Cardamine douglassii, purple cress
June 1, 2008 Earthhealing on Solid
Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and struck that house,
and it fell, and what a fall it had! (Matthew 7:27)
The message that Jesus tells us is to build our structures on
solid ground, whether they be our own individual spiritual edifices
or those involving development in a broader community. From his
teachings we know that global planning to save and heal our Earth
is worthy of solid and realistic discernment. Are we aware that
rain will come down naturally and we will have floods and gales and
hurricanes, but that as people we must prepare for the natural
catastrophes? Such is a belief in being serious about the future
and is a very different from a frivolous eating, drinking and being
merry for we will soon be gone. It is a firm belief that we must
share the good qualities of our fragile but amply providing planet
with those who will live and struggle after we are gone. Our
concern and planning are as focused on the future continuity of a
high quality of life as on our quality of life today.
We are called to heal our wounded Earth, which has been harmed
by the lack of planning and by chaotic "planning" by some. They
are the ones who waste resources, squander funds that should go to
building habitats for the poor, attempt to purchase "rights to
pollute" with a certain blessing from so-called environmentalists,
and who are motivated by excessive desire for profit. Only half of
our environmental reflection planning should focus on faulty
activity; the other half must be on constructive alternatives.
Rather we must not concentrate only on those who build a structure
on sandy soil, but also on those who construct on solid rock
foundations. We need to gather excess food in wicker baskets, use
funds wisely for the needs of the poor, confront polluters of our
air and stop their unsafe practices.
An example. Worse than non-planned activities are planned but
inhuman ones. An abomination (ab + homine = away from man) is an
inhuman action derived through deliberate planning with the silent
assent of a permissive people. We know that abominations such as
concentration camps or killing fields cry to heaven and test God's
mercy. So do so-called "environmental practices" that are
fundamentally socially unjust. Such a one is the construction of
a pipeline to carry ethanol from the traditional breadbasket of the
Midwest to the Northeast to be used in ethanol-guzzling vehicles.
In an age of rapidly rising food prices and food riots in Haiti and
parts of Africa this is effectively removing lower-priced food from
the tables of the poor so that the affluent can have a more
plentiful supply of biofuel. Yes, an abomination -- all in the
name of ecological progress.
Prayer: Oh Creator of all, we are given a mandate to protect
and use the resources at our disposal properly and to leave our
Earth a better place. At times we are distracted through being
drawn to material comforts and concerns. Bring us back to proper
discernment, for our window of time for planning is closing.
Harbinger of spring, Erigenia bulbosa
June 2, 2008 Now Is the Time to Think Smaller
During the last half century, people's demands for space has
increased greatly. In fact, Americans come have to desire about
double the amount of space per person as inhabitants used a half
century ago; this applies to living, vehicle parking, worship,
educational, recreational and commercial space.
The size of the average American household dropped steadily
from 3.67 persons in 1940 to 2.64 in 1997. During that time, the
average house size increased from 1,100 square feet in the 1940s
and 1950s to 2,150 square feet in 1997 -- from 290 square feet per
person to over 800 square feet today. Other features of homes have
also increased in size and number. In 1967, 48% of homes had a
garage for two or more cars and this has increased to 79% in 1997.
In 1975, 20% of homes had two or more bathrooms. Now over 50% do.
And the expansion in size continues in virtually every area from
television screens to central air conditioning. Nothing manifests
this trend to increased space more plainly than educational
institutions that tear down a building after a few decades to build
an ever bigger one to meet the demands of more affluent clientele.
Some are having second thoughts about space "needs." The
escalation of size has its limits and some say, "wait a minute; why
is bigger better?" Sprawling shopping centers continue to be built
but some are having trouble keeping occupants. When a Walmart
store moves in, some slightly distant malls are simply abandoned
and other businesses purchase land to cluster around the prime
mover of the commercial universe. The replacement of commercial
downtowns by suburban malls has accelerated the contraction of
greenspace. However, some of the individual escapees to the
suburbs find commuting time, along with maintenance of increased
spatial demands, burdensome and so time, energy and resource
conservation influence their return to places nearer work and to
well built homes of the inner city.
Spatial expansion is to the detriment of the environment.
People who use their gas-guzzler to recycle a bag of metal cans now
count fuel costs. Do we have to be bigger in order to be better?
The increased interior physical space not only took precious
materials to build, but it places a heavy demand on world resources
in heating and cooling as well as maintenance. The practice of
expanding space then becomes the number one cause of increase in
resource use in our so-called developed world today -- and the toll
is enormous. Unfortunately the drive to expand spatial needs by
the affluent is reaching China and India where more and more of the
affluent want to be like Americans and Europeans. We pass like two
ships in the night. Mother Earth is large enough for all our needs
but certainly not all our wants. Hopefully the world policymakers
will awake to the philosophy that smaller is more beautiful.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to know our physical limits, to be
considerate of the needs of others, and to share our resources.
digital artwork by Janet Powell)
June 3, 2008 Stewardship and our Earth
We are often told that caring for our planet is at the heart
of good stewardship and we take this for granted. In looking
deeper, we find that stewardship is based on two aspects: gift --
Earth is a gift from God and not of our making; and mortality --
our time for caring is of a limited duration.
Earth is a fragile gift. The greatness of the Giver is
reflected in the beauty and magnificence of the gift. From
primitive times we have regarded this differently by fearing,
loving or showing contempt for Earth herself. With the current
global warming catastrophe hanging over us we ought to review our
attitudes that adjust with our maturation. Though Mother Earth is
magnificent, it is also fragile and can be hurt by us. This
vulnerability to human activity is a phenomenon that was unknown
just a few generations ago. The vulnerability of Earth means we no
longer see this precious gift as a domineering mother but as an
aging being who deserves our care and protection. We have received
a gift to be able to live, flourish and survive on this uniquely
gifted but fragile planet; we grow in gratitude for such blessings.
Earth is a gift worth treasuring. A gift does not have to be
set on a mantel to be displayed but can be developed for our
benefit. With so many of us human beings on this planet it is
impossible that even more than a small number can be hunters and
gatherers on one extreme or super rich on the other end of the
lifestyle spectrum. Rather we need to utilize Earth's resources
for the betterment of all people through radical sharing of
resources. Our Earth is our particular treasure, our center of
view, our bearing, our home place, our base of connections with
other inhabitants. Psychologically, we know particular land sites
before we know an extended Earth, but for primitive peoples the two
concepts (land and earth) have been interchangeable. For them,
their land is the whole Earth; for us, our specific locality is the
starting point of our reflection on this entire planet.
Earth is a delightful moment on our journey. Since we are of
dust, and thus of the land, our bodies are destined to return to
this dust -- but we are destined to live on. We have our moment in
the sweep of events -- and our native land fits into our personal
history in many civic and cultural expressions. We spring forth
like flowers, we flourish and we pass on, and so Earth testifies to
our mortality -- a testimony we help fashion. Some of us do not
abandon Earth but see it as a redeemed component in the New Heaven
and New Earth. Our stewardship of enhancement comes as an urgency
because we have only a window of time to individually help save and
enhance our threatened Earth. We seek to budget our time due to
ebbing personal energy. For the sake of those who follow us we
must prove to be good models, for our attitudes about stewardship
have profound future ramifications.
Prayer: Father in heaven, give us a proper attitude about
Mother Earth and how it enters into our journey of faith.
Yellow trout lily, Erythronium
June 4, 2008 Restorative Justice through Community Service
Anyone who has any connection with correctional institutions
in this country wonders at least once in a while whether the word
"correction" is used properly. Are the federal or state prison
practices truly restorative or transformative approaches to justice
or is there governmental interference in a corrective process that
could be best done on the local community level? Those who study
justice and corrective approaches in other cultures wonder aloud as
to whether the massive outlay of prison resources and the costs of
this legal-based judicial system are really optimal. Could not the
communities distribute justice better by integrating these
offenders into ordinary community life?
Some argue that correction is more than simply punishing people
who break rules; rather responsibility on the part of the
lawbreaker ought to be enhanced so the person can return to
becoming a productive citizen in our society, not a person sitting
in a cell or even earning a small wage at an in-prison
manufacturing plant. The retributive justice system -- the prison
walls and razor wire fences -- does not work well. It distances
offenders from needed reform of their behavior and from the
community that ought to be opening to a fuller integration of the
offender into society. On the other hand, restorative justice that
has been practiced by many primitive societies emphasizes the
community contribution that is owed by those who have committed
some offence. In fact, many experts call this a truly democratic
process in the best American tradition, which includes full
participation and consensus among all parties -- the people in
general, the offended, and the offender. Healing is needed. "When
imbalance and disharmony are a regular feature of community life,
it should be no surprise that crime is too." (Susan Sharpe,
Restorative Justice: A Vision for Healing and Change [Edmonton:
Edmonton Victim Offender Mediation Society, 1998] p. 4.)
A long-time environmental colleague, Ernie Muhly, has pointed
out that justice is reciprocal: in asking offenders to be more
accountable and responsible in the community, it asks the community
to be more responsible in how it treats offenders and obligates the
community to find ways to help them learn accountability and
responsibility. Since a system of justice that increases
understanding and empathy in a community also enhances people's
sense of responsibility to each other, it is almost certain to
counteract crime more effectively than one that brands people as
bad, handles them disrespectfully and increases their latent anger.
Ernie calls restorative justice a compassionate listening that
begins with the recognition that it is people, not governments, who
are hurt by criminal activities and need a restored sense of
safety. Individuals doing supervised community service can
gradually restore responsibility on the part of the offender and
safety and integrity on the part of the community.
Prayer: Lord teach us to do more than forgive; teach us to
heal by helping restore justice at the local community level.
Mountain Laurel, Kalmia latifolia
June 5, 2008 World Environment Day, 2008
On World Environment Day we ought to review the areas where
our commons arenas have been coopted by powerful forces and where
we need to reclaim these commons:
1. Essential stocks of food and other basic resources must be
distributed as needed by the hungry and homeless;
2. Air commons is not to be auctioned off as though the
corporate polluters have some ownership rights to that air;
3. Water commons is not to be privatized as a non-public
utility that is then sold back to the thirsty;
4. Maritime commons is not a vast ocean frontier that can be
exploited at will by the technically powerful and without regard to
the impoverished who need to benefit from those resources;
5. Wilderness is fragile and to be protected from development
pressures, and productive land is to be shared with the landless;
6. Forest commons is a global treasure that helps modify the
planet's climate and so deforestation is to be avoided;
7. Wildlife commons is the many animals and plants, which
ought to be protected from forms of endangerment;
8. Space commons, the "out there," which seems too vast to be
harmed or junked actually can be polluted and thus must be
preserved in a pristine condition;
9. Intellectual commons is the knowledge and wisdom of the
centuries that must not be reserved for the benefit of the few;
rather this treasure must be open to access by all who want to
10. Cultural commons is our collective heritage and not to be
grasped, retained or privatized by the privileged few;
11. Common means of communication such as the Internet should
be accessible to all and under a freedom of information exchange;
12. Commons of silent space respects the right of people to be
free from extraneous noises that disturb their piece of mind;
13. Common access to health services and information is so
limited on this Earth and yet is so essential for the well being of
all inhabitants that this access must be aggressively protected and
extended to all in need;
14. Common access to housing is utterly needed by people who
desire to build or acquire their own habitation;
15. Common aspirations for peace and security are part of the
deepest movements of the soul and yet physical conditions do not
currently allow for the thriving of peace and security;
16. Movement of people must under certain restrictions be
part of a global environment though more efforts should be made to
encourage people to remain in their own homelands; and
movement of goods means that commerce among peoples is good and
praiseworthy in a healthy environment.
See -- Reclaiming the Commons on this website.
Prayer: Lord, all belongs to You and yet You give us many
gifts as commons. Help us to radically share these gifts and not
to allow those who feel somewhat privileged to continue in their
own ways to exclude the less fortunate from the common benefits.
Purple passionflower (fruit), Passiflora incarnata
June 6, 2008 D-Day
It is fitting that D-Day comes so soon after Memorial Day.
Both tell of supreme sacrifices. Many died on the beaches of
Normandy -- to liberate a captured and stricken continent. The
military operation on D-Day was the largest amphibious invasion in
human history; many realized that it was unsure of success.
Of all the days of World War II with its rationing and notices
of causalities, long awaited D-day or June 6, 1944 was one of the
most memorable. On that bright sunny day we were at a school
picnic at Pat and Martha Comer's large estate on the Fleming Road
about three miles from home. Instead of going back to Maysville by
bus (six miles away) and then back out to home for another four
miles, I preferred (at age ten) to hike home on my own. The folks
were out in the field "setting" (planting) tobacco, but I stopped
at the house to listen to the radio and discovered D-Day was
occurring in Europe. Cousin Bernard Perraut was helping for the
afternoon, and he and Daddy were engaged in animated conversation.
I broke in announcing that D-Day was most likely happening -- only
two days after Rome's liberation.
Though only in the third grade I followed that war by the
radio and newspaper from its inception. My reading abilities were
expanded by piecing together news accounts and marking army
locations on large wall maps hanging in the house. With an uncle
in the Marines, and other relatives in the various services, we
were committed to the war effort. Rubber, gasoline, sugar, meat
and shoes were rationed. Hemp was being grown again since the loss
of the source in the Philippines. We gathered milkweed pods for
the war effort -- but they proved a poor silk substitute.
War challenges us to love more and hate less; we struggled to
make a distinction between Germans and Nazism. I remember the
arrival of the German prisoners of war who came to work on the
tobacco fields in order to furnish smokes for our fighters in other
lands. Those war prisoners liked it here, far from the bombs and
shells, and with a pleasant countryside and people who held little
animosity because they were all presumed not to be Nazis. We would
go and watch them play soccer in their confined barbed wire
quarters on the Wald Baseball field. And we waved them goodbye when
they left after harvest time in the truck transports.
To sacrifice means to make holy, and the lives of service
members wounded and killed make us realize what they did even in
times of horrible strife; they sacrificed for others. Wars, even
distant ones, come closer to home with actual funerals of fallen
service personnel, grieving relatives, and worry about those in
harm's way. In the 1940s we observed the small banners with the
gold, silver and blue stars that began to appear frequently on
front doors and windows telling us that someone had been killed,
wounded or captured. People were hurting that D-Day.
Prayer: Lord teach us to pray for peace, always for peace.
The Rockcastle River. Livingston,
June 7, 2008 River Celebrations
For a quarter of a century, the first weekend of June has been
the celebration of the Rockcastle River at ASPI but this is the
first time I will miss that event. All rivers are worth preserving
in a pristine condition and all are worth celebrating no matter
what condition. We know the blue Danube, ole man Mississippi, the
wide Missouri, the wonderful Shenandoah, the beckoning Red River,
and on and on. Rivers have frightened us, lulled us, mesmerized
us, opened vistas for easy transportation, turned our water wheels,
formed our boundaries, acted as barriers in times of flood, and
given us the silt needed to grow crops. Rivers have given quality
to this troubled Earth and to our lives.
The Rockcastle is scenic and defined as "wild" for a part of
its length; the waterway has little industry to pollute it, unlike
many other American and world rivers. Unfortunately the beauty of
the river and its rocky and forest-covered banks lure off-road
vehicle enthusiasts, who have ravaged the stream bed. These
unpoliced riders have overridden the river banks, which support
some of the finest and rarest orchids in America -- making these
beautiful but delicate plants all the more endangered. Preserving
this and other scenic rivers becomes a concern for many residents
and nature lovers. The Rockcastle has several hundred square miles
of watershed, with excess water flows through a constricted valley
or natural bottleneck in times of floods. Thus on very short
notice the water levels can rise -- or fall -- like a yo-yo.
Recreation can be a major benefit derived from any river and so
it is with the Rockcastle. Sightseeing is always the number one
form of recreation. Canoeists and fishers find the river a
corridor of delight, and so can those who swim or wade or select
sites for baptism. The river lures wildlife -- beaver, deer, mink,
blue heron, geese, duck, wild turkey, copperhead snakes, a dozen
types of fish and a variety of rare and endangered mussels.
Perhaps the sights of rivers appeal most strongly, though the
taste, feel and smell of rivers add to a river's ambiance. The
sound of the rushing water at flood tide has made the Rockcastle
special to me for it gave me an utter sense of powerlessness before
the forces of nature. Living water has its own particular sound,
one that can hardly be described in words; as though a chorus, the
gurgling river is accentuated by the coyote bark and the
Though tens of thousands of years old, restless rivers are
always moving and carving landscape. Their movements seem to
inspire us to act as well. Living water energizes us, calling out
that it should not be caged or tamed by dams, but rather allowed to
flow free to the sea. If rivers were to speak, they would call for
freedom, protection and loving care. And they smile when people
celebrate their presence on an annual basis.
Prayer: Lord, Source of living water, give us the energy to
protect and celebrate the great gift of rivers in our lives.
Bearded Robber Fly, Asilidae sp.
June 8, 2008 Mercy, Not Sacrifice
For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice, and knowledge of
God rather than holocausts. (Hosea 6:6)
In this Liturgical Year A when we concentrate on Matthew's
Gospel, we read about his calling by Christ, even though an outcast
among the establishment in Jerusalem. The reaching out in a
special way by Jesus, the source of all mercy, to accept Matthew as
a disciple is the motivation on our part to reach out to others.
We look about; we see people hungry or homeless and pitch them
pennies or whisper, "Good luck!" Hardly. We ought to be moved to
respond in meaningful ways, but the question before us is "Exactly
how do we respond?" Any public response is subject to criticism of
some sort. Jesus, perfect as he was, could not escape the sharp
eye of the critics of his day. The pharisees complained about
Jesus' association with Matthew and other tax collectors, for the
pharisees thought these Roman Empire agents were of a lower caste
unworthy of being among the elect who knew how to act -- to
sacrifice properly to Yahweh. But Jesus told them and tells us
that precisely these overlooked or marginalized individuals are to
be the prime focus of our outreach ministry. Jesus gives us a wake
up call to minister to those outside our normal areas of concern,
the ones deserving of mercy such as the hungry, victims of
diseases, prisoners, ex-convicts, shut-ins, residents of homes for
the elderly who have been shunted away, and the forgotten.
For the most part we are a hardworking people who sacrifice
much for our loved ones; we strive to build up nest eggs for future
unpredictable times; we tend to esteem sacrifices. How far should
hard workers exercise their mercy? We hear the disturbing
observation by the early Fathers of the Church that we cannot
receive Communion worthily if there are hungry at our doorstep.
Through a concerted effort we become concerned about the needy at
our doorstep. Fine enough, but in recent years through television,
radio and the Internet the doorstep has extended to the wider
world. Thus when the concentration of power and control of
resources have expanded, so has our responsibility to look after
and extend mercy to others. Sacrifice for loved ones is not
enough; with God's help we realize that our limited love has
unlimited possibilities; we enter into God's infinite sea of love.
As witnesses to Matthew's call, do we extend concern to others
on this globe? Should we take the risky step of bearing
responsibility (with Europeans) for the health of planet Earth?
Are we being called to extend medicare and medical programs not
just to Americans but to all our brothers and sisters on the
planet? Far-fetched? Costly in terms of resources? Well no more
costly than throwing one and a half trillion dollars to military
hardware and defense.
Prayer: Lord, inspire us to hear the call to Matthew as being
the call to all people to enter into close fellowship and concern.
Pinson Mound, Middle Woodland Period.
June 9, 2008 Oral and Video History
On Senior Citizens Day let's challenge the notion that all
people have plenty of time left to record significant things.
While attending a conference in India, I asked an 88-year-old
Jesuit missionary bishop if he had recorded his many colorful
stories that he was quick to tell. "No," he said, "there's plenty
of time." He died shortly after -- his stories apparently
unrecorded. Wonderful past experiences can be easily lost and
never recovered when people pass on. We mortals are not permanent
fixtures, and we need to be convinced that recording experiences is
salutary, for our store of personal knowledge is often quite unique
and of value to future generations.
Conservation of resources includes preserving the experiences
of elders and past movers and shakers, for the existence of their
resources is tenuous with the aging of the resource holders.
Memories lapse; people pass on. Treasures of sacred memory have
been transmitted at camp fires and the hearth for generations,
yielding a living history for storytellers who share their
treasures. Now we lack hearth gatherings and the time to sit and
listen to elders, but we have technical ways of recording and
budding talented storytellers. To pass on a tradition it takes
two, one to tell, and one to listen and record. The teller is the
focal point of the potentially transmitted story. Certain people
tell their stories in matter of fact fashion. Others like to use
poetic license. No tale is without some embellishment, some degree
of change and modification, some nuance that is characteristic of
the story teller. What is left out? What is added? Modern
methods can capture these nuances fairly well, provided the
recording equipment is not lost in storage or the records made
useless through constant change in recording materials or media.
Older recordings are now virtually lost because current equipment
cannot download them.
Certain people are especially gifted in collecting these tales
from old and frail members in a narrowing window of recording time.
Regard this exercise of recording the sacred memories as a
responsible and needed part of our ongoing growth in environmental
consciousness. Recording is a public service. Good recording
people can make people feel comfortable in conversation and quickly
create a relaxed atmosphere; they are good listeners. Though
videotapes are more treasured than audiotapes, the extra talent it
takes to do a good video interview may make audio taping
preferable. In the actual recording session one should take along
a person who has the confidence of the interviewee. Offer a
present or fee for giving the time and effort. Give a copy of the
recording so the person can check his or her recording. Seek out
the next of kin of interviewees to ensure that they have a copy of
the recording, which may be treasured. Donate a copy (with
interviewee permission) to the nearby historic records library.
Prayer: Lord, give to us the gift to treasure and record the
memories of those who go before us; they deserve our respect.
Wlidginger, Asarum canadense
June 10, 2008 Guidelines for Edible Landscape
We need to combine environmental awareness and social justice.
Reductions in arable land surface, other use of food, and growing
human populations result in rising food prices, increasing demand
for more resource intensive food and emerging global food
shortages. Due to shortages ornamental landscaping is outdated,
for land can be both beautiful and useful at the same time. Most
of Earth's people lack the luxury of an ornamental lawn. By
"edible landscape" we don't mean that we literally eat landscape
but that we (humans, birds and other wildlife) can eat the products
of the land. Successful edible landscapes take planning, well
directed work, tender loving care, and an awareness of an ultimate
impact on (or maybe opposition from) neighbors. Some neighbors may
resist the anticipated sight and oppose your plans at a
neighborhood zoning committee; you have the audacity to differ
from what is expected, a uniform manicured lawn without which
property values will be depressed. This becomes an opportunity to
educate others to the process of edible landscaping:
1) Make a landscape plan. Before obtaining new landscape
plants, it is important to ask: What are the major current uses of
the land? What ultimate scenic creation is expected? How much
time will be required to prepare the land? What produce for humans
or wildlife is expected from this land? Where should plants be
2) Start off gradually. Overwhelming yourself with a massive
project will cause burn out. Making a few initial changes around
the greenspace will give the workers a chance to experiment, find
out what is liked, what grows well, and how to care for the plants.
3) Make the work enjoyable. Keep in mind that edible
landscaping is supposed to be fun in addition to being beautiful
and useful. Try not to make this more work than it needs to be.
To reduce the time for maintenance without reducing the yard's
beauty or productivity, try the following: select fruits and
vegetables that are extremely low-maintenance, e.g., alpine
strawberries or blueberries; use miniaturized versions of your
favorite fruit or nut trees for easier harvesting; plant more
perennials (productive for more than one year) than annuals.
4) Incorporate succession planting and vegetation. Unlike
grass lawns, edible landscaping incorporates the realities of the
broader growing and blooming seasons. The landscape will not look
the same at all parts of the growing season, but rather will
reflect the changes in various plant life throughout the year. The
edible landscape becomes mobile, adding new color and variety each
day of the growing season
Prayer: Lord, you created the beauty and utility of the land
on which we live and thrive. Help us who are the designers and
improvers of edible landscape to consider the land's potential
beauty and yields as we work the soil.
Busy insects on yarrow, Achillea
June 11, 2008 Cisterns: Conserve Rain water
Cisterns (containers that hold rainwater or spring water) have
been used for millennia to store plentiful water supplies for times
of scarcity. Cisterns, if built properly, both save precious rain
or spring water and offer a safe source for both drinking water and
other domestic water uses, especially for a non-chlorinated water
source for garden plants. For drinking purposes, use of small
purifying units at the cistern's domestic intake is advisable.
Cisterns are effective where aquifers (the source of alternative
well water) are contaminated by human waste disposal practices,
lack of proper landfill containment, or excessive land disturbance.
Cisterns are usually installed underground to save room or to
allow the bermed earth to furnish lower cost wall support. However,
some cisterns are above ground or partially buried. Water can be
withdrawn manually, mechanically or by use of gravity from a
cistern making use of a distribution system that duplicates those
used for other water sources. Cisterns have a proven track record
going back long before Jeremiah the Prophet was thrown into one.
Some American cisterns have continued to serve homes and farms long
after their installation. Others have had to be abandoned because
they were not properly maintained or sealed at top or sides.
Consequently, the worry about safety has caused cisterns to lose
favor among government water management and environmental
officials. However, this unpopularity stems more from lack of
proper maintenance that from some defect in cisterns in general.
Cistern advantages: They are --
* able to be built at a low cost per unit and thus to
eliminate the need for municipal water systems in rural areas;
* far less risky as to cost than well-drilling;
* a source of water lacking groundwater contamination by
excess salt, iron or other materials;
* able to provide high quality water, which is near-at-hand
(no transporting from a distance);
* under the sole control of the homeowner;
* not in need of chlorination treatment, though it may be
locally required if the water is drunk;
* inexpensive to maintain;
* able to eliminate water bills; and
* beneficial in collecting shower runoff in times of drought.
Note If a cistern is improperly constructed or sealed,
contamination from the outside may occur. Cistern water is potable,
if the catchment area is cleaned by washing off with the first part
of a rain before water is allowed into the cistern, and if the
cistern is properly sealed. Newly built cisterns ought to be
disinfected. If in doubt about drinking cistern water, test for
bacteriological and chemical contamination. Note that current
"acid rain" when highly acidic can erode metal catchments (roofs).
Prayer: Teach us Lord, to conserve the precious gift of water.
June 12, 2008 Spirit Creatures: Animals
Native Americans often give people honorary names because
their virtues resemble those of some creature (eagles, badgers,
foxes, etc.) with which all are familiar. We all have natural
relationships with creatures, due to similar qualities and we come
to admire those qualities in other creatures. Sometimes the
relationships endure a lifetime and sometimes we change our spirit
creature with change of attitudes or focus.
Livestock like horses or chickens often serve as our spirit
creatures. Some regard their spirit creature as a private matter
(maybe through embarrassment and a private matter of trust). I
always have had a special relationship with bovines, whether cows,
calves or bulls, even bison and buffaloes. Once when jogging in
northern California, I came upon a bison ranch and the ones across
the fence seemed so close that I desired to touch and pet it.
Wildlife may be spirit creatures. Many regard a variety of
wildlife as spirit or kinship creatures, but they vacillate as to
whether to cage the creature, which may desperately seek freedom
(beavers, for instance). Even the caging of rather tame wildlife
is open to question. Some wildlife choices are within a vicinity
(deer, rabbits, certain birds, etc.) and can be observed from our
grounds or window in their "natural" state moving about freely.
Other are exotic creatures that we cannot allow to roam loose; we
don't have tigers in our backyard. Be satisfied to celebrate your
tiger spirit creatures in zoological park areas or in virtual trips
to Africa through "virtual" observation in movies, tv or Internet -
- or choose a native one.
Pet "possession" allows a relationship to intensify with
proximity and direct contact. However, should we mix spirit
creatures (co-equally) with pets (often considered as subservient
to a master)? Some pets assist us (seeing eye dogs, guard dogs for
security, companions for elderly or youth, etc.); some have
economic benefit as miniature horses; and others assist in securing
the mental balance of the pet "owner." Dogs and cats express more
feelings than goldfish or most caged birds. Choosing a pet,
whether a spirit creature or not, involves considerations such as
space, type of animal, ability of the animal to be comfortable when
you are away, dietary needs and expense, safety of neighbors,
noise, and your ability to control the animal on a leash. Forty-
five million pet dogs are out there, eating, barking and producing
waste and that material may contain toxacara parasites (New York
City's pets generate 150 tons of dog dung a day). Yes, pets
involve responsibilities and duties. If we must choose, think
twice just how much caring you want to do, or what hoops you think
you must make the creature jump through to "belong" to you. A
spirit creature should be a friend, not a slave.
Prayer: Lord, help us to understand that the animal creatures
You make present to us remain near enough to help us, and still
free and distant enough to live a good life.
Wild vines reclaiming an old structure
June 13, 2008 Spirit Creatures: Plants
Spirit creatures need not be limited to animals but can
include members of the plant kingdom as well. Besides establishing
a kinship, we can realize that plants may beautify the exterior and
interior environs; they remove toxins from air inside the home;
they mask bad odors and provide many other benefits:
*Gift. Houseplants make perfect gifts for birthdays,
Mother's (and Father's) Day, Christmas, Easter, and other
holidays. Houseplants make appropriate gifts for anyone,
regardless of age, handicap or disposition;
*Personal need. Everyone needs the opportunity to touch the
soil and commune with the forces of growth within Earth. For
people who are unable to get outside due to infirmity, houseplants
can substitute. Special spaces in bedrooms, greenhouses or sun
rooms can be used by shut-ins for cultivating houseplants.
Greenhouse tables can be made to accommodate wheelchaired people.
*Encouragement. People may be concerned that caring for a
plant will be a bother -- but it is not nearly as serious as caring
for animals. Providing detailed instructions on plant care,
placement and watering may alleviate apprehensions and pretty soon
the plant becomes a friendly companion; and
*Produce. Both outdoor and indoor plants can be a source of
produce, providing fruits, nuts, vegetables and herbs for the
caretaker's enjoyment. These plants that produce food allow for a
unique synthesis between beauty and utility. Many vegetables and
herbs thrive under indoor as well as outdoor conditions.
Outdoor plants are legion; houseplants are many as well. The
Carissa grandiflora (natal plum) is an exceptionally beautiful
plant with dark green leaves and year-round white blossoms. Rarely
growing to be more than two feet tall, it produces a plum-like
fruit, which tastes something like a cranberry. Citrus trees grown
indoors can be pleasing to both the eyes and the palate. Like the
natal plum, they bloom year round and can be kept less than four
feet tall with careful pruning. The Meyer lemon produces an
extremely high quality table fruit while the myrtle leaf orange or
the Otahiete orange bear only cooking quality fruit. Pollination
problems can be overcome either by moving plants outdoors during
summer or by hand pollination. Some fruits can follow procedures
used for vegetables and herbs. Thus alpine strawberries and
tomatoes will thrive indoors. Pineapple plants (Ananas nanus)
perform quite well indoors and produce beautiful purple flowers in
addition to a table-quality fruit. Bananas can also be a tasty and
colorful addition to the home; the Cavendish or Chinese varieties
tend to be somewhat shorter than other banana plants, reaching only
five to seven feet in height and bearing six- to eight-inch fruit
suitable for eating raw.
Prayer: Lord, help us to make friends within the plant kingdom.
The farm of Abraham Lincoln's mother
by Mark Spencer)
June 14, 2008 Flag Day
In many humble homes throughout this land one can observe on
the mantle a triangular-shaped, folded flag that once draped the
casket of a loved one who has passed on. For survivors that flag
brings back precious memories.
Flags have been used for thousands of years as signs of a
certain allegiance. People marched to them, sang as they were
unfurled, protected them, surrendered them, fought for them,
strived to hang them high. And in this country flags come in
various shapes, colors and designs. In parts of America, we see
small or large flags hanging in the front of homes, offices and
institutional buildings. These displayed pieces of cloth tell the
message of the people who live or work within. After the 9-11
disaster in 2001 the display of the American flag took on
Since the statehood of Hawaii and Alaska a half century ago,
we have lived with a flag of fifty stars, for this completed the
current design. Changes over a two-century period plotted the
journey from the original colonies-turned-states's thirteen through
thirty-seven additions to where the United States is today. Even
this change of design told its own story, for our flag is an
integral part of Americana. Many fly the Star Spangled Banner,
especially at national and international events such as the
Olympics, and citizens wave these banners furiously when the
triumph of our country is in the forefront. Our national anthem
tells us that the flag withstood the bomb blasts. The pledge of
allegiance is given each day by students before the flag. The
honor guard ushers in the flag for sporting events. Through flying
at half-mast, the flag tells of the death of a great personage or
the occurrence of a national event. We are a people of the flag,
waving the little ones in parades, hoisting the colors on ships, or
filling flagpoles with massive flags. Most of us, whether
military or tourists, are moved by Ole Glory on returning home.
FLY IT PROUDLY
Too much blood has been shed by patriots who gave all,
with their lives, their limbs, their peace of mind.
Many returned to home soil, flag draped,
taps in the background, a sob, a word, and then to dust.
For their sakes we fly this flag with pride.
We may not need a constitutional amendment to act,
but free citizens treat this emblem with respect,
not burning, not desecrating it through commercial greed.
Respect calls for not leaving a flag flying overnight
in the dark. Thus we suggest and install a solar
with daylight -- renewable energy -- stored and transformed,
so that the sun never sets on Ole Glory.
Honeysuckle in bloom
June 15, 2008 Being Paternal
The harvest is great but the laborers are few, so ask the Lord
of the harvest to send laborers to his harvest. (Matthew 9:37)
On Father's Day we combine the readings of the day of the
eleventh Sunday of Ordinary time with the respect we show our dads
and all fathers everywhere. Like the apostles, these brave souls
are called to help bring new life into the world. Their success in
fostering that new life demands prayers for theirs is a difficult
task in these troubled times. Fatherhood together with motherhood
must be regarded as both a calling and a special gift. You
received without charge; give without charge. (Matthew 10:8)
Conscientious fathers take their calling and duties seriously.
Like the apostles who are sent, fathers must be self-sacrificing in
order to help create a loving home for the family. This self-
sacrifice involves denying what is liked such as free time; many
fathers generously spend periods with the family; they give up
sleep when an offspring is sick; they give up good things so that
others in the family will have more than bare essentials. They
become suffering servants for loved ones.
But looking only at the duties of fatherhood is somewhat
unrealistic and harsh. Life includes the lighter moments, the
times when life is more than the sweaty harvest of making a living.
In the act of helping create a home, this expansive fatherhood
resembles the Creator of all things. As God rested on the sabbath,
so fathers find rest and enjoy the works of the hand and head and
heart with their families. Though some think otherwise, being
paternal does not mean being paternalistic, that is, ruling in an
authoritarian and heavy handed manner. Paternal fathers are always
watchful to permit the freedom of the growing brood while requiring
that rules be kept for the family's order and stability.
A combination of sacrifice and gratitude makes a perfect dad -
- and mom as well. Such a one realizes a duty to sacrifice for his
or her children and also to transfer that sense of thankfulness to
them as educator as well as breadwinner. It's a challenge today.
Providing but not asking sacrifices on the part of the offspring
risks bringing up the ungrateful, who constantly see the father as
provider of goodies. On the other hand, if the providing father is
too harsh, it turns family life into a stressful situation for
youngsters and wife as well. The key is to unveil a fertile ground
for spiritual growth, a source of joy, an atmosphere of freedom
where gratitude is cultivated; and a sincere "thank you" to God is
given by sons and daughters.
Prayer: Father, keep in your name those you have given me,
that they may be one as we are one, says the Lord. Allow the
fathers of this world to be willing to sacrifice and at the same
time to be thankful for the holy mission they have undertaken with
the offspring they have helped bring into the world. Let all
fathers be grateful sources of unity for their families.
A rising moon in the Bluegrass
June 16, 2008 Preserve Languages
Every time the last native speaker of a language falls silent
... we lose one more distinctive way of saying, one more set of
insights about living in a place, says Scott Russell Sanders,
"Hunting for Hope," p. 106. On January 21, 2008, Marie Smith, the
last speaker of the Eyak language in Alaska died. A last-of-a-
language death occurs about three times a month. The United
Nations reports that half the world's six to seven thousand
languages will die out during this century.
Youth in pockets of receding culture prefer to speak the major
surrounding language; they are often embarrassed about their
parents' tongue. Young people in Appalachia have abandoned the
local dialects for "televisionese" English; only an old cousin of
mine still speaks Alsatian in France in her household; the rest
respond in French. When I mentioned the threatened-language
problem to a Latinist, he said "Maybe they need to die out." I
wondered whether one who sees his beloved Latin die, can be so
uncaring? Pawnee, once the language of a large nation of the Great
Plains, is now reduced to one surviving speaker. National
Geographic, "A World Loses Its Tongues" (October, 2007), has a map
showing thirteen major hot spots of this disappearance of human
knowledge and history: Northwestern U.S./Canada, Southwestern
Oklahoma, Northern Central and Southern South America, Southern and
Eastern Africa, Northern Australia, Western Melanesia, Taiwan-
Philippines, Southeastern Asia, Eastern Siberia and Central
Siberia. The Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages is
working with a National Geographic project.
Languages pass unnoticed and unlamented, extinction of a
species. Maybe not. Hebrew is now revived as the official
language of Israel with five million speakers. Some strive to save
the Celtic languages of the British Isles, and they are making an
effort to save Welsh, Gaelic and the Scottish tongue as well as
Manx that was spoken on the Isle of Man. Any threatened language
can be saved, if records remains and there is a strong will to
preserve and learn the tongue. The longer the time since the death
of former native speakers, the harder to relearn the pronunciation
or the nuances of language. Simply put, when a language is lost,
it is difficult to reintroduce it within a given culture.
Globalization and Internet use have led many people to forget
their ancestral tongues for the language of the dominant culture.
Language communicates so much more than practical aspects of
living; art and culture are contained in the language, along with
unique insights which are so easily overlooked. If there are
thirty words for snow in one Eskimo language, then those of us who
can't distinguish more than five snow words (slush, etc.) have lost
something by that tongue's death. Native art, poetry, and song are
lost forever in a language's demise.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to preserve past treasures including
threatened languages; if need be, help us preserve Babel's tower.
Taylorsville Lake (Kentucky)
June 17, 2008 Ten Commandments of Resource Use
In resource conservation month consider the following:
1. Basic Attitudes. All that God creates is good. We human
beings create waste. We take what is essentially valuable and
"good" and, through thoughtless practice (waste as a verb), we make
it non-recoverable junk (waste as a noun).
2. Use Properly or Give in to Waste. To say the Lord allows
us to waste is to take the Lord's Name in vain, for it makes God
the author of wasteful practice. In mockery, one says, "The Lord
is soon coming, so let's use up resources, our entitlement."
3. Consecration, not Desecration. The land is a holy place
and to be respected. Wasteful practice desecrates that place. It
is our most sacred duty to develop ways to keep Earth holy and
remember that the Lord has given us care of this Earth.
4. Respect and Don't Litter. Honor your parent, your Earth.
Beautify and enhance her life-giving qualities. Littering is a
thoughtless disregard for the respect we must show our parent.
Instead, we must recycle and continually return life for life.
5. Life or Death. To sustain life is our mandate. However,
we are able to kill through the slow destruction of our eco-systems
through air and water pollution. Incineration of waste materials
gives off toxic gases which can do harm to living creatures.
6. Conserving or Using up Virgin Materials. A form of rape of
Earth is using new materials when recycling is possible. Recycled
paper reduces the need for pulpwood and trees; recycled aluminum
requires less energy to process than virgin material.
7. Good Use or Misuse of Materials. Do not steal from the
limited resources of Earth. To take a precious resource and
squander it on desolate living is to steal from the world's
powerless, or from future generations.
8. Sharing Responsibility or NIMBY (Not in my Backyard). To
accuse the poor of being unwilling to accept our waste due to their
selfishness is to bear false witness to what they are really
saying, namely, "Each of us must be responsible for our own actions
and wasteful practices."
9. Careful or Excessive Consumerism. Coveting other people's
careless consumption practices is the first step to becoming
despoilers of Earth; such practices lead to deceptive advertising,
child labor in making goods, panic buying, and a throwaway culture.
10. Durable or Disposable Goods. Coveting cosmetic packaging,
disposable items, luxury goods, and planned obsolescence only adds
to an atmosphere of addictive use and high consumption practices.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to be responsible for our resources.
The lady bird beetle,
crossing rough terrain
June 18, 2008 Monitoring and Assessing
We tend to get things backwards when it comes to self-
evaluation, whether on an individual level or on a family or
community one. We often prefer to look to outsiders to monitor our
own personal behavior and to tell us what steps should or should
not be taken to improve our lot. Actually, we have consciences,
and these are our internal lights, well-equipped to do some
monitoring (actual internal accounting) versus assessing (external
review of practice or policy). But surrendering our internal
monitoring process to others and refusing to accept personal
accountability for our behavior is quite popular today.
Internal monitoring includes an examination of conscience,
something we all can benefit by on an individual level. Spiritual
direction includes listening to another and giving assistance when
needed. People who confess very frequently may have to be informed
that much of their monitoring task is really an individual's
responsibility, not that of a confessor. Monitoring helps us find
our recurring faults and moves us to beg God for forgiveness and to
move on from there. Spiritual advice is needed as well but it is
more an overall assessing role, a looking over how we are doing in
a period of time and a reflection on the fundamental path of one's
journey of faith. Daily review is our personal duty; periodic
review requires external assistance.
Monitoring and assessing do not stop at the individual level,
but a similar pattern of activities exists on the local or
intentional community level as well as with larger and more
comprehensive communities -- even perhaps the global community with
God as external assessor. Monitoring of activities includes
reviewing budgets and goals and how well they are being carried out
as well as discovering weaknesses that need to be addressed.
Assessing of communities on a periodic basis involves an external
review of what is being done and of the resources to be tapped to
meet intended goals.
Earthhealing's Environmental Resource Assessment Service
(ERAS) has found the primary task when visiting a non-profit
property is really long-term assessing and not some sort of
monitoring work. An ongoing audit of energy or land use or parking
space is a necessity for the best environmental accountability of
resources, but that is more efficiently done by experienced
internal staff. Assessment is different: it should be the work of
outside persons skilled in the process of objectively identifying
environmental resources and examining the use, misuse or failure to
use them. Outsiders bring a certain objectivity to resource
assessments that is necessary for a clear picture of an
environment. Property monitoring is ongoing; property assessments
involve a rare review of resource use in an appropriate manner.
Prayer: Help us Lord to know the difference between what we
must do on our own and where we need help from others and give us
the courage to do both in their due time.
Dung beetle, Scarabaeinae
June 19, 2008 Making Composting Acceptable
Composting or the natural way of recycling organic matter
seems to be a given, like motherhood and apple pie, but is it? In
many urban areas, battles ensue between the defenders of orderly
lawns and the person who risks putting in a composting bin in his
or her backyard. Some more vocal "clean is perfect" promoters seek
to institute community and neighborhood regulations to forbid the
compost bin even though they know full well that the valuable
material would be sent to a land fill if the ordinary garbage
system were used. It may be imagined sight or smell even, though
a tended and well maintained compost bin with a mixture of soil and
discarded material has no smell at all. Some criticism comes from
those who know they ought to do something about their own wastes
but find composting either embarrassing or downright inconvenient.
It is easier to trash materials and composters in one breath.
The argument may extend to the types of homesteading people
who tend to compost. These folks are regarded as messy and their
composting material and use of compost in their growing areas are
not as orderly as manicured lawn. While disarray is a normal part
of construction of any sort, such is short-lived. When writing a
book, there are materials and other papers scattered all about for
quick reference, but the writer's disorder is within a building.
On the other hand composting is like clothes lines; it appears
there to stay -- and for the orderly non-composting neighbor it
ought to be forbidden. David Kennedy, an accomplished gardener and
director of "Leaf for Life" at Berea, Kentucky, says he prefers a
relaxed garden where the turtles, herbs, bees, snakes, etc., try to
sort it with each other. He says a pretty good garden is what we
should aim for. "A perfect garden is an antique vase on a kitchen
table waiting for a Little League team to show up with pizza."
Reference: David Kennedy, Where the Garden Path Leads, (Big Hill,
Kentucky, 1998), p. 45.
A neighborhood education may be needed for the overly orderly
folks. Composting is nature's creative way of recycling the cast-
offs into something more productive. Yard wastes (grass, tree
leaves and trimmings) as well as non-meat and non-fatty kitchen
wastes can be composted through the joyful labor of earthworms and
friendly bacteria. All earthworms are looking for waste materials
along with some moisture and air and some undisturbed peace. The
amount of time required to turn the waste products into humus for
the garden will vary with the season and the degree of turning of
the composting pile to give some air to the little critters. A
balance of carbon and nitrogen must also be maintained. Under
suitable conditions, animal manures and the wastes from dry
composting toilets can also be added to the garden as compost.
Neighbors will be more accepting, if the composting agent makes the
compost bin attractive and places it in a proper shady location.
Get them to compost as well.
Prayer: Lord, give us the courage to enter into the natural
cycles of this world and patiently to bring our neighbors along.
Nepenthes (carnivorous plant), native of highlands of
June 20, 2008 Global Village
For better or worse, we inhabitants of this planet need to
learn to live in peaceful, caring communities. Green advocates
profess the power of the grassroots and state that a peaceful world
must be patterned after an elemental unit called the eco-village,
where nature and sustainable human habitat meet. The "village" as
a human cooperative habitation has been operative down through the
centuries. Primitive people established such settlements so that
the group could mutually defend each other, provide food, and care
for the more helpless members of the community. Some villages
evolved into more sophisticated systems, and included market
places, worship space, recreational grounds, and educational
buildings for youth. The settlement united with adjacent villages
and these with more distant ones, eventually becoming clusters,
tribes, colonies, states and nations. Historically speaking the
village is at the grassroots. Today, larger congested settlements
called cities are most popular and seem to overwhelm the village
concept, but these larger places of inhabitation can be more
polluted even with their amenities and advantages.
The global village is an extension of the primitive village;
theoretically it embraces the entire planet with its expanding
concept of brother- and sisterhood. Various diverse cultures are
striving to come together and form regional communities. Even with
much effort elemental endeavors at community-building are not
automatically successful. Perhaps one reason is that such systems
require much selfless sacrifice, practices that individual-centered
people do not find popular today. Forming communities demands some
prior commitment and this is especially true of those who desire to
live in splendid self-satisfying isolation. History is replete
with the ruins of intentional communities that arose, stayed awhile
and then died out. A global community seems distant.
Common commitment holds husband and wife as one and keeps
families in a loving relationship; such commitment strives to bind
corporations and groups in cooperative relationships. The global
village demands an extended public commitment that transcends
cultures and individual aspirations; it will only be as successful
as the generosity of individual members. This is why religious
commitments can be such powerful models for a world seeking
stability but often tempted by creature comforts. The stability of
secular eco-villages that give little consideration to common
commitment is quite problematic, especially in a capitalistic
society with its individual profit motivation that overshadows self
sacrifice for others. Are villagers willing to make long-term
commitments and have common goals? Will they see a global village
as a vision that is grand but worth strong commitment?
Prayer: Lord, inspire us to come together in a mutual helping
manner so that those who are more vulnerable may be assisted and
all can grow in love and fellowship. Help those who advocate the
global village see the value of long-term personal and religious
Crocus plants at an old homeplace
June 21, 2008 Heritage Seed
On Summer Solstice let's fully engage ourselves in the growing
season and the various aspects of planting and harvesting.
Seed saving time is here. The practice is as old as
agriculture, and yet it is now being threatened by corporations,
which demand that the genetically engineered (GE) seed be purchased
each year from them. A few years back in the western prairies of
Canada, farmers, who tried to continue to save their own seed,
refused to buy genetically engineered seed. However, the pollen
from neighboring GE fields contaminated their own crop. The seed
company took it on themselves to bomb the fields of the hold-out
farmers with herbicide and found that the product being harvested
was truly GE seed, because it withstood the attack. They demanded
that a fee be paid for being contaminated by the neighbor's GE
seed, because of indirect benefits. Unfair? Yes, but more such
tales are emerging. The globalization of seed production makes the
farmer totally dependent on and in the service of the "Big Brother"
seed company, as though George Orwell's 1984 has been realized.
In so many ways we should be good stewards of our heritage,
whether that be cultural, spiritual, ecological or agricultural.
The very living matter is worth conserving, for the goal of all
living things is to survive and continue through generations.
Survival becomes imperative, especially when corporate interests
seek uniformity to their own profit-making advantage. If farming
people save their own seed, what corporate profit is in that? They
must be denied such practices for the good of the privileged few.
Over time many different seed varieties have developed in
isolated places. These have adapted cultivars adapted to
particular climates and soils. They acquire resistance to certain
insects and diseases and can withstand harsh weather conditions.
These types of crop plants have their own flavors and ripening
times. With the advent of agribusiness techniques of the past few
decades the pressure has grown for uniformity of produce,
sturdiness under shipping conditions and similarity in marketing
appearance. Only a selected few of the cultivars have become
widely used commercially. This has worried many ecologically-
minded horticulturists, because it restricts the genetic pool,
especially when some heritage cultivars are being lost.
Seed banks and exchanges are springing up in order to save and
propagate these endangered but varied cultivars. However, to list
global, national and regional groups reduces the localized
orientation of this essay. A global bank in Norway has its merits
but we advocate having local seed banks also. Thus, the locally
adapted seeds can be shared within the community and become even
more adapted with time. Let us all find the seeds that others
treasure and exchange them at the grassroots level.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to value and promote our heritage and
that includes the seeds for our food plants.
Anemonella thalictroides, rue anemone
June 22, 2008 Fear Not, the Lord Is With Us
Why every hair of your head is numbered. So there is no need
to be afraid... (Matthew 10:30-31a)
At various times in our lives we come on hard times and we
need friends and companions along with assurance that we are not
alone in the journey of life. As part of the body of believers we
are reassured that the Lord is with us -- always at our side in our
individual journeys of faith. Fear stalks us but we hesitate to
express it openly. Often we do more than fear God; we are afraid
of many things real or imagined that seem to come in our
individual paths. As believers, we are mindful that we can
overcome such fear, for God is with us. This is not a cold, harsh,
unfriendly trip to an abrupt end; rather our journey involves
travel companions on the road to a New Heaven and New Earth.
The admonition to "fear not" goes beyond our individual
journeys of life; they also apply to our Earth's journey and our
past record for threatening the life on this fragile planet.
Some find it self-satisfying to become the authorities of horrors
and speak of a few decades hence when millions will be forced from
flooded homelands, other millions starving in drought-stricken
land, and still other millions being choked on polluted air.
Certainly the creation of such possible scenarios will draw
attention, but is it wise and is it spiritually healthy? Some fire
and brimstone messages awaken us, but they can also paralyze us to
such a degree that some hearers turn to denial, excuse or escape.
If we are people of action, the temptations to omission of duty
that occur when there appears to be no outlet are contagious.
Good ecology means there are non-ecological practices but,
more importantly, these must be balanced by the willingness to take
corrective measures -- and both fault and corrective need to be
communicated at virtually the same time. Otherwise, the hearers of
the message of doom and gloom will lose heart. Thus part of the
accompaniment by the Lord is that there is a divine providence that
overshadows all of our actions whether on the individual or global
level. We are called to be God's companions in the struggle to
bring faith to a troubled and unbelieving world; we walk with
others who fear and encourage them to act properly. We look back
to historic figures who offered themselves for others and take
courage; a happy outcome will ultimately result -- but to hold
this takes faith in a future for our Earth. Part of our overcoming
of fear involves breaking out of the faithlessness of our
materialistic world of which we are part. We need courage that a
New Earth is not only possible but can be the result of our
Prayer: Lord, let your words to "fear not" sink within our
hearts both as individuals and as a global community. If we grow
in courage to perform the tasks of healing our wounded Earth, we
can extend that courage -- with your help -- to others who falter
on their journeys. Help us to be fearless and to embolden others.
An accumulation of litter in the snow
June 23, 2008 Resource Self-Control
Wasting is wrong, but many of us never consider the moral
implications of resource misuse. We try to halt waste to save
money or because the thrown away produce is inconvenient or
unsightly. But what about the morality of our throwaway culture?
When someone wants to discard unfashionable clothes they salve
their consciences by giving the discards to charity. We throw out
food because we do not like the inconvenience of cooking with
leftovers. We neglect to turn off lights. We fail to turn so-
called kitchen waste into compost and yard wastes (grass clippings,
tree trimmings, etc.) into compost or mulch. With proper
foresight, the valuable living topsoil in development projects
could be saved during construction operations and restored around
many of the less densely constructed houses to become cultivated
space, but even this simple practice is often neglected.
We like to be in control, and there is something satisfying
about that. We don't want others controlling our lives; we prefer
to remain conscious in health procedures; we strive to be the
"captains of our own fate." Let's face it, not all things are
under our control. We did not choose how we were to be born, who
were our parents, and how we were launched in life. We did not
control the beginning situation, which has much to do with the rest
of our lives. In the same way, we have little to do with the time
and place of death and most often even the manner of it. We are at
the Lord's mercy. But between our beginnings and ends we could
exert some control mechanisms.
We have responsibilities where controls enter the picture; we
have free will, our ability to choose to act or not act, and to
choose this or that way of acting. We can accept and enhance our
living circumstances; we can help create opportunities to give,
love and share with others. We can cultivate the gift of self-
control as part of our free choices. Practicing self-control over
our eyes and heart and mind allows us to focus on important
decisions we must make including lifestyle choices. We need to see
these moments of discernment as part of our proper journey of
faith. Then and only then do we gain the habits that allow for
self-control, for saying no to excesses, for moderation in food and
drink, for realizing our own weaknesses, and for finding the grace
to favor self-control in all matters.
Prayer: Oh God, Conservator of all Life, increase our
awareness of the precious resources entrusted to us. Teach us to
use all material things to the degree they assist us to attain our
end, and never to overuse or waste resources that You pronounced as
good. Make us stewards of these gifts, aware of how fleeting is
our time and how fragile our entrusted gifts. Teach us to be
sensitive to the needs of those lacking basic necessities. Allow
us to value the gift of our time, seasons, land, the recyclable
materials around us, and our own energy reserves. Thank You for
giving us models of wise users of resources and inspire us to make
their examples known to others.
June 24, 2008 John the Baptist
The symmetry of our year is seen in the three month intervals
revolving around Christmas: Annunciation on March 25, Birth of
John on this day, and Maternity of Mary on September 25. Such is
part of nine-month gestation -- at least liturgically speaking.
John (Luke 1: 5-17) comes before Christ and announces him, and
today's feast tells with solemnity about John's own birth. His
mother is childless in old age, much like Sarah, Rachel, Rebecca
and Hannah. And yet John is conceived and is active even before
his birth, for he dances with joy at Mary's approach bearing the
yet unborn Jesus. Zacharia, John's father, is struck speechless
at the impending event, but he regains his voice in the naming of
this new-born son. We know little of John's early life except that
he is driven by the Spirit into the desert; there he lives on
natural things in a very harsh environment, eating locusts and wild
honey. John is not a wild man, only the natural is involved in his
preparation to serve the Lord.
John is the last of the great individual prophets coming at
the crossroads between the Old and New Covenant. He prepares the
way for the coming of the Messiah. While in the wilderness, he
still draws crowds to hear him and disciples to follow him.
He walks the lonely road that his cousin will take as a solitary
witness when he cleans the temple, speaks openly to the leaders of
the country, and walks the lonely road to Calvary. John tells King
Herod about the king's faults, and for this has his head delivered
to a belly dancer's mother. As Jesus says, none born of woman is
greater than John. Such is life!
Such a life as John the Baptist's is hard to imitate or at
least we think so. At times we must go out and take a more simple
stance and lifestyle though not imitating John to the extreme. At
certain times we must stand alone and discover that our voice is of
one crying in the wilderness of a noisy world. We are also called
to a mission, even a unique one, just as John was. Through the
waters of baptism we too share in the prophetic mission, the public
message or our lives more than even our words. We too live to
present Christ to others as one who announces the Good News.
What we sow, others will reap; what we start, others must finish.
We need be humble for we like John do not see the final outcome.
But we should not glory in another's uniqueness alone, but
in the fidelity of living up to the gifts given and the mission
called forth. John stands out as a living example of what God
expects of an individual; to announce even if it hurts. We should
not retreat into the crowd even though tempted. Just as in John's
day our fidelity means remaining committed even under the pressure
of a faithless materialistic culture.
Prayer: Lord, call us and keep us in that calling, just as
You did with John the Baptist. Uniqueness was written all over his
being -- and ours as well, if we but stop and compare actions.
The Kentucky Bluebird Box
for building plans)
June 25, 2008 Bird Sanctuaries
To some a "sanctuary" is a place of escape and to seek
protection from others. Each of us can establish our own bird
sanctuary, a piece of greenspace where birds can come and find
food, water and relatively safe nesting and habitat. We must do
something because our modern practices destroying traditional bird
habitat. Song birds have been decimated through loss of habitat
and need to be welcomed by providing winter feeding areas, nest
locations and bird baths. Some purists oppose bird attractions,
but if our human activity has threatened birds through habitat
destruction, then we ought to take steps to protect them. See
Sally Roth, Attracting Birds to Your Backyard: 536 Ways to Turn
Your Yard and Garden into a Haven for Your Favorite Birds (Emmaus,
PA: Rodale Press, 1998).
Select plant varieties that provide birds with materials and
habitat they need to survive winter, successfully rear young, and
hide from predators (the worst of which is the domestic cat).
Edible landscape doesn't just refer to human food, but can be
designed to provide birds with berries such as the fruit of the
cranberry bush (Viburnum trilobum). Planting such tree species as
mulberry might bring welcome change of pace from the more typical
battle to keep birds away from ripening domestic fruits. Edible
plant species should not be exotic invasive species such as bush
honeysuckle, oriental bittersweet, or autumn or Russian olive.
Landscaping for birds includes encouraging them to come nearer,
especially so shut-ins can see them. Evergreen cover creates a
micro-climate of warmth and wind shelter ideal for the winter-
residing birds. Leave shrubs unpruned at ground level; select
ornamental flowers that attract wildlife by doubling as a food
source. The garden sunflower is an addition to a cultivated area,
which produces homegrown bird seed. Hummingbirds love the
beautiful red flower called bee balm, also known as Oswego tea;
they are attracted to tube-shaped (mainly red) flowers as preferred
food sources. Choose berry varieties that are small enough for
songbirds to eat, such as serviceberry and elderberry. Leave dead
snags and fallen trees as a source of food for woodpeckers and
A public notice of a formal bird sanctuary continues the
Church tradition of offering sanctuary to people sought after by
the law. Today, we need to speak for birds by providing them a
hospitable habitat -- a sanctuary. Work with local conservation
groups, enlist volunteers, assist with scientific inventories, and
identify local birds and their food and nesting needs. The nearer
land approximates the original conditions, the more attractive such
places are for the return of birds. Contact: National Audubon
Society, Web-site: <www.audubon.org>. Thomas G. Barnes,
Gardening for the Birds, (The University Press of Kentucky, 1999).
Prayer: Lord, since not a single sparrow falls to the ground
without your consent, help us to protect all threatened birds.
A cluster of lush green summer foliage on the forest floor
June 26, 2008 Resource Conservation Gardening
During the beginnings of this hot summer let's review
techniques for gardening in such a way that space and natural
resources are conserved. Here are some ways beyond merely mulching
that have already been discussed.
* Raised-Bed Gardening -- This technique requires human effort
to construct the beds, but has the advantages of saving growing
space, producing more per unit of garden area than with
conventional techniques, and allowing excess water to drain away
after heavy rains. The moist, but not soggy, soil is tilled far
more quickly than non-raised-bed areas. Raised-beds permit more
aeration of the produce; and raised-beds do not require as much
bending over by us older folks. Raised-beds may be constructed by
bringing in additional top soil, or by sinking paths around
designated bed areas and piling the dirt onto the growing area.
Larger vegetables and herbs (peppers, basil, etc.) can overhang the
paths that are not cultivated and thus save growing area. The
moisture from rain striking the path can be covered with chips,
straw or sawdust or by a clover covering.
* Double-Dug Plots -- Another high yielding but initially
labor intensive domestic garden technique involves digging down and
loosening a lower soil layer below the one foot of topsoil with a
multi-pronged fork. This allows for enhanced root growth, and adds
aeration to the lower level of the soil. Over time double-digging
saves on annual hand tilling, and the looser soil encourages still
more earthworms. On the whole, loosened soil increases yields and
thus is a space-saver along with raised-bed gardening for people
with limited gardening space and the willingness to exert energy.
* Natural Pest Control Agents -- Interplanting with some
types of flowers (e.g., marigolds) and herbs attracts both bees and
other pollinating insects and birds, and these plants discourage
certain types of pests.
* Interplanting of Vegetables -- A great space-saver is to
plant an early-harvested crop (e.g. radishes) and while this is
growing, to plant a second later-maturing crop within the same
area. For instance, I interplant tomatoes in mid- to late spring
amid the onion, lettuce or spinach rows, and when these early crops
mature, the foot-high tomatoes will accelerate growth to cover the
area for late summer and early autumn. I have found that cucumbers
and peppers can be interplanted, and that the harvest of cucumbers
in mid-summer occurs when the peppers are just climbing in height.
By September and later these peppers will produce, while the now
dead cucumber vine serves as ground cover. Much has been written
by other gardeners on friendly vegetable combinations, but I find
that most vegetables and herbs grow well together. However, fennel
does appear to be really incompatible with many vegetables.
Prayer: Lord, we are often limited in our resources. Help us
to accept the challenge to conserve and use them well.
Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis
June 27, 2008 Archbishop Romero's Prayer
Each month we dedicate one day to earthhealers and groups that
try to create and preserve justice in this troubled world. Here I
would like to mention my fellow Jesuit, Rob Currie, who works with
the noble people of Arenal in Nicaragua <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
While he and others work with those struggling for a better life,
we can reflect on their efforts in the words of the prayer credited
to martyred Archbishop Romero of San Salvador. Whoever the author,
the prayer is in the spirit of the kindly Archbishop and of the
many who work for social justice in Latin America:
It helps, now and then, to step back
and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even
beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the
magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying that
the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that should be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our
We cannot do everything,
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning,
a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord's grace
to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future that is not our own.
A rushing Bluegrass stream
June 28, 2008 Observe -- Don't Make-- Fireworks Displays
Independence Day weekend is upon us and we see tents, which
sell many types of fireworks in the supermarket parking lots. The
tents state the wisdom of using certain safeguards as to storage
and sale, and raise for us a warning signal as to the danger of
this stuff. Other countries have their fireworks as well, with
fewer safeguards and more mishaps. A Chinese school, which made
fireworks to finance its operation, went up in a bang earlier this
decade killing a number of youth. When I visited India, the
fireworks were so loud and ubiquitous during the Dewali holiday;
New Delhi was like a battlefield -- with associated injuries.
Participating in sports is preferred over being a mere
spectator, well, most of the time. This rule has an exception,
namely observe setting off fireworks and don't do it yourself
unless you are an expert. Fireworks are too dangerous for average
people, and that is especially true with youth who naturally
gravitate to fireworks. Nearby Tennessee allows the sale of an
array of noisemakers and pyrotechnic devices. However, an
increasing number of cities and states are restricting the sale of
fireworks. Legislators favor health and safety.
Bang! Bang! Fireworks are part of a holiday of relaxation and
frivolity, when attention is short and safety is disregarded.
Children dart about; adults are distracted; pranksters are out in
force. It is the perfect time for the unexpected accident that can
hurt someone or start a fire. Performing the entertainment can
best be left to the professionals. Take the kids for an evening
out and watch the displays from a safe distance. Experts have
fewer accidents, but even then the occupation of displaying
fireworks is a dangerous one.
Fireworks displays have many advantages: they are beautiful
and worth occasional demonstration; they give a special tone to a
public holiday with its patriotic flavor; the fireworks are set
off at a central location and thus can be enjoyed by a large number
of people; this display can be the grand finale of a day's
entertainment and concentrates noise to one time and place only;
the single performance is less disturbing to neighborhoods; and the
handling of fireworks by professionals reduces the number of
pranks. As kids, we hid at the roadside and threw firecrackers at
passing trucks -- a shock and a possible cause of accident that
should not be imitated. Putting fireworks under the control of
careful experts curbs such acts. One might argue that fireworks,
like guns, should be available to all, and the right to bear arms
includes fireworks. Here again restrictions of supposed rights are
needed for the well being of a total society. Changing from
individual to group firework displays is more in keeping with
Independence Day, when our collective freedom was won by a
cooperative performance of a uniting set of colonies.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to work together and to enjoy things
as one uniting people -- and to avoid what is too dangerous for us.
June 29, 2008 Sts. Peter and Paul: Together But Different
Their message goes out through all the Earth. (Psalm 19)
The Church celebrates the feasts of Sts. Peter and Paul, those
early apostles whose personalities are so different yet their goals
are in harmony. Both apostles have histories of weakness: denial
of the Lord by one and acceptance of the killing of Stephen by the
other. However they follow their sacred calls to greatness.
Peter is the rock. Jesus gives a special command to Peter, a
person a world apart from Paul. He is a rugged man, one who comes
to know his weaknesses and yet is called by God to lead others. He
is a natural leader, one capable of immense love and kindness, a
lighthouse to which others look. Peter struggles to go beyond his
Jewish culture, but being open to the Lord, he accepts the expanded
mission of the Church and shows how he arrives at the insight.
Paul is the runner of the race. Paul has a different
personality from that of Peter and yet contributes much to the
total mission of the Church. Paul is highly educated, refined, a
Roman citizen, capable of complete dedication, gifted with words,
alert, far-reaching. Paul is on the move, a mobile person in a
Church that both stands in the middle of the storm and yet also
goes out to the rest of the world. Paul influences the early
Church in the greatest decision ever made -- to go out to the
gentile world. Paul's mobility leads to the image of an athlete:
I have finished the race. (II Timothy 4).
Peter and Paul are complementary models. Petrine stability
and Pauline mobility are both gifts needed for a living instrument
of divine enlightenment; neither is really greater: in respect to
leadership Peter is first and yet Paul furnishes dynamic energy.
Today we are a community of persons some who are on our far-ranging
journey of life and some who like to stay closer to home. At times
we all possess the two different tendencies -- to rest in a place
or to move out to another; to live in a settled condition or to
move on to eternity. Part of our calling is to recognize God's
gift at a given moment; another is to use that gift fully and
leave the place a better one.
In our calling as disciples, followers, and learners we are
chosen to be disciples. The task before us is immense and humbling
just as it was for Peter and Paul. We see God as our stable anchor
and rock; and God is in the moving wind. We are called to take a
leadership role like St. Peter -- to be role models for others who
are drifting around in their zigzag journeys of life, confused and
anchorless. Likewise we must be alert to changes that are needed
and, even when not in a policymaking role, we must speak out boldly
and be willing to carry the message to the public in the manner of
St. Paul for the community of believers must move out to the world.
Prayer: Lord, may the apostles who strengthened the faith of
the infant Church help us on our way to salvation.
Ants taking advantage of a freshly-cut tree
June 30, 2008 Reassess the Budget
As the first half of 2008 draws to a close, we look back and
have been hard hit by those rising food and fuel prices. In some
ways, calendar events may be the best time to talk about the
somewhat unpleasant task of budget review. We endure sport years,
liturgical years, academic years, crop-growing years, fiscal years,
and so forth, each having its own beginning, which is generally at
the first of a particular month. June 30th seems a perfect time
for a reassessment in the light of the current "inflation" year.
Know the budget. Set aside time to budget income and expenses.
Unless we are unusual, budgets are not in the forefront of our
minds, with two exceptions: we may be hard up for money; or we may
be spending beyond our means. Small comfort, but that is better
than not knowing either fact. If budgets are part of goal setting
and conservation of resources, they fit well in the global theme of
2008. But making the budget controllable is often another matter,
and mere knowledge of where we are right now may not be sufficient
to bring about those controls.
Assess the budget. An assessment is an overview, a judgment
after taking into consideration pertinent facts in the data
gathering process. While we monitor our spending, the ideal is to
have someone else do the assessment, for it gives an added
dimension of objectivity. How well did we fare in the last half-
year? Maybe we would be too optimistic or pessimistic -- the glass
half-filled, or half-empty. Were things far better than expected
or far worse? The current down-turn speaks volumes. Can the belt
be tightened more? Are there overlooked categories of savings?
Revise the budget. One solution when we can influence our own
budget formation is to construct a low (pessimistic), medium
(realistic), and high (optimistic) budget. Make the low budget the
level of survival, the medium that of normal operation, and the
high, one of possible capital expansion. Revision shows a sense of
control and an openness that allows us to be creative within the
realms of emerging resource possibilities. For the pessimist,
revision is a burden; for the realist, the practice of budget
revision is a challenge; for the optimist, we have an opportunity
to be creative and find new ways to use resources properly.
Revision cannot be mere line-item readjustments or putting off to
consider at another time. A certain freedom may be demanded in
revising budgets for, otherwise, we will be enslaved to numbers
established before the current financial situation.
Live with the budget. Many do not use a budget, and adjusting
existing ones may seem a strange mathematical exercise. However,
the day of reckoning is hard on the unbudgeted. Ask advice.
Budgeting is time well spent whether for domestic, corporate or
personal spiritual life. Confronting limitations is part of life.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to know our limits and live with them
especially during these troubling times.