to leave it that way and to carry on pseudo educational programs that are only partly effective. Only when both Mexico and the U.S. returned PSE to a prescription drug status did the epidemic slow down, labs were closed, youngsters contaminate-free, and explosive fires decreased. Certainly ways to control drugs vary and new forms of painkiller treatments are being proposed from educational programs to specialized treatment facilities, some offering effective services. As painkiller misuse spreads throughout the country Western states have been advancing to the top of the overdose listing.
Quick-profits in opiates enticed the "legitimate" drug producers and markets to enter the scene as well as illegal heroin trafficking. These new types of drugs always take a period of time for enforcement to become effective. In 2012 prescription painkillers peaked at 81 prescriptions per 100 people; recent curtailment brought this down to 59/100. Drug company lobbyists ensured that PSE-containing over-the-counter decongestants stayed over-the-counter. In the case of opioids, the major pharmaceutical manufacturers were well aware of widespread abuse as well as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, which failed to monitor the flow of prescription opioid painkillers.
The public must be aware of plentiful non-synthetic methods for pain relief; less dangerous commercial pain-relieving methods including natural CBDs (a very effective one from hemp oil) are now available through advice from authentic pain specialists. Let's follow lawsuit winning Oklahoma and sue the drug profiteers to pay for the expensive treatment programs -- and promote natural treatments.
Prayer: Lord, inspire us to address socially addictive drug problems as a component to healing our wounded Earth.
February 27, 2021 Risking While Confronting Cultural Reality
If we want to be like Jesus, we may have to share the risk taking that he underwent in his shortened ministry. Are we willing to follow in his footsteps or are we tempted to remain inactive?
Question conformity. We learn early in life that conformity is the hallmark of popularity when working within the system: same haircuts, vehicles, height of lawn grass, and color of ties. To fail to conform could risk losing one's position, status, place of honor, chance for promotion, perks, enhanced salaries, recommendations, and other things that comprise the road to success. Nothing seems as non-conformational as to question capitalism, especially in all its immense global reach and power. Yes, we conform to the rules of language and use English, the language of this communication to the best degree possible.
Question credibility. Some would argue that to be credible one must say the things people desire to hear. Popularity in such cases is for them the proof of credibility. In his day Jeremiah saw that to speak about a reality that was surely coming was highly unpopular and considered "incredible." In every age facing reality bears the same time-proven risk of being rejected. People hesitate to go along with something unpopular. They say, "What's the use of prophetic words if no one listens?" Impending ruin is not a popular subject and so people do not listen.
How does one discern authentic credibility? The first alert is to question popular issues when systems are dysfunctional and not fulfilling their purposes; this becomes a flag that something may be wrong. In weighing different courses of action, consider whether words and actions work in tandem. Recall that Jesus focused criticism of the religious establishment of his day on the lack of those whose words did not conform to their deeds. Choosing to believe means that hearers must be open to truth; one must ask a neutral observer or spiritual director. Are we open to change?
Question justification. We live in an addicted culture and so need to weigh the reasoning used to consume more (drugs, fuel, and electronic devices). Are these not simply excuses to be more immersed in the culture? Justifying a wealth-driven culture is not sound, and yet many are not equipped to defend their reasoning. However, spiritual battles before us go beyond rationalization. The poor and simpler living people know this, even when unable to articulate the position for fear of being ostracized and ignored. The unpopular could be so for not saying enough on a subject, or of saying something that people do not want to hear for one or other reason. Measuring just how much can be said at a given time is an art, and we do strive to present an acceptable message with appealing photographs so as to hold our audience.
Prayer: Lord, allow us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Help us discern the qualities of conformity, credibility, and justification -- and be willing to risk unpopular reception.
Ice storm burdens tree, which in turn leans upon hen house on Washington Co., KY
February 28, 2021Transfiguring a New Heaven and New Earth
We are called to be partners within Jesus' teaching and healing ministry, and in his suffering, death, and resurrection. But through Transfiguration? We may say that only Jesus celebrated such an event, because he is greater than all, even the Old Testament prophets and lawgivers. As also being human, Jesus needed the consolation for the horrific events of suffering and death before him. Is this a total picture of Transfiguration or do we have a greater role than the spectators, Peter, James and John?
What is Transfiguration to us? Primarily we praise the event and glory in the appearance of Jesus who undergoes great trials for each of us. Today, we share his glory through the eyes of faith.
How do we participate in the Transfiguration? First, Jesus glories in the divine radiance and we are present with Peter, James and John -- but now as participants. As members of the body of Christ we hope to share in that future, but to some degree we share at this moment -- and this takes faith to perceive -- the foreshadowing of eternal glory. We participate in that glory today, a true consolation on our journey of faith. Thus, we also need consolation for our Calvary when we enter into our final struggle of life. God's mercy and grace will assist us.
How do we extend Transfiguration to others? Mozart: The Man and the Artist, as Revealed in His Own Words is a book that can intrigue us all, for his sense of optimism and a child's freshness all wrapped into the genius of composer and lover of music, family, and friends. The glory of Mozart's sincere life extends in space and time to us over two centuries later. The consolation of historic exemplars triggers us to search in our families for relatives and friends who are or were happy in their respective lives. They may not be artistic geniuses, but still have the unique talents of being caregivers who spread their God-given gifts to others. Mozart's music and personal witness is an enduring consolation. But all the more, so is Christ's. We are called to profess the Good News.
How is Transfiguration part of Earthhealing? We need consolation both as individuals and as communities. A joint social consolation is a gift through God's grace and is something that we find in comedians and happy, light-hearted people, in those who smile and who have a caregiver's concern that does not end in a day but somehow endures. This is the opposite of the threats, cajoling, fire-and-brimstone people who see disaster around the corner. They (or we) see it, but also see the glory of God's creation shining through in our world if we must act as healers. Playing a positive rather than negative influence encourages a genuine gratitude for the gift of service to others.
Prayer: Lord, allow Transfiguration to shine through the shadows of negativism in our world, and be a sign to us all that eternal glory stands before us -- our eternal future.