June is when spring freshness vanishes to the harshness of summer and this is heralded by thunderstorms. Peas bloom, beans sprout, cucumbers vine, tomatoes bloom, spinach flourishes and zucchini explode. We pick strawberries, raspberries and the earliest blackberries. Pale blue exotic wild chicory decorates roadsides; day lilies add color as do bee balm, red trillium and black-eyed Susans, all graced with majestic Queen Anne's lace. June means summer apples and mulberries, early plums, young corn and soybeans plants, and the scent of new-mown hay and blooming, but exotic, Japanese honeysuckle. June is the month that invites us to ask some basic questions deserving answers or at least further pondering.
So sweet, so present, so touching, So common, so true, so fragrant -- inviting bees to make honey. Red clover, that super cover, that gentle softness in the lawn, giving rare delight to our land.
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June 1, 2020Happiness, Confrontation and Holy Discontent
The desire for happiness is often put in terms of peace, retirement and lack of stress of any sort. Certainly I am perplexed by a number of issues and so my happiness could be called into question. At the heart of the matter I agree with my mother in her old age who said over and over, "I'm happy, happy, happy." Our family was deeply impressed by her happiness and each prayed that our elder years would be joyfully mixed with gratitude to God for a wonderful life. In some ways I do feel that sense of happiness even though I work in my senior years on issues that are filled with impending struggle and discontent. Distinctions?
Happiness comes when we know we are doing what God wants and that in some way we are moving towards a distant horizon, an indefinite future time, but still a certain eternal future. Happiness is realizing that all does not depend on us, but we are the Lord's along with others on the journey; God holds our lives in divine hands. Happiness is accepting our limitations and working as well as we can with them. Happiness is being on the side of the poor and finding friends in solidarity will all.
Discontent arises in various ways. For one thing, it is being on the wrong road, thinking all depends on us, refusing to accept inherent limitations of self, and attempting to discover companionship on the side of wealth, fame, and power. On the other hand, the term "holy discontent" implies suffering through what it takes to be on the right road, to be dependent on God, knowingly to be limited in human talents and resources, and to be accepted as of little account for siding with the poor and associating with them. Holy discontent includes being unsettled because solutions are not immediately forthcoming, and we may not be present for solutions.
Nevertheless, the fact of incompleteness can be humbling and trigger happiness in the words of St. Ignatius and others as part of the road to sanctity. We become more like Christ in the way we proceed. Thus, just as tranquility is not peace, so comfort and contentment are not the same as happiness. In further reflection we discover that comfort can be deceiving and thus not a true indicator of spiritual life -- in fact, it could be from the evil spirit. Holy discontent can be sure knowledge that through prayer and discernment we are going in the right direction with encouragement from others whose assurances are often needed.
In the struggle to solve problems, a holy discontent may be intensified by questions and objections from peers. In such cases, prayerful discernment and conversation with the Lord is required for it takes trust in God to know we still have a road ahead even when some we respect to not fully agree with what we are doing or understand what we are striving to accomplish. We happily trust in God to see us through life.
Prayer: Lord, make us ready to do your will and in so doing to see holy discontent as part of our sacrificial oblation to you.
Let us make a name for ourselves so we will not be scattered about the whole earth. (Genesis 11: 1-9)
There are a number of interpretations of the story of the Babel dispersal of the people into their own separate tongues. A literal interpretation may not be overlooked, for it shows that the oneness of any communal people speaking a single tongue can break apart through pride and worldly goals; the coherence of broader communities can be broken by individuality and selfishness. The dispersal leads to new cultural expressions and through isolation new languages emerge.
Theologically there is more here. The breaking apart of the common thread that bound the primitive people together was a pride in building their cities, the Tower of Babel being a symbol of reaching out to obtain divine greatness. As they used their ingenuity to build and the petroleum product to be the binding, we are reminded that a common language of greed exists today as well, and that this also uses petroleum products as well in trying to bind t he elites together in selfish purposes. Materialism, based on advanced technologies, can bring about a disruption of community goals and lead to insecurity and hostility among peoples.
Pentecost is a counter-current flowing in the opposite direction of the dissipation of a fragmenting materialism. It is the spiritual return or coming together, and this is Good News. The material interest that divides people into selfish automatons and isolated units is countered by the power of the Spirit to bring us back together as a single grouping. We recognize the power of God in our lives; we see the work we are called to do as partners with the Lord in spiritual empowerment; we begin to see the need for others to assist -- those in Church and beyond.
Technology is a promise or peril. Technology is a tool that can be used to spread Good News as well as division. The "babel" of a misdirected tower or form of communication has been perverted by selfishness into a dividing symbol; instead of truly assembling people in solidarity, it sets them apart from each other. The power to bring folks together is overlooked for selfish reasons. Thus, a privileged class speaks among themselves a language of capitalistic greed; overlooked is the great mass of people who are divided and scratching for a living as best they can. A sense of commons must be restored; that is the task of those steeped in the Good News of Pentecost. Assorted towers of Babel exist all around, and those who wanted to build them, babble on about their fading dreams of glory. So be it, but Good News brings about a spiritual gathering, a counter movement brings people together and not apart.
Prayer: Lord, let us see the dangers of a Babel where people make names (privileges) for themselves and forget others' needs; help us to champion the Pentecost spirit of togetherness.
Fungi in catnip garden. (*photo by Sally Ramsdell)
June 3, 2020Good News Will Ultimately Triumph
Positive helpful news for much of the mass media is NOT news. Often natural disasters are intermingled with mass killings and armed struggles to create the 24-7 news cast -- and they name names. The good deeds that abound in our world are hardly newsworthy. However, the challenge for bearers of Good News is to make it appealing to a broader audience. How can this be done given the sensational nature of today's media?
One solution: Accept bad news and make it palatable. Why fight bad news, for it is out there for presentation and reception? Just see the troubled world as a reality in which we come to cope and meet head on in a spiritual way. Take for granted that the reporter who finds such existing phenomena is more worthy of promotion, and so the scramble for more and more hidden sources of evil and destruction inspires his or her more graphic reporting. However, a failure to name killers and terrorists could greatly reduce the copycats; we leave off names of those underage; why report those who break the law as though the publicity matters? If left unknown perhaps many will forego the temptation to be someone important for a moment of terroristic glory.
Alternative solution: Overpower with good news. The opposite of bad news is a plethora of successful plans, reports and past stories of positive actions by people who have made a difference. It is promoting a series of human models who overcame the odds and performed feats of service for others. An in-built problem with this is that the models can be painted better than life. This may lead people to retreat into their own inner misgivings as to whether they could imitate the performers in the success stories. Just be yourself, and look for times to perform charitable deeds.
Balanced approach: Mix good news and bad. A sense of failures and successes could be regarded as a realistic approach of which some media do attempt to comply, at least in the total weight of the news when once past the headline stage. Much depends on how the stories are composed. In an age of troubles good things still happen, but some like to critique them unfairly. The tendency is to either inflate for competing headlines or to deflate to make the budding models imperfect people more to our tastes.
An emerging solution: focus on ultimate success. Perhaps there are too many good and bad items, and we suffer from information overload. More attention must be given to singular events that focus, rather than spread out scatter-shot across the media landscape caused by competition-prone outlets. Ought we to pick and choose, or is this not the expertise of news directors? Ultimately we are our own news directors, and what we watch is up to us and our ability to decide not to surf channels but settle on balanced news reporting. Choice of news depends on our judgment.
Prayer: Lord, give us the courage to find the news best suited for our benefit and to help others do the same.
Pentecost has many aspects that we cannot grasp fully in a single event. In fact, that is why the Pentecost Season lasts until the end of November -- a half year of time to reflect on how much the event touches our daily lives. We can grow in awareness of an immense Gift that is given, when Christ ascended and the Holy Spirit came and rested upon the disciples. As followers of those first inspired we have become inspired through Baptism/Confirmation to act as other christs in our world. The good Spirit moves us to say and do the right thing for the betterment of all.
Testimony abounds. In the Old Testament there was mention in numerous places of God's Spirit resting on groups or individuals: David, the various prophets and others through a divine favor. In the New Testament the rare expressions of divine inspiration has now extended to all the faithful through sacramental life. We receive the Holy Spirit as God's great act of love and mercy, for this is now given to each and every one of us of whatever race or color and economic condition. The Spirit knows no boundaries and manifests God's providence and power in a world all too often lacking in attention to what is really happening.
Respect the Gift with gratitude. The great generosity of God is revealed to us individually when we seek to do some good works. We discover what to say and how to react when it does not seem possible to find the right words. When these things happen say "Thank You, Lord." We respond not only in the inspired manner but with a heart-felt gratitude that God is with us in our immediate and longer-range needs. Respect comes in awareness and acknowledgement of the Gift given that we are certainly not deserving. Why do humans exist except to say thanks?
Show need to share our Gift. God is exceedingly generous and worthy of our immense gratitude. Inspiration has several attributes: it comes unexpectedly even when desperately needed; it manifests God's creative hand in the universe, in life itself and in guiding our rightful deeds; it triggers a response through enthusiasm or an awareness that the Lord is with us in a special way. This has a contagious effect on those around us, for our inspiration leads to their being caught up in being moved to do something in their own unique way. The tongues of fire have jumped to neighbors and the harmony now extends to the world through the instrumentality of our inspiration now being shared.
Evangelize through gratitude. Awareness of God having given something very special impels us to a more permanent condition of thanksgiving that swells up in each of us when least expecting it. This is the basis for "praying always." This does not stop at the individual level but becomes socialized in swelling up with a message to tell the world the Good News that it craves to hear.
Prayer: Lord, inspire us to help renew the face of the Earth through use of our hands, head and heart.
The Experience of Confronting a Real World
June is a new and promising growing season, even amid this distracting pandemic. We cultivate gardens, trim overgrowth, and pick mulberries and raspberries. We crave the full span of sunlight each day to raise the spirits and give us needed Vitamin D. Yes, during the month, springtime freshness fades like a youthful blush giving way to middle age. Even deep-colored black-eyed Susans ushers in a special summer tone. With limiting social contacts this year, we search for ways to go outdoors and yet physically distant from neighbors. Our experiences have a certain singularity while we hope and pray for the safety of all people.
This June's eco-spirituality involves answering the call to be resilient, upbeat, and cheerful; we seek to pace ourselves maturely, reaffirm our collaboratory mission through use of virtual social media, and prepare for a summer of trying times. Liturgically, this is a fitting transition to the long Pentecost season when our endurance and commitment to Christ are tested. In a normal June we might travel more and explore different surroundings; now we can become more familiar with the local outdoors and recall travels of the past. Our limitations are before us and we are keenly aware of being at the mercy of powerful natural forces. While lowly, we are challenged in summer to realize our spiritual empowerment. The Almighty teaches us how to be interactive in a challenging natural world, if we only take the time to see, listen, taste, smell, and touch the Divine Presence found in creation. This year we must use our sense more in an individual fashion and apart from the reaffirmation of others. Consider these experiences or recount memories of former actions:
Daydreaming in the back yard. We may not travel this year but can remember pleasant adventures of the past. Maneuvering the hidden recesses, sheer heights, and the rugged character of rock formations required close attention, especially when foliage was dense and the footholds ahead concealed. When we observed prominent cliffs and jagged rocks from a distance, they seemed ever so enchanting; up close, we experienced cliffs and caves as barriers to conquer and challenges to explore. In troubled times like now are we afraid to journey near life's jagged edges and be ready for what lies ahead? Do we have an insight into the wilderness of our soul? Can we find ourselves in the rugged terrain and somehow conquer our uncertainties and move on to what lies ahead? Memories of those climbed rocks have a way of eliciting new questions about our continuing journey of faith.
Experiencing the sounds and sights of storms. I had to get the cow with the newborn calf to the barn because the distance was great and the sky threatening. Upon finding them I tried to carry the calf but it was too heavy for a youth of ten or twelve. I tried to drive the cow but she went in circles back to the walking calf. Finally she nudged me and moved me to go first, and she followed and the calf trotted behind her. We made it to the barn before the storm; what I learned in this close shave with storms is that we must go ahead and allow others to follow -- not drive them. The cow taught me a youthful lesson, for God speaks to us through lowly creatures if we but listen.
The sounds of creation vary in volume, tone and pitch -- and even with the seasons. Other powerful sounds (earthquakes, mighty waterfalls or the crash of an ocean wave) are rarely experienced, highly localized, or too far away for inland residents. However, distant or local thunder rumbles and close crashes give us a sense of powerlessness. Dogs and other animals are often terrified by a thunderstorm, for it hurts their ears and triggers strange and unexpected behavior on their part. We are at the mercy of the God who sets this world in motion: we could be hit by lightning, washed away by flash floods, killed by earthquakes, or burned by flames. All life has its thunderstorms deserving of our respect in chaotic times, but through endurance we crave gentle breezes and are ever so grateful when they unexpectedly occur.
Savoring the priceless gift of cool water.As a doe longs for running streams, so longs my soul for you, my God. (Psalm 42:1)
Water has a particular taste in different places and we when thirsty are blessed when close to running streams, and doubly blessed if we can drink freely. Much of our water is like our lives, demanding secondary treatment for fear of organisms that might be present. In fact, some foul‑tasting mineral waters have been regarded for centuries as curative and healthy to the fortunate ones who have the means to "take the waters;" the unpleasant taste accompanied the anticipated curative process of soaking, sipping, and sitting around mineral-spring resorts. But clean, soft, and good-tasting water is inviting, and ought to be accessible to everyone. Let's enjoy the sound and feel of running water along with an inviting taste under proper conditions.
Smelling natural scents. Isaac, the patriarch, though blinded, still had a sense of smell, and could distinguish his sons accordingly. Perfumes and scents identify individuals as all dogs are most aware. Incense, a liturgical substance associated with the church assembly, has its place in raising our minds and hearts to God. We know particular smells of some animals, the pole cat, sweaty horse or wet dog. Every season has its special odors and June has the particular one after a thunder storm. Recognizing these aromas keeps us in touch with reality for better or worse.
Touching Earth. Some regard earth as cold and lifeless, and it certainly can be during frigid times. But let's think of Earth as warm, for this is our cradle, our refuge, our stronghold and our final resting place -- but that's a partial story. Feeling humus makes us humble and indicates to us that God alone is our true refuge and harbor of security. Only in God do we trust. If we but touch soil with reverence, we learn something about ourselves. We may be tempted to think the long days of June will last forever, but already by the month's end in barely perceptible ways days are shortening. And so are our days. Let's confront our natural world as a gentle friend calling us to be aware of our shrinking mortal span. We are lowly and yet called to glory.
It is hard to realize that fifty years have elapsed since the feeling of solidarity among concerned citizens back in 1970 at that first Earth Day. In that half century our understanding of needs have expanded immensely.
Environmental knowledge in 1970 was limited:
1. We expected environmental solutions in too short a time by focusing mostly on polluted air and water conditions. The correctives seemed to be clear and it was a matter of governmental prodding of offending industries to clean up the mess. Much progress was made on these fronts within a decade.
2. In 1970 we did not see clearly the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on how they affect climate change; fossil fuels, especially coal, were sources of toxic pollutants and land disturbance through surface mining, but the carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use were not yet fully understood.
3. Environmentalists did not understand that disparity of wealth is related to problems and that the consumer culture was deeply influenced by powerful corporate and media influences.
However, even at the early stages the wisdom of Rene Dubos was being heard of the connection between global and local issues: It is fortunate that practical necessities will compel local solutions to global problems....The ideal for our planet would seem to be not a world government, but a world order in which social units maintain their identity while interplaying with each other through rich communications networks." Celebrations of Life
Environmental experience in 2020 is more mature:
1. Problems such as global warming and threats to native species are better understood today thanks to accumulated knowledge over the last half century along with the work of a host of non-profit environmental groups. Naive notions of solutions coming easily have been debunked and a more systematic approach is being attempted at all levels of government and private organizations.
2. A partnership of organizations at all levels must work together and this extends to the community of nations through such groups committed to the Paris Climate Change Accord. However, the denial of such powerful groups as Big Energy and their clutching at the throat of the U.S. Administration means the battlelines are drawn, but victory is being delayed with the threat of global catastrophe.
3. A change to a needed "Green New Deal" is in the offing but not yet part of workable public policy. Whether it has a chance with stakes so high at this time is still unanswered.
Prayer: Lord, help us see what is needed to save our threatened Earth and to do all in our power to act accordingly.
On the move. Eastern box turtle, Terrapene carolina.
June 6, 2020 National Trails: A Great Infrastructure Investment
For those of us who strive to support new jobs through infrastructure investment, trail-making guarantees future payback at low investment costs. The National Trails Act of 1968 may have envisioned the companion to the Eisenhower Interstate Highway Network, but that dream is only starting to be fulfilled. National Trails Day tells us to look at the national trail system and find entire states especially in the Midwest which need promotion. Yes, our country needs improved infrastructure including better natural gas utility lines, renewable energy development, better public schools and more public transit; we also need better regional and interlocking trails, along with needed rest stops, lodging and other associated amenities.
Every time I see hikers and bikers on our narrow and dangerous secondary rural roads and then I enter the nearby Interstate System, the contrast is striking. One group with motorized vehicles is able to traverse the over forty thousand miles of one of the safest highway systems in the world; the other group observes signs to keep off public highway built with taxpayer money -- and is required to take great risks competing with autos and trucks on secondary roads with no shoulders or bike lanes. No, hikers and bikers do not need to be on the current Interstate lanes for their safety sake. Rather they need parallel lanes suited for their needs. A few years back an associate at ASPI and biker, Russell Parms, was struck and killed by a hit-and-run student driver who was late for Monday morning class.
Yes, bikers and hikers are unable to go easily and safely from place to place. Shouldn't these energy savers have an alternative safe trail network? Certainly, such a system has its bits and pieces in "rails to trails" sections, in the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and other local and regional trail segments. Had it not been for the Great Recession and tight-fisted succeeding Administrations and Congresses pieces of a possible national trail network would already have fallen into place. Our needs include expensive over- or under-passes, as well as rights-of-ways on Interstate corridors and public rural roads of various sizes.
This reflection is not meant to be an exercise in laying out a possible hiking/biking network with a developed map that looks like the Interstate System. Granted, some states have initiated their trail systems, and others lag with finances being the excuse for delay. Rather, this is "bang for the infrastructure buck," or getting the most out of a promising bipartisan infrastructure budget. If the trails system were adequate, interconnected, and included rest facilities, and were given national publicity, users would respond. Vacationers would use the trail network with such advantages as low prices, family togetherness, less stress and congestion, fresh air, physical exercise, and great scenic views.
Prayer: Lord, help us to see that national trails are good investments for our people and the improved quality of their lives.
June 7, 2020 Sharing Blessings in the Divine Family
Blessing another is our response to the God who has invited us into the divine embrace of Trinity, and that is the Divine Family. To bless is to extend ourselves to others and to share blessings with them. We acknowledge our elementary common heritage as part of the human family -- and now we experience the special invitation to become more godly in our actions. We can bless all and do so freely -- to butterflies, mushrooms, lichens, evergreens, berries, birds, and amphibians. We bless a land teeming with flora and fauna; we bless a blue-green planet tarnished by exploitation; we even bless the Creator of all things. Natural beauty leads to respect, and respect to blessing -- the prelude to Earthhealing.
We bless the agents of change, those who protect resources and heal Earth's wounds, those willing to confront misdeeds and the ones who commit them. Our blessings return to us and empower us. Even damage we now observe amid fading natural beauty makes us aware of original blessings, deep down and yet wrapped around with the paradox of fragility. Blessings return to us in damaged land and trigger action now, today. We care because we believe in what is presented and what we can share. God's favor is perceived as "ours," not mine or yours alone. Let's bless together, for blessing is the acknowledgment of togetherness in the Lord.
If someone says, "Get off my land," we are disturbed, for such acts restrict our personal enjoyment of gifts. With surprise we ask, "To whom does this land belong?" Actually the stark reality of possessiveness strikes us at the moment when raw beauty floods our soul. Some may depart without a word; others may express anger; still others resist and confront the supposed owners at the risk of being arrested as trespassers. As though awakening from a dream, we face reality: the commons has been privatized (through some legal mechanism) by the wealthy. These enclosures of the commons mar beauty, for it cannot be appreciated by everyone. This raises questions: How can we manifest our common sharing of natural and enhanced beauty with all people of good will?
At the moment of blessing we find a curse hidden deep down in the world that we regard as commons. The curse is uttered by the shouts of those who want us off their property, the "No Trespassing" signs and the lack of civility on occasions that are luxuries to some, and yet are considered potential essentials by others. Those who bless are sensitive to the unspoken curse. To reclaim the commons means that we must act, not merely admire, nor merely cast blame. Natural beauty is a blessing; our action to enhance it is a double blessing. However, we must face reality; curses exist, and recognizing that fact keeps us from becoming too naive. By admiring natural beauty we are drawn to God. We accept the invitation to be active members of the Divine Family.
Prayer: Holy Trinity, allow us to see your oneness and to find our reclaiming efforts as part of the blessed gifts given to us.
June 8, 2020Can Religionless Spirituality Heal Our Earth?
We are deeply concerned with a variety of friends and contacts who tell us that they have a spirituality but see no need for religion. On February 4, 2020 we gave reasons why religion is utterly needed today as part of the Earthhealing process, namely: religion encourages individual civility and civic involvement; religious life offers prophetic witness; and religion stimulates compassion within community. We all need to worship publicly, for this shows our dependence on the Most High -- and that we cannot do it all by ourselves. Furthermore, good spirituality affords us the chance to see we are limited -- and that inspiration drives us to find God together with others.
Spirituality without religion is like sailing a ship without a rudder or keel; it is hard to steady the course of life's journey of faith without sound navigation. Spirit tells us we are more than matter -- but certainly not perfect. Some spiritualities may be unhealthy, indifferent and poorly directed. Ships leak; seamanship can do poor work; and the vessel may head in the wrong direction. Religion gives us wind direction, a period to examine the boat's condition and awareness that we are imperfect and need others to help. Merely declaring one to be spiritual says little, for even Hitler and Stalin were "spirited" people. We may seek interreligious and ecumenical cooperation; however, grouping spiritualities together may allow a mix of those working together and those hell-bent on disrupting our lives. Yes, terrorists are spirited people with warped agendas.
Spiritualities are generally private, but religion involves a public commitment to believe in unity according to established discipline and common purpose. Broad gambits of individualistic and loosely-held spiritualities say nothing of any public commitment. While we need to be spirited enough to participate instead of denying, excusing or escaping, we must also realize that the threefold temptation unfortunately may not be overcome by an individual spirituality: denial is to abandon the problem; excuse is that public commitment is unnecessary; and escape is the constant allurement to meaningless and distracting exercises.
Some may say the threefold temptation also exists for religious-oriented people. Yes, the temptation is certainly there among all of us, especially since the damage is so disheartening, the healing is so broad-based in scope, and healers are so distracted by the cacophony all around; it is clear we need assistance, and religion directs us to God. We need reinforcement of a community of believers' faithful witness to see clearly the depths of damage; we need to know that we are not alone but are assisted by the hand of God in the work before us; and we need the focus that religious prayer and petition constantly give us.
Prayer: Lord, give us courage to find a future that involves our healing ministry; give us nourishment to carry on; and help us to remain focused on our goals.
June 9, 2020 Activist Options for Senior Citizens' Day
The myth that senior retirees have little more to do than fish and drink coffee under the Golden Arches needs investigation. Granted, fishing is what some people would like to do if they were not immobile. Caregivers for seniors wish their charges could fish and go and gather some place; they list three classes of people: doers, those wishing to be doers, and committed non-doers.
Senior activists (hobbyists and meeting-goers) generally realize that they are slowing down and have to pace themselves. They compensate by doing moderate garden work or cooking or visiting others. Their mobility diminishes. Benefits come by discerning better projects or asking assistance to help with the tasks at hand. Wisdom teaches us that we can act according to our abilities and circumstances, and we can act even by talking and encouraging our neighbor. Less demanding hobbies, closer to home visits to those in need, volunteering at local churches and civic centers, and a host of other opportunities await the diminishing energetic activist. Self-motivation is important for them.
Seniors wishing to do things are a class who are potentially available, if they could be creative even amid their limitations. I recall that Ralph, an aging activist in his own right, could not leave home but acquired a ministry of phoning other elderly people who wanted to converse; he would offer to sing and play his musical instrument (via phone) for them, hoping in his fading days to offer his own contribution to caring for others. Amazingly, those with greater spiritual fortitude find things to do with themselves, and they seem to turn their living circumstances into opportunities for others through email, phone, letters, and personal conversation. However, this group is not always self-motivated and needs the catalyst offered by caregivers and change agents.
Non-doers challenge senior caregivers who seek ways to motivate those who strive to vegetate and little more. Theirs is a tragedy that can be removed by a firm belief in the value of each individual's life and contribution to communal life. Some seniors have been "shelved" because of physical or mental difficulties and so others regard them of little worth. In fact, the habit of some elders being asked to pray has far more meaning than the less-spiritual caregiver might suspect. Believers enter a special world of reality that is moving our universe far beyond contributions of those in the limelight. A spiritual reality of the poor (who include the non-doers to a great degree) can actually make them the ones who feed the hungry, that is, the spiritually hungry whom Mother Teresa called a major group. Prayers can suddenly become the "powerfully poor," for radical change does not come from the rich or seemingly powerful. Give the non-doers new life and become an important component in our troubled world.
Prayer: Lord, help challenged caregivers encourage senior citizens at all levels of activity both physical and spiritual.
June 10, 2020 Dangers Resulting from Disparity of Wealth/Power
In the 1970s, the early days of environmental crisis, the problems were blamed at sheer numbers of expanding world population. Over time and with arguments found in such literature as The Contrasumers it became less fashionable to make the poor the culprits, and to see how much consumption by the affluent was less conspicuous and yet a considerable cause of pollution in subtle ways. In fact, with time, the revised culprits turned out to be "consumers," not ordinary poor folks, no matter how far the privileged classes distanced themselves from pollution sources (powerplant, uranium mine, etc,). Arguments were obscured because the Union of the Socialist Soviet Republics (USSR) and satellites were heavy environmental polluters, and yet inhabitants were not excessive consumers nor wealthy either. Eastern Germany was a foremost polluter by using lignite as a primary fuel: lakes were contaminated; forests were damaged; the Chernobyl accident laid waste to valuable land and harmed or shortened lives of thousands of nearby residents.
At the same time these facts were considered, a new thought began to emerge: it is not necessarily consumers but those who drive consumers to consume, namely media, captains of the consuming culture and rich leaders of cultural habits that demand more and more consumption. Disparity of wealth had much to do with disparity of power -- the ability of some to set trends through their supposed status in society.
With time, social justice and eco-justice were more linked together, and the former saw that environmental decline meant decline in social and community bonds; furthermore, decline in social bonds means the decline in environment. Thus, the fight for social justice and environmental protection are a single struggle. Super-rich consumption triggers middle class consumption down through the ladder of success-craven private vehicles, spacious housing, and processed foods. Cracking disparity is complex.
The environmental crisis has not declined since the Chinese Communist regime has become a foremost Capitalistic one, with a surging middle class clamoring also to enjoy what a rising class of their billionaires enjoy. On the other hand, primitive societies in the Amazon or New Guinea have lived in harmony with nature for centuries without major disparity or wealth. Among Native Americans in our American Southwest when power became unequal, natural environments suffered. The toll of excessive power and wealth go hand-in-hand; environmental protection suffers. At least when higher technologies in industrializing nations demand more resources and authorities had the power to obtain them, environments tended to suffer. An uncontrolled materialism leads to wealth, uncontrolled consumption, and to environmental harm.
Prayer: Lord, help us to unravel the mysteries of this environmental crisis and to see how materialism has led to excess power and wealth -- and help us to confront associated problems.
Fort McPherson, Nebraska, old mobile home reused
as office for tent
campground, decorated with neatly potted flowers (*photo
June 11, 2020Two Views on Material Possessions
Possessiveness of land leads to a sense of privilege that is opposed by the just aspirations of a free people who are naturally inclined to the Principle of Sharing. The Good News is that these natural aspirations are God-given. To counter these aspirations, those who are privileged with excess possessions require protection of their possessions from the rightful owners. Two views emerge from a reflection on the closure of the commons and the struggle to obtain essential goods by some and luxuries by others:
* Greed is a virtue and limited charity is the concern and decision of the privileged, versus Sharing is a virtue but charity can be an exercise of power, and so doing justice is better than merely giving to the needy in charity on a temporary basis.
* Consumers will be materially motivated to strive for greater shares of the resource pie; and
* Economicand corporateprivilege knows best, no matter what the world mess is, because poor are ignorant versus The material pie is limited; motivation should be directed to higher spiritual and qualitative horizons; Beware of the materially privileged and realize that "the poor" hold the key to rising and saving the Earth.
* Democracy means complete free choice, and millionaires have a right to become billionaires, versus Democracy is harmed by excessive wealth and Superrich inequalities hurt the human society, especially those lacking essentials of life.
* Free market and free trade are articles of faith;
* Credit energizes a culture of consumption, which influences people and nations far and wide, versus The market must be subject to regulation and trade must be fair along with consumer rights protected; Capital and credit are dangerous when left unregulated.
* Governments are to be despised, complacent, disparaged, and manipulated as a source of bail outs, and
* Problems are solved solely by secular procedures, versus Good government is absolutely necessary for the sake of our wounded Earth and our needy people; troubles stem from a lack of respect, reverence and faith in the future.
---------------------- Prayer: Lord, make us discerning people, able to see differences in the use and possession of material things, to realize how significant they are, and to explain differences to others for the sake of better distribution of world resources.
Reflecting on Exalting the Lowly
During this pandemic we are expected to collaborate globally, and thus raising each other’s spirits makes us reach out to the lowly and often forgotten. We are called to bear Good News and yet this is a challenging time. This seems to be an impossible task and yet all things are possible with God's help. The Earthhealing process requires everyone, not just experts. We must look to the Lord who tells us at the Last Supper that he is going to prepare an eternal place for us. Jesus is up ahead of us in time but invites us in the grand preparation that includes a New Earth. Jesus is spiritually with us in the community of believers, sacramentally in the Eucharist, and personally when we join in prayer to help others. Jesus is a majestic force attracting us to become other christs who continue his work on Earth.
Faith is challenged in these times of troubles. The Lord does not force us, but gives us the freedom to say "yes" or "no." A resurrected person physically walking among us would create fear not freedom, and that is something I did not understand when young -- and thought folks could be forced to faith. God's way is through freedom on the part of all parties; freely we believe and in an atmosphere of loving God chooses to save us and raise us up in glory. This role of self-sacrificing love is exemplified by Jesus dying for us. Recall that at the Ascension the disciples still did not understand the suffering servant role, but thought in terms of political force to restore Israel's sovereignty. They became inspired with the truth of self-sacrifice through action of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and so ought we at this time.
Go out to the whole world: proclaim the Good News to all creation (Mark 16:16). The movement out to others will take effort and diligence. St. Paul in words to Thessalonians speaks out clearly against idleness and says that if people don't work, they shouldn't eat. We are called to participate through work, for it will take effort to spread the Good News to the "whole world" and "all creation" -- even to the flora and fauna. We go out to kindred spirits, to neighbors and to those open who can communicate via a two-way street. After Vatican II, missionaries awoke to a paradigmatic shift: those going to others had a message for sure, but one needing embellishment in a distant culture containing some gifts worth discovering and incorporating in the global community. The initial proclamation, "Christ has risen," is now magnified in the fullness of creation. Enlivening others at times of troubles is at the heart of our Good News; we need to work together.
"The lowly must take what is rightly theirs" needs a spiritual interpretation -- not a call to violent revolution. What is assumed is a role in saving our Earth. We cannot wait for the elite to become overly generous and distribute basic goods. We know that violence is not the message of Mary's Magnificat, God has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly (Luke 1:52). "These words say that the world desired by God is a world of justice. That this order should be continually given reality in the world, and also that it should be given reality again and again in social systems and developing situations, as new economic conditions and opportunities appear, as new technical and productive possibilities are developed, along with new opportunities and requirements for the distribution of goods." Pope John Paul II, 1980. A pandemic is such an opportunity.
Exalting the lowly is a divine/human undertaking. For God is praised through exalting the humble. Mary becomes the exalted one, only as a reflection of God's greatness; Mary is unique in the manner of preparation and response. We all share in that uniqueness through Baptism/Confirmation in the divine life, and thus are empowered to say "yes" and bring Christ into the world. Mary's assent is a precursor to our assent; her gentle revolution as expressed in the Magnificat is the blueprint of our manner of acting. Believers say "yes" to the exalted mission of saving our very planet -- and the lowly have a key role to play. Taking what is rightly needed by the low includes the initiative to change the world, not awaiting the wealthy's assent, who for the greater part may be drawn to backlash and violence. The poor are moved to act.
God inspires the lowly to help save our wounded planet. The Good News involves a cooperative healing process involving all believers acting as a community. This exaltation will occur in a gentle fashion, for the Risen Lord is present. It does not rest in an overly individualized culture, in an atmosphere of intellectual elites, in the swagger of military power, or in the pomp of inherited royalty. Rather it involves a mass of people caught up in a mission and realizing that exaltation includes sacrifice for and with others, who are equally lowly and recognizing their own paradoxically humble and exalted status. Still they must take essentials. Don't forget that Cologne's Cardinal Frings taught during the 1945 German winter to take what is essential for life.
For an authentic eco-spirituality needed now, all parties must work together and none should be omitted. The lowly must act as change agents and as leaven or catalysts to hasten the movement forward; their actions are expressed globally by Internet in an effort to utilize resources sustainably; they are impelled to support the 2015 Paris Climate Change Accord. Clearly experts are insufficient without incorporating the poor, who suffer most from ecological imbalances. The affluent and powerful are simply paralyzed by fear of losing their material safety systems and their privileges. Profound change needs the vitality of the lowly. In order to catalyze this, the Church must break its silence and give a wholehearted option for the poor. We look to those who are frugal, practical and honest. We seek appropriate tools (next week's essay) to achieve our goals and insist on encouraging the lowly.
The Spirit is "brooding over this world" (Gerald Manley Hopkins). This pandemic is an opportunity to introduce a sustainable alternative to the gross wasteful economic system needing replacement. Full global collaboration involves a preferential option for the poor that includes implementing appropriate technologies for the transition required.
Red Admiral on Wood, Vanessa atalanta.
(photo: Sally Ramsdell)
June 12, 2020 Is Good News a Two-Way Street?
When we communicate with others, do we do so as solitary speakers of truth and demand their listening, or do we become hearers as well as bearers of "Good News"? The first is a one-way consisting our delivering information; the second is a two-way street. One could ask whether this question pertains to general religious apologetics, or does it also include this "info" website and its series of reflections. The more narrow approach has been discussed especially in Asian religious circles, for some Christians promote the idea that Christianity, as a minority religion in India, has much to give AND much to learn from others. A one-way street associated with older forms of evangelization emphasized that the bearer has something to "share" with others -- namely, that which is being offered, with only the expectation of the other is to listen and submit to truth.
The traditionalist Christian may argue that spiritual sharing is not like an economic transfer, namely, that a material exchange between two parties involves trading item for item, or money of some accepted value for items. Another could argue that this sharing of the Word is similar to an academic exercise of "sharing" knowledge by knower to the unlearned in a lecture hall, with some questions asked and discussed so that the truth grows on all. Sharing Good News is personal when we share Christ the Word with others; he comes and communicates with and among others.
However, Good News flows in two directions, namely from an organized church community through bearers to others. In the process the bearer is changed by hearers and their culture, and that transformative change (God's gifts to others) is carried back to the launching community. Primitive cultures and even plants and animals have much to give, for God's creative word has gone out to all the world. It deserves our grasping, honoring and celebrating. In growing, the Church becomes more open to all the world.
On this website we try to reveal the sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and feelings of nature's flora and fauna. Healing involves all people and includes a conversation with Earth's creatures. We allow Good News to become a conversation with Earth's creatures, for our command (Mark 16:16) is to go out "to all creation." Since God is the author of all life, hearers enliven and express key aspects of understanding the basic message.
The second way involves Church as gathering place, where thoughts of many can be heard, distilled, elaborated, and connected to the basic message or Kerygma -- the basic proclamation that Jesus Christ came, lived, suffered, died, and rose from the dead. Sharers include bearers of Good News and receivers of another's cultural milieu that is enlivened by plants and animals, and thus say "Amen" to news worth sharing to a broader world community.
Prayer: Lord, help us make the Church a focal point, the place where Good News is sent, received, shared, and celebrated.
Crayfish burrow, Central Kentucky Wildlife Management Area.
June 13, 2020Protect Silent Space in a Busy, Connected World
When I got my recent hearing aids and wore them in traffic I found out that congestion can overwhelm former silent space. We realize that electronic devices are filling a communications niche in our active world though, hopefully not when driving or attempting to pray or talk to others. The intrusiveness of cell phones gives us pause and question over-connectedness on the part of our society. What is wrong with being free from connections to others for some periods of time? One parent's answer was, "But I would not know what she is doing." A photo shows a crowd in Warsaw, Poland with all people standing with one ear to a cell phone. We do not know yet how much constant cell phone use could harm the brain, but evidence is mounting -- and it is not good.
Going beyond portable electronic devices is a challenge for those who question such gadgets. However, other intrusive items and practices include: social networking (Facebook and Twitter), land phones, television, radio, cars and general traffic, lawn mowers, sirens, airplanes, jackhammers, motorcycles, yelling kids, and on and on. In idyllic times birds and especially crows broke the silence; crickets chirping, cow bells tinkling, roosters crowing, and church bells tolling added to the charm. Silence has never been perfect; it’s a disadvantage for deaf people who cannot be alerted by alarms. Still, blessed silence has its place!
Like any musical performance, the silent interludes are needed as the moments in the composition between movements. Pure continuous sound, no matter how soothing, without silent space is unbalanced; so is our noisy lives. We have many places where sound enters and affects us, from a lullaby to a call for help. Tell the over-connected people among whom we live that they need silent space, whether in the evening or early morning, or in the middle of the work day, or during monthly or annual retreats. Silence is like a Sabbath in our life, the rest after action and before further action (see Sounds & Silence on this website).
Again, let us emphasize that over-connectedness is not a good thing. The one who is always present to another is really never at the perfect disposal of anyone. Busyness is not really a sign of importance; rather it signifies that little solid reflection occurs. We live in an age when everyone needs to take some period and rethink where he or she is going. The insecurity, hostility, and stress of our age are not good; nor is the tendency to over- spend, to concentrate wealth in the hands of a few, and to the movement of entire populations to states of higher energy expenditures. A world gone crazy is one in need of silence. Yes, written material does not demand an instant response, though with email and instant communication that is changing as well.
Prayer: Lord, help us to be creative enough with our time in the day, week, month, and year to find the silent space that we really need to plot out our lives anew, and seek a peaceful life.
Wild senna (Cassia hebecarpa),nectar source for the cloudless sulphur butterfly.
June 14, 2020 Corpus Christi: Becoming A Eucharistic Activist
Corpus Christi is about food, and challenges us when famished on our journey of faith. This is the Bread of Life of which we are nourished. So part of the glory of today's feast is that we are spiritually fed. But the Fathers of the Church tell us that if we know of others who are hungry and we partake of this spiritual meal, we do so unworthily if we do not feed the physically hungry. Our trouble today is the shrinking nature of our global neighborhood; those on the other side of the planet are our neighbors through instant communication, and a billion of them live with extreme food insecurity.
Feeding is then a two-way street. We must both be fed and feed; be fed spiritually and physically feed those who are hungry. The two are closely connected; awareness of current conditions trigger a holy discontent that motivates us to action. In addressing physical hunger we are addressing our spiritual hunger as well. You might ask why the emphasis on food; that is because other faults breed insensitivity arising from self-centeredness, greed, and succumbing to self-allurements. In this insensitivity we fail to see those in great need. From this emerges the dilemma related to the BIG question: Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed (or fail to feed) you? What if the answer to some or many of us is:
When you allowed a thousand billionaires to get away without paying fair taxes and a billion people to go hungry and you didn't do a thing about it, you did not feed me.
This response may haunt us; some have said if people do not get it resolved it could drive them crazy. My response is that we will either go crazy or we will change our ways -- for we still have some precious time. What we cannot do is continue "as is," for the question is what we ask now, not on Judgment Day. The feast of Corpus Christi recalls our dilemma and our possibilities.
Change means that we take our citizenship seriously and participate as best we can. Some will respond by finding the emaciated and hungry and contributing to relief agencies (Catholic Relief Services, Bread for the World, or others). However, the activist knows there is far more at stake, because merely doing little things, no matter how many, fails to address a global problem of which we as democratic members must be concerned. For the activist, charity or direct donation is a necessary but short-gap measure; yes some local hungry may be at our doorstep. If we do nothing to prod legislators to levy fair taxes, then the dilemma continues; if we act, we allow fairer use of resources in this world of wealth disparity; we will encourage the lowly to rise -- and those in high places to come down. We must act now.
Prayer: Lord, help us to see and believe, and to show that we believe that we can feed others ASAP.
June 15, 2020Defend the U.S.Environmental Protection Agency
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has a long-term record that is public and can be retrieved easily. Overlooking this past record is something that deserves correction. Merely furnishing information about its achievements will not keep it from losing its future programs, because enemies within the current administration seek to reduce its status to a mere showcase of an idealized order. Many of you may not have been around at its inception after the first Earth Day; this agency was born during the Nixon Administration and had strong bipartisan support. However, now things have turned politically nasty under the guise of budget-watching and fiscal responsibility.
At various times in its five-decade history, USEPA has stood out in defense of the environment often ahead of the general public. Now is one opportunity and it should focus on climate change legislation, and the reporting and regulation of carbon dioxide emissions. As in its past history, opposition has come principally from exploitative groups targeted to be regulated for polluting the great outdoors. Big Energy has always been a major opponent and now it has infiltrated the Administration.
Get the nation's moral leaders to direct attention of those who pride themselves in being pro-life, and to see that continued vitality of our planet is part of that goal. What applies to abortion and assisted suicide issues must extend to the web of life, including the life of this planet on which all physical life depends. Too many are strangely silent or they take a very risky stance with respect to our fragile troubled Earth. Morally speaking, defending the USEPA by confronting its critics in a forceful public way must be done now. If we do not defend the USEPA, we are allowing our country to lead the world in ignoring carbon dioxide reduction strategies. How are we to expect emerging nations, especially China and India, to follow suit if we continue to allow such high greenhouse gas levels in this country? In this critical decade we will either begin to save our world from drastic climate change, or we will allow for 2-4 degree temperature rises that will accelerate ice-cap melting and rising oceans.
Pro-lifers: abandon your partisanship and contact your representatives and speak up before it is too late for the only place in the universe known to have life as we know it. One of the best ways to speak up is to defend the USEPA, its enforcement procedures, its research on the best and fairest regulations, and it stance on all matters of protection. The agency needs room to function and adequate funding to get their mission achieved. Early in American history when James Madison was leader of the House of Representatives, that body sought to stifle the highly contentious Jay Treaty (between the U.S. and Great Britain) through withholding funding from treaty provisions. The current Congress knows the power of the purse. Loosen the purse and champion the USEPA.
Prayer: Teach us, Lord, to speak openly about vital issues.
Look, Elk! Some admire a grazing herd of elk -- especially if they are reintroduced to an elkless area. Elk numbered about ten million in North America at the arrival of Europeans in the sixteenth century. In the East they were hunted to extinction, though now are being reintroduced. Sightseers engage in tourism's number-one activity -- nature viewing --, and elk can enter the picture. Admirers are attracted to the male elks' majestic antlers grown annually as equipment to defend their harem and offspring. However, until recently elk sightings were limited to the West and the sounds of elk forgotten in the East. Elk cows bark to each other when in danger, mew to keep in communication, and whine to signal to calves, who bleat for their mothers when disturbed.
In 2002 the reintroduction of 1,500 wild elk to 16 eastern Kentucky counties has now grown thanks to plentiful grasslands and lack of predators to 10,000, the largest elk herd east of the Mississippi. The tourist sightseeing potential is great in choice spots but still not as great as in the open grasslands of the West. The presence of elk has a value in itself apart from human enjoyment. Still elk are prized by Native Americans and hunters as an abundant source of meat and for other body parts. Today, without thinning the elk numbers, natural increase can become worrisome to local residents; the elk are agile enough that they can damage expensive fencing if they so desire; they are able to harm cultivated areas.
Undoubtedly, denser human and elk populations seem to clash. When wandering elk leave their prescribed county boundaries, state agencies are permitting hunters to harvest in order to have some semblance of control. Note to local hunters: you are encouraged to help balance elk, deer, goose or other wildlife to the carrying capacity of the region. These species are sources of locally-grown organic meat with no payment to meat producers. The elk meat is now becoming readily available, organically-grown, free-ranging, local food for those living in the reintroduced areas. Much depends on how well these reintroduced herds continue to prosper.
Elk are not alone in wildlife mammal presence. Bears are appearing more frequently in our mountain areas, but that is through natural colonization or spreading from other regions. The same has been the case of deer that lack their native predators and are safeguarded by regulated hunting periods, along with specific harvest methods and limits on numbers. Stability in number and carrying capacity of these species are important ecological considerations, for each needs feed (vegetation) and habitat. Elk and deer make excellent food for local consumption, whereas bear meat may be less appetizing. And excess elk can be removed to restock other elkless portions of the East. The return of the elk is most welcome and gowing numbers of visitors will agree.
Prayer: Lord, help us to admire the majestic creatures you have made and to furnish them with quality habitat.
Walking trail through Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest.
June 17, 2020 World Day to Combat Drought
For some climate change is more rain, but for more it is the beginning of drought; many in the American West would agree. While reseeding clouds is expensive and problematic, fighting climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions comes more easily. Let's consider following the example of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah and introduce a discussion of where the world is going. Climate change is worth considering as a culprit. This phenomenon along with carelessness of governmental leaders causes increased desertification to thousands of acres in the band across north central Africa where the Moslem and Christian worlds meet and occasionally clash. Some deserts are growing and proving disastrous to local small farmers.
Politically, this region of desertification is a highly sensitive area as turmoil in Nigeria, Chad and Sudan testifies -- and the Sahara marches on. The same problems afflict other African nations as well as parts of Eurasia, Australia, and parts of China. Other climate change effects could have serious political ramifications as well, such as flooded Pacific and Indian Ocean island nations.
Economically, climate change is devastating and is reported to result in $4 trillion in costs to environment, health, and food security. This estimate was compiled a decade ago by experts for the International Finance Corporation, a component of the World Bank; losses are growing and some could cripple investment efforts from pension funds to national sovereign funds. Without remedial measures the impending situation could limit economic stability.
Socially, the effect of enhanced storms, floods, heat, cold, AND droughts will be enormous on certain groups of people who find it hard to mitigate local circumstances or migrate. We recall how the very poor were trapped at the time of Katrina and other hurricanes due to immobility. The same could be said of many people in Niger or Bangladesh. A severe climate change -- if current energy-use practices continue -- will have dramatic effects on the community life of perhaps three hundred million people in drought- and flood-prone nations.
Culturally, the drawbacks of climate change may have the most devastating effects. When cultural groups are threatened, they may withdraw into isolation for the sake of self preservation and create barriers that keep others out; in contrast, some ties break down in times of extreme pressure and communities break apart as migrants move to what are perceived to be better locations; this is particularly true for residents in flood- and drought-prone areas.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to see the current situation and how we as a people are causing what is happening on our planet; deserts advance through overgrazing and in climate change conditions. Help us discover and acknowledge causes and heal our wounded Earth.
My raspberry patch has grown each year and the local birds know it. This year I am putting cover on the patch to share with visitors. We have mentioned blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, mulberries, and elderberries in past years reflections -- and wish to note the flavorful raspberry as well. Raspberries are nutritious, being very rich in Vitamin C, and in folic acid, niacin, and riboflavin. The distinct intense taste of raspberry has long made it a prime candidate for drink and foods, especially bakery goods. Whether cultivated or wild (European are red and North American are black), raspberries have a multitude of uses of which some are worth recalling. Don't hesitate to pick them and eat on the spot, for raspberries are difficult to preserve for long and still retain that vine-ripened flavor. If taken home, try chilling and serving with sugar and cream or consider alternative ways to prepare them:
Angel Food Cake (with raspberries mixed or as topping)
Bananas and other fruit mixes
Brandy from raspberries
Bread with raspberries
Candy (especially hard candies, cream candies, and
chocolate- coated varieties)
Chicken breast (with raspberry sauce)
Cobblers (it takes many berries but could be mixed with
rhubarb or strawberries if available
Cottage Cheese (mix in whole berries)
Fruit juices (alone, it is strong and so it can be mixed with
cranberry or apple fruit)
Ice cream (homemade or as a topping with commercial vanilla) Jam or Jellies (alone or with others such as blackberries)
Oatmeal cooked (one of the Year 2011's "365 varieties" or
sprinkled on cold cereals)
Pancakes (mixed in the batter or used as a topping)
Pies (strong, and can be mixed with apple or blackberry)
Salads (even vegetable for color and flavor and tuna salad)
Syrup (add juice to apple syrup)
Tea (use the berry or the leaf)
Tarts (Manchester variety)
Toppings (for cakes of all sorts)
Trout (add raspberries either in cooking or as garnish)
Turkey with raspberry sauce
Yogurt (a flavor enhancer).
Prayer: Lord, help us be creative with raspberries, one of your most wonderful and delightful natural gifts to us.
Reflecting on Appropriate Technology
The lowly must be agents of change in order to achieve a better world, a New Creation. However, the lowly have not mastered sophisticated instruments, limitless resources, or attention-getting influence. But with a sense of peaceful non-violent activity one can trust that God will direct believers to ways that do not harm the environment, are people friendly, are inexpensive, and build community in their application.
Techne, in Greek an art or artifice, is the source of the word "technology," the science or study of the practical arts. From the creative inspiration of artisans comes an understanding and then a systematic treatment of the art of applying science or engineering for the public interest. From artisans to engineers is a natural progression, work of both hands and head. Industry naturally progresses from crafting brooms to machine production; there's a livelihood for artisans priding themselves with high quality brooms in contrast to lower priced manufactured ones.
Lionell Casson remarks that people in classical Greek times had toys powered by steam (surprise?), but they did not appreciate the power of steam to save labor (who cared about slaves?). Christian society believes in the right of all, even serfs, to have time to rest, pray and reflect. Monasteries realized the need to utilize water power and wind power for they expected their monks, residents and neighbors to have time away from servile work, devoted to prayer and worship on weekends and holydays. Thus, in fact, windmills and water-powered units sprang up all over Europe by and through the Dark Ages and were flourishing by the Middle Ages. Monks and other church people championed the right to rest and pray, to abstain from servile work, and so technology as labor-saving was championed in the Christian West, although it was overlooked in learned Greek and more practical Roman times.
Appropriate technology (AT) is a technology directed to furnishing essential human needs and yet not consume all one's time. A large tractor may be needed for farmers with large acreage. It saves the drudgery of daylight to dusk hard labor, which farmers with horse and oxen usually experienced. In a small vegetable patch, the same heavy tractor is a clumsy burden, taking room to turn around and compacting soil by its heavy weight. While tractors have use in large fields, they are costly to maintain. A more efficient hoe would be more appropriate in a garden.
Technology is capable of defining us -- A tool is not an inert instrument; it demands our respect and proper maintenance. E.F. Schumacher understood the role of AT as a tool for simple people and that sophisticated technologies do not meet those needs; in Small is Beautiful he argues that bigger is not necessarily better. Hoes cost less and are easy to handle, take no fuel, and are thus environmentally benign, and can help answer basic human needs (food, water, fuels, and building materials); they are appropriate in improving community economics and are people-friendly tools (no rapid obsolescence) and are non-threatening. AT can encourage community formation whereas an inappropriate sophisticated technology enhances distant corporate control. Here promise is accompanied by some perils with any and all tools.
EnvironmentalResource Assessments address the peril of trying too much in too short a time. Know resources at hand, realize which can be easily applied and identify persons who can conduct the greening operations. A host of energy and home improvement companies are now available. Independent resource assessors are able to evaluate specific places for certain environmentally benign, low-cost, user-friendly, and community-enhancing instruments and services. At times bad choices occur; for instance, a "straw-bale house" is good on the Great Plains where there is a plentiful supply of straw and low humidity; however, this method is unsatisfactory in humid areas where mold can grow.
Assessors ought to be experienced in AT, live simply, connect with ordinary folks and be motivated by public interest concerns. To develop a vaccine for Covid-19 virus is a global undertaking; it takes experts from many nations and institutions -- but urgency is primary. In the same way our climate-changing physical environment needs assessment by those with experience and knowledge. Assessors must be realistic and recognize resources (human and physical) at hand. The challenge is to determine the need for some environmental practice and to schedule a reasonable period for its implementation on the particular level desired.
Assessments are not audits. We monitor ourselves through examination of conscience and seek forgiveness for emerging faults. On occasion we need periodic assessment from the oversight of friends and spiritual advisors. In a physical environment we need to continue auditing our use of resources on a regular basis; we can improve our AT activities greatly by objective advise from those who know the proper tools to balance resources at hand.
Environmental resource assessments (ERAs) cover all aspects of the property, namely land, buildings, transportation facilities, water, wildlife, energy, waste utilization, food, and community. These issue areas should be assembled with associated problems and arranged in an order or set of priorities so that they can be systemically addressed according to a reasonable time schedule.
Auditing physical resources is best performed on a routine and frequent basis by internal staff or people acquainted with the local operations.
Actions to save our wounded Earth need to be appropriate and sustainable. These demand knowing what are our resources to effect improvement. With the help of others who recognize our limitations and know available AT applications, a greener local environment can quickly occur through planning and decision-making. While individual and constant monitoring is a frequent practice, assessments are rare in frequency. During the precious time in this pandemic these suggestions are worthy of reflection and should be extended to climate-change-curbing actions.
Wild bergamot, Monarda fistulosa. Washington Co., KY.
June 19, 2020 Elitism is Anti-Democratic
An earnest neighbor actually countered my statement of fact that the wealthiest 1% of Kentucky's residents pay the lowest rate of taxes. To my utter amazement his reply was, "Why shouldn't we favor them? They furnish us with jobs, don't they?" In his mind the elite are certainly present and ought to retain their "eliteness." He thought he was a good citizen by defending their claims, their manner of speech, subtle ways of acting, their privileged company, and their methods of promoting "charity" work. He looked up to a tarnished symbol and forgot that elitism of such was undemocratic and hostile to the best of American aspirations.
Democracy can be malleable. During the earliest days of this Republic, efforts at making George Washington a king showed the desire by some for old fashioned nobility. This was resisted by other participants in the Revolution -- and differences led to partisanship towards the end of the eighteenth century. In hidden ways, the desire for recognized nobility is still strong today (a new member of British royalty was born on the day this is edited). Efforts are made to maintain elite positions through exclusive clubs, event recognition, social media publicity, CV importance, recognition of authority, and in unconscious biases against certain groups. A sense of equality for all is not an easy concept to popularize no matter what the efforts. Unfortunately, some folks exalt in those who are "above them" in status.
Democracy is fragile; it suffers by distinguishing several classes of citizenry, and this leads to discouraging so-called second-class citizens from assembling and participating. "Let the experts do the job," is quite tempting -- relinquishing the perks of citizenship to the elite. This apathy is reinforced by the following unfair and undemocratic activities: preserving tax privileges for the wealthy lest they cease being elite; deferring to those regarded as expert whether or not they know the situation; and placing higher judgment on the theoretical over practical experience. The non-elitists suffer from lack of critical recognition, and thus may strive to present themselves as satisfied with the current status quo.
Democracy is open and public, for in theory all citizens have a voice and that voice ought to be heard. However, we suffer with instant and preferred media coverage to those of special attention. Amid the chatter, democracy is best served truly by listening and understanding the reasoning of the practice, the wise, and the folks with common sense, not just the notable and talkative. Good reasoning is often drowned out through political posturing. The flood of information and the multiplicity of news channels confuse many citizens who need time to reflect and are hesitant in voicing their positions. Let's learn to listen beyond the elitist drone.
Prayer: Lord, help us to see that we all are humble servants before your majesty. What supposedly makes us in our opinion "elite" could set us apart from the nobility of the commons.
Wild grapes in the forest canopy provide food for many creatures.
June 20, 2020 Similarity in Making-Hay and Healing Earth
Summertime today! This is the beginning of the major harvest season (haying) in the Northern Hemisphere. The tall grasses are being mowed and allowed to dry and then collected and stored in some suitable manner. In recent times hay is rolled into large quarter-ton bales and often left in the field until needed in winter. In our childhood farming days, hay bales were smaller, and we would struggle to put them on wagons and take to barns for storage or to make hay stacks (in order to protect a major portion from the weather). Then and now, the aim was to "make hay" during optimal times of vegetative growth and highest nutritional content. Thus the expression to "Make hay while the sun shines." Don't do it on rainy days (or the hay will mold); don't waste sunny days when the hay must be made (the optimal hay harvest period is limited while daylight is longer). A similar saying is "strike while the iron is hot" -- right now.
Why as summer begins? Hay-making is similar to Earthhealing. While our healing task continues over a temporal span, an optimal suitable time is obvious to the observant and conscientious person. We cannot put off acting, for the human factors that contribute to environmental damage (carbon dioxide, carbon black, methane, and a number of other air pollutants) all add to an ailing planet in need of proper care. The summer solstice, the longest day is the optimal time to reconsider the urgency of the current situation. Tomorrow begins the process of the shortening of days, and so less of this precious daylight commodity will be available.
Hay-making teaches us something; the operation is hot, sweaty, and dusty work -- though ultimately richly rewarding, especially as feed for cattle in wintertime. The animals will cherish the product being preserved, and so the investment is worth it -- a long-term investment when those who benefit are not the ones who make the initial sacrifice. Earthhealing has a similar role to play. Earthhealing procedures to avoid climate change will be cherished and enjoyed by parties (grandchildren and great-grand children) who are not now making sacrifices -- but we have faith in the future and are willing to help generate long-term benefits.
We need to accept responsibility for what must be done (no denial), realize our personal responsibility (no excuse), and act according to the talents and skills at our disposal (no escape). We are willing to invest time and effort to help a future generation that will live after us and thank us for our efforts -- or curse our negligence. They demand our responsible acts today, for not delaying to a "better" day. Each day lost in the struggle to control climate change makes it all the harder in the future. Promoting a sense of urgency is part of our mission.
Prayer: Lord, help us see today's hay-making as somewhat different from last year's, and yet just as urgent with respect to the threats facing our wounded planet. Help us act now, for to heal means we cannot delay. Make us aware that the time is right.
A tangle of weeds creates a natural bouquet.
June 21, 2020 Do Not Be Afraid, 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)
For those of us facing harder times we must recall that the Lord is with us. In God we trust! As part of the body of believers we are reassured that the Lord is always at our side in our individual moments of uncertainty and pain. Perhaps fear stalks us, but we hesitate to express it openly. Often 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 a merciful and loving God is with us. This is not a cold, harsh, unfriendly meeting with an abrupt end; rather our journey involves a constant companion on the road to the somewhat distant and ever nearer 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 in this age of threatening climate change, but 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 occur as raw reality.
Bad ecology implies a host of practices that are not green but harmful to the environment. 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 may 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.
As God's helpers we discover new ways of healing our wounded earth. One that is rapidly assuming importance in 2020 is substituting plant protein (e.g. vegan burgers) for beef and other animals. Immense ecological savings accrue every day. We accompany others and encourage them to act more conservatives. This takes faith in a future for our planet. Part of overcoming fear involves challenging the faithlessness of our materialistic world of which we are immersed. Care to be counter-cultural. We can make a difference with God at our side.
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 to others who falter on their journeys.
Milkweed in full bloom at Tom Dorman State Nature Preserve, KY.
June 22, 2020 Should We Preserve Nature as Untouched?
Wind turbines are certainly noticeable, and some landscapes can change dramatically when these are installed. This situation leads to disputes over change of land use, though farmers can testify that land on which turbines are installed is still used for agricultural purposes (grazing and growing crops). Purists want the land to remain visibly untouched, and accuse resource owners of placing "economic value" on natural phenomena. On the other hand benefits exist due to tourist potential in lodging, meals, and fuel purchases in the given region. However, all concede that "priceless" viewscape may be separated from pure economics; for purists, placing value on nature is simony or buying sacred items.
Those who assign monetary value to nature overlook the spiritual content of God-given gifts. How do you price natural beauty, even though creative artists may get good prices for their depictions of how scenes touch them? Many lovers of nature resist allowing natural beauty to become a commercial commodity to be bought, sold, or used and wasted at will. I recall homeowners who devastated an Appalachian viewscape by erected gaudy houses at key locations -- and ruined the total viewscape for others, so that the privileged could look out while spoiling the commons for others. This is a public manifestation of changing or touching of nature for individual selfish use and without public consideration.
In seizing what is part of the commons, commodity-makers denigrate the shared democratic values of all citizens. Champions of natural beauty see the forest as having aesthetic value in itself; exploiters see forests as home sites, or timber and logs, or even as having tourist potential. Think of the homes perched in the West fire-prone wilderness. Yes, all agree that tree-cutting can be defacing landscape for a period of time, but attest that the forest will return. Roads to tourist destinations along with motels and service stations are the sacrifices for others to accept in admiring natural beauty, but less impact takes regulation.
Should human activity include retouching natural beauty? Rene Dubos argues that human efforts can enhance nature and it is part of the nature of things to do so. Beauty can be a blessing worthy of praise. Wind turbines for general community use as utilities can change the views of mountains, plains, and seashores. Should windpower technical innovations be permitted? Some landholders are offered $4,000+ per year for each installation -- good income for struggling farmers. Isn't beauty in the eye of the beholder -- and still those areas ravaged from coal surface mining and powerplants emissions are not a pretty scene. Critical issues need addressing in this century: when is viewscape change permitted? Necessary? Accepted? Welcomed? If windmills help add charm to the Dutch countryside, could they enhance America's as well?
Prayer: Lord, teach us to value the beauty of wilderness and still be willing to find value in both untouched nature and the value of what is touched and enhanced by human hands.
Blue eyed grass, Sisyrinchium angustifolium, at edge of forest.
June 23, 2020 The Future of Earth Healing, Inc.
Will our Earthhealing work continue for an indefinite period of time? Heaven only knows! Much depends on physical health, economic health, and interest in readers. We have no hidden plans for changes but how can we plan for the unforeseen? Much is found in the words "In God We Trust." That is more than a national motto and embraces all of our everyday work. Earth Healing, Inc. is a practical organization that is "lite" on structure and includes daily reflections of various environmentally-related topics, weekly Facebook essays, and monthly YouTube with unexpected popularity.
The EH modest goal is environmental information to and for believers in the future, who affirm that we can heal our wounded Earth and see it as a sacred duty to do so. More succinctly, the goal is to make religious values count and be incorporated in healing our threatened planet. EH's future involves collaboration among people of good will. Prophetically, we can speak with some degree of certitude about a possible outcome, if remedial steps are not taken. Conditionally, this will happen unless ... It takes common sense and no special charism to say what will happen to our country if annual trillion- dollar budget deficits continue to burden our government programs.
Our low-cost Earthhealing programs are easier to fund but still it takes an annual effort and confidence in the generosity of supporters. We still feel we have a unique role in a world filled with other forms of information. We allow no advertising and hope to continue in this practice.
This national administration is a hostile environment in which to function, and yet we continue as over the past sixteen years. Our basic information service does not directly solicit feedback, and yet we receive as much as we can handle given our time constraints. I get more emails per day than I got in the entire year of 2004, the first year of the Earth Healing website. It would be good to invite discussion, but what baffles us is just how could we respond to the satisfaction of the viewer/participant as we move forward? There are limits to what any one of us is capable of doing, and we are somewhat satisfied to just steady the course.
Time is of the essence and yet the Greeks tell us there are two times: Chronos (or clock time of our 24 hour/day) is in short supply; Kairos (the NOW or acceptable time) is ever more pertinent. Our future depends on whether we can balance these two types of time, to keep the NOW before us without the many detours that are on other people's agendas. The NOW in a writer's life depends on mental creativity and physical health, a more problematic condition as one ages. We do these daily reflections ahead of time so any unexpected difficulties might be met more smoothly and still continue our informational Earthhealing mission.
Prayer: Show us, Lord, what to do so we can prepare for a future that fulfills our goals and heals our fragile planet.
Athabasca Falls. Jasper National Park, Canada.
June 24, 2020 Helping to Create the Future
Yesterday, we reflected on future hopes for our Earthhealing process. The goal is to heal our troubled Earth through citizen information and participative activities dealing with environmental protection and remediation. The driving force is a religious foundation and belief that people must have faith in the future -- and a willingness to bring this about. Too many people see little need for even reflecting on a future beyond their mortal life. For these people the future is not of immediate concern even though they may profess otherwise. For them, we do not know the future and they ask "Why speculate about the unknowable?"
America's Founding Fathers did believe in a future for this country and expected each succeeding generation to do the same. The beginnings were not perfect but with time conditions improved and freedom expanded for groups of people in our land. Today we face challenges due to climate change that makes the future at times more problematic. By 2050 our planet could be on the road to being healed, and justice for all will abound -- but this demands that we take some matters into our own hands. Instead of the ill effects of rising oceans and weather extreme events we could establish food security for all the world's people. Would that all people could: have access to primary health care facilities; live in respectable housing; enjoy adequate recreational facilities; have potable water to drink; be able to read and write; and be connected through rapid communications to loved ones.
The answer is that one could set goals too limited and in doing so feel satisfied to feed the needy person who comes to the door, or give a donation for housing in Haiti. They may confess a fuller world of justice is impossible, so why waste time talking about it? Limited goals show a limited faith, and that shrinks expectations and hopes. The disease of the futureless agnostic or despairing resident can infect a community with scoffing at youthful dreams and promoting an atmosphere of cynicism; so can those who neglect to confront the disparity of wealth.
Religious practice should generate holy discontent with the proponents of the status quo. Will we have to risk possible marginalization and peer rejection? We can be developing a state of tranquility on the surface but suppressing an anxiety of not doing enough. Granted, this troubled world needs our prayers and compassion as well as expressed hope in the future in which we are active participants. Such recognition of an imperfectly executed future calls for a basic humility. We cannot foresee what is to come, for a future generation will have to challenge the conditional, "What if no one else believes, no one else cares, and most think they can do little more than preserve their precious hide -- and others be damned?" We must create a better future.
Prayer: Lord, give us as food from heaven, nourishment to be happy to be on the right road, and yet discontented enough to seek solutions to the problems facing our troubled world.
Tiger lily continues to thrive in an abandoned garden.
June 25, 2020 Time to Make Cucumber Pickle
Why, with all the important issues in our world, are we talking about making pickles? Answers: when one has surplus garden product it is important not to allow waste but rather to preserve for the on-growing season. Pickles taste great when well preserved -- and variety greatly enhances the quality of meals.
Produce galore! I plant many hills of cucumbers because they are a favorite and the vines can grow vertically on fences; they do not take up that much horizontal space in a limited garden area. They grow fast and need picking almost daily, or otherwise the fruit gets too mature and the skins toughen even in the pickling solution. One can eat pickles at all meals and give others away for this is the season of garden plenty.
Pickle creatively! I like to fill the refrigerator space with gallons of pickled cucumbers. Granted there are packages of rather expensive commercial pickling mixtures that are mostly salt plus select herbs -- but one can be creative in using the homegrown or commercial spices that are available for far less. Mixtures of these herbs and spices in different proportions generate unique tastes for each portion pickled. Sweet pickled batches require sugar in generous proportions and that adds to calories and cost. I prefer the sour varieties made with boiling aqueous vinegar/ herbal mixtures over the packed cucumber slices along with other veggies that add much to culinary creativity.
Container Companions! I use glass jars as containers but others may use plastics (no metal please). Include diced homegrown peppers to add spice to the pickles. Choose companions that suit your family's and guests' taste buds; if you want really spicy cucumbers keep the sliced peppers in the pickles. Over time I have added mixtures of various other produce from the garden: carrots, green beans, onions, garlic, dill, and parsley in different mixtures and amounts. Creativity encourages the immediate impulse and access to surpluses, though a pickle person may want to notify those receiving the gifts by notations on jar labels.
Prepare well! My mother was a master pickle maker; she put the cucumbers in five-gallon stone crocks and changed pickling solution every so many days. This required time and care but the products were great in both texture and taste. She also canned pickles in quarts according to her own recipes. I do not have such loving care nor time, and so I pour boiling pickling solutions over the packed jars and immediately screw the lids on tightly, and thus create a vacuum that helps preserve the taste until use. The jars are allowed to cool and are stored in a refrigerator. Since store-bought pickles are costly, pickling could be one of the most economic practices of the homegrown-garden yield.
Prayer: Jesus, you tell us to be salt of our Earth and to use the salt ("brine" solution) until it loses it savor. Let us recall that salt means fidelity and wisdom -- and so do pickles.
Actions in Pandemic Summertime
This June we are forced through the pandemic crisis to stay at home and not busy ourselves with normal summer activities involving travel. Here is the precious opportunity to spend time preparing for what we will do in the long run to heal our wounded Earth.
1. Institute regular planning. Daily examinations are regarded as good practice for spiritual growth. As we grow, we note that our eco-spirituality is an encompassing view of our world, in which we are agents of change and can move to such a point that our eco-spirituality becomes totally integrated in our spiritual development and prayer life. It is wise to consider a systematic approach to our journey of faith. If we gaze out at the horizon when journeying, we may stumble on the rock in front of us; looking down occasionally is essential. Watching our steps becomes routine, and that is what is called for here.
Some of us are compulsive planners. The intensity and immediacy of the planning depends on where we are; this should perhaps include longer-term yearly plans, intermediate monthly ones, weekly spans and daily actions. Emergencies do arise, and even compulsive planners must have the flexibility to modify plans on such occasions. Even a mid-year review this weekend could be quite worthwhile; at times we should ask perhaps during an annual retreat just how well the planning is going, and whether we speak to the Lord on the course of the journey of faith. Keeping tabs in a standard diary or daybook is a good procedure as well.
Planning starts the evening before. Come into the presence of God and pray for light; thank God for extended lifespan; review the feelings that surface in the replay of the day; and look forward for tomorrow with a sense of freshness. Hopefully this is not too rigid nor makes the "examen" too oppressive. Certainly, we could experience sheer exhaustion at the end of the day. It may be burdensome for some morning people who wax at sun-up and wane at sunset; however, we may find fulfillment in making this "examen" the last thing we do at night. Keep the structure refined so that it is still prayerful and mercifully short.
2. Start with a local focus. Rene Dubos spoke of acting locally and thinking globally. My modification is less catchy and wordier: think and act locally so we can think and act globally. We start by thinking empirically within a local context. By working at the local level we till our backyards and know exactly where we can make meaningful changes in the immediate environment. To vaguely support a global action and forget about local problems could be misplaced effort. On the other hand, to become too consumed with local issues and neglect the threatened global environment restricts our vision and reduces our influence. It is easier to stay focused with local work; still a global outlook places the local scene in true perspective. Our total human family deserves our concerns, for we seek to imitate the Lord's salvific embrace; we need to do some action to save our wounded Earth.
The key to global action rests in modern communications. We act when we connect with others about whom we are thinking, and are willing to do something for and with them. Thinking globally involves using sources such as the public mail, the cell phone or the Internet for spreading the Good News. Easily accessible and relatively low-cost global communications have only been possible in this century, and allows us access to the world. Our Earthhealing concrete "Daily Reflections" allow us to share information and also offer prayers for suffering victims in other parts of the world. Individually, we are able to act globally.
3. Apply electronic communications. No doubt, modern communications have been a godsend during this pandemic. They are relatively cheap, universally accessible and replace such infrastructure as telephone lines and libraries. Will they replace universities with their vast physical structures and maintenance costs? However, hardware and software as well as launching pads, rockets and satellites are sophisticated components, but due to heavy use are relatively low cost. Appropriateness in technology at the local level generally refers to bulk materials: food and water for essential needs, fuel, building materials, and waste disposal. Hauling these from one place to another takes large amounts of resources. On the other hand, communicating an idea is not a material resource-intensive enterprise on the part of senders and receivers; information and ideals travel by light resource use.
Each new communications device brings promises but contains perils: TV is affordable but when overwatched is dumbing-down the viewer, especially through over-advertising; electronic devices require energy in upkeep of systems, but the use is widespread and universal to the advantage of the world; computers are now essential to the business world, government, medicine, and education, especially in the areas of data processing, electronic mail, word processing, and Internet. Through Internet the Good News travels all over the world for the benefit of all. However, the service is open to hackers, spam and viruses, and those who want to deliberately sabotage another's work or reputation. Electronic innovations are sophisticated in their production, programming and management, and end users benefit at relatively low-cost through community sharing; Internet appropriateness is promising today.
Half-Year Summary. We hear God's call when listening to the sound of the Big Bang of creation (January). We see the effects of human wrongdoing on our wounded Earth (February). We sense God's compassion in the Incarnate Word who is healer, teacher and activist, tasting the bitter pangs in the suffering and death of Jesus and all living beings (March). We grasp the aroma of the garden roses in the Resurrection of Lord-in-power (April). We are touched in exaltation with the privilege of being proclaimers of Good News (May). We get the first glimpse of our mission as poor folks to use appropriate technology that is environmentally benign, low-cost, people-friendly and community-enhancing; we do this using low-cost and universally available Internet. As Earthhealers we are prepared to spend the second half of the eco-spiritual year in the season of Pentecost improving on that Earthhealing process.
June 26, 2020 Kentucky: Touch-of-Green Positive Aspects
Every local area should think up creative ways to improve the environment according to custom and cultural traits. This is meant to stimulate readers to consider the uniqueness of their own environment and to help improve conditions when opportunities arise. Kentucky like many places has a limited environmental budget and staff to carry out innovations. Thus much falls on the voluntary efforts of concerned citizens at least in initial stages. Green is the color of summer vegetation and the color of activities needed for proper sustainable living. Let us look at six positive green approaches to local environment:
Solar Energy -- Our state's response to dirty coal is to find solar models (such as my church hall solar array) and in a positive manner to show that this is a wise economic investment and a reduction of greenhouse emissions through use of clean energy. At present, both wind and solar renewable applications are cost competitive with fossil fuels and nuclear and are growing rapidly in electricity capacity at the national level. Solar is the proper choice to emphasize in our region that is not blessed with wind.
Edible Landscapes -- Greenery can be just as great with edible landscapes as with green lawns. These edible landscapes include fruit and nut trees, gardens, and wildscape for wildlife habitats. All can easily replace at lower costs the monocultural lawns of bluegrass that must be mowed weekly and are subject to drought.
Flowers/Gardens -- Gardens are a painted landscape that changes with the week or month of the growing season. Think about inserting flowers into all vegetable and herbal gardens. I have lilies, waterweed, marigold, cosmos, zinnias and others.
More Trees -- We can list at least forty beneficial aspects for many of the over one-hundred varieties of trees found covering half the surface area of our commonwealth. Youth and elders can work together for planting and maintaining these valuable forests. Ecotourism -- A win-win situation and potential for new jobs could come from the service industry dealing with feeding, lodging and entertaining tourists who come to our state in increasing numbers for authentic nature experiences. We have mountains, forests, caves, gorges, natural bridges, waterfalls, state parks, and historic and cultural sites and events.
Wildlife -- Reintroduction of elk in sixteen counties and deer and proliferation of "wild" turkey in all parts present benefits and risks. A wildlife balance demands reintroduction and promotion of native predators (fox, wolf, mountain lion, etc.). However, food needs can be satisfied locally and surplus wildlife is an organic meat source.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to help uplift the spirits and improve community life by promoting green practices in our local area.
Tomorrow on Paul Bunyan Day we ought to consider the power of individuals, not only the physical power of the mighty legendary lumberjack (Paul Bunyan), but a longer-lasting moral power of individuals and groups. Yes, for a period of time strength like the summer sun waxes supreme, but nothing is lasting on this Earth, and physical power and strength will fade with time. We need to appreciate the waxing and waning of both individual and national strengths. To expect our country to shoulder the military burdens of the world is unfair and unsustainable; we need to reevaluate the so-called position of being policemen (and women) of the world. Why? Is it because we listen to other nation spoiled brats that do not want to bear their respective burdens in world security? Is there a streak of righteousness of our foreign policy?
My following poem was written in 1995 (a quarter of a century ago) but it still has pertinence today. With Middle East conflict still raging this year, a note of determined change is in the air. Maybe our lessons of interference are unlearned even after decades of human and economic costs. We are unable and will remain unable to create a peace through exercise of our military might. The fact is emerging that security does not come from planes and bombs and warships, but through establishing a harmony in use of resources, something this administration is remise to do.
No one cares, no one seems to wonder Whether God still rules the thunder. Awake, en masse, are these bombs, nerve gas escaping his notice, weapons of crass misguided souls, wound in righteousness, Or calloused licentiousness? So we ponder our leaders' blunder Blasting burrowed innocents asunder.
Will it cure the madman's dream, or throw off his cruel regime? Or do we seem to deem Our army, navy, marine Reign globally supreme, On airwaves beam and torrid stream, With high tech head‑of‑steam, and misplaced U.S. self‑esteem? Redeem us, Lord. Redeem.
(Written while expecting President Clinton to bomb Baghdad).
Prayer: Lord, give us insight when we age and wane in physical energy; help us see this is a time to grow in wisdom and to strengthen our moral powers to confront insecurities all around -- and to do so with courage and prayerfulness.
June 28, 2020 Growing in Service with Proper Motivation
Anyone who does not take up his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:38)
In God we trust. In these perilous times this national motto must also become personal one as well. Today's Scripture readings introduce us to an ever deeper trust in the Lord to whom we are called to follow at the risk of our lives and comfort. We are encouraged to be truly at service to others and to give them their essential needs. One approach is that I could be acting solely for Christ's sake and less for that of a needy one.
A second approach is to focus on Christ in service to people of immense value, "I do this because you are Jesus to me here and now; I love you like Jesus loves you." In other words, the focus changes to being like Jesus in serving another and still realizing that my love for a neighbor springs from seeking to be like Jesus in his universal love of all people. In this manner I become the hands and feet of Jesus in the world today. The one served can be made to feel an importance because Jesus' personal representative has come to take his place; I am the willing agent even though not a perfect one in my motivations.
A deeper level of focus is possible. I am part of the body of Christ and what I do is in companionship with what Jesus does. We act together in this work I am called to do; my focus is to do my work in unison with Christ realizing the Kingdom of God is coming forth. The two of us together look in the same way at the served person and we manifest loving kindness together in service. The focus is on the person served as totally a child of God, and we attempt to work in the manner that Jesus asks us in the New Commandment to love as he does. We serve another as companion of Jesus who is spiritually present. To see the other as Jesus does is not to be bothered to look about and wonder whether our focus is in two places at the same time. The totality of the experience is looking at another in the vision that Jesus gives us as present.
These differences might not be fully apparent because it is hard to take love like Jesus loves in a minute or a day or year. It is a life's work, but some can do this better than others. To truly focus on doing God's work takes a feeling within that what we are doing is the Lord at work with us; it takes a spiritual outlook because our act of love for our neighbor grows deeper with time. However, the focus becomes more pure as we see others as part of the body of Christ, not that we have a purer insight on Jesus before our eyes. We seek to be another Jesus with Jesus to others. With God's grace we look at the neighbor and see what we must do and it is the doing where we see Christ acting in our midst that includes the person served.
Prayer: Lord, teach us the practice of focusing well on the work we have before us, and to bring others to you in the process of our loving like you love us.
June 29, 2020 Kentucky: Touch-of-Green Negative Aspects
Keeping our state green takes a balance of positive steps and those areas of restraint where we confront problems that threaten that quality of greenness. The following are six areas needing restraint and change of practice:
Urban Sprawl -- Central Kentucky has suffered severe losses in recent years of prime farmland, as documented in the report "Farming on the Edge" by the American Farmland Trust. The state is blessed with deep rich soil that attracted early pioneers from the East Coast, and this is a treasure worth preserving well.
Smoking Powerplants -- During the past decade Kentucky has been listed by the Environmental Integrity Project as one of the ten most hazardous substance-polluting states in the U.S. The large number of coal-fired powerplants in the Commonwealth has contributed to this ranking. The coal generating plants are closing and so the picture is starting to change.
Billboards -- These commercial devices plague landscapes and ruin viewscapes treasured by sightseers. If tourism is meant as a job-builder, we focus on sightseeing, the number one tourist activity. Billboard information could be presented through informational literature and properly compressed road signs.
Junk Food -- Commercial eating places supply junk food that contributes to our state's obesity problem. CSPI, a nutritional organization that I helped found a half century ago, calls attention through its Nutrition Action Newsletter to the goal of healthier food, food that needs a green landscape for production.
Much more attention is to be given to growing one's own garden- fresh alternatives to commercially prepared foods.
Unreclaimed Land -- Abandoned lands, farms fallow in preparation for development, deforested areas and un- or improperly reclaimed surface-mined areas all damage the beauty of our state. Selected vegetation need not be exotic species such as Russian olive. A far more attractive tree crop is the fragrantly blooming (in May) black locust that could be utilized for a possible renewable biofuel. Greater efforts must be undertaken to remove the blight of unreclaimed lands especially in former coal fields.
Invasive Species -- One could compose a sorry listing of at least two dozen exotic and invasive species of plants, most of which furnish a facade of greenery by choking and crowding out the native plants. Kudzu is the prime culprit in many parts of the Commonwealth, to which one can add purple loosestrife, Japanese and bush honeysuckle, multi-flora rose, mugwort and others. Environmental experts regard these as great threats to the natural environment, when they threaten endangered native species.
Prayer: Lord, teach us proper ways to observe threats to our environment and then take remedial action.
June 30, 2020 Questions at the 2020 Half-Year Review
Can you believe that the year will be half over tomorrow? Where did it go? As we age time seems to fly faster. In just six months it has been a time of budget battles, more global conflicts, and earthquakes and landslides and extreme weather practices -- and those terrorist attacks along with political campaigning. With such turmoil we ought to ask ourselves some basic questions:
* Have I grown spiritually in this fast-fleeting year, and do I give some quality time to prayer?
* Do I let events, whether local, regional, national, or global, make me dispirited?
* Do I treat my associates and neighbors with proper respect and kindness?
* Do I make too many excuses for my inability to do the right things when they need execution?
* Is my 2020 spiritual retreat planned or completed?
Health & Physical Wellbeing:
* Am I getting enough physical exercise as weather changes from winter to spring, and to hot and muggy summer?
* Do I eat right and avoid excess of those things I like?
* Do I focus on foods of the season? Am I growing my own garden produce and preserving or giving away surplus?
* Is my vacation planned or executed?
* Do I take prescribed medicines in timing and quantity?
* Am I overly connected through cell or land phone, email or just chatter, thus wasting time?
* Do I plan ahead? Do I show equanimity when what is planned goes awry? Am I flexible enough to change plans?
* Am I following free time needs and rest in periods daily or
weekly? Do I allow rest to translate into being even-tempered with those with whom I must interact?
* Am I addicted to the Internet social media outlets?
* Do I choose to read good materials both of spiritual and secular nature?
* When I relax, do I really do so and in a way that all benefit, especially those to whom I give service?
* Do I live according to the budget or do I overspend?
* Does my auto travel involve true economy of fuel?
* Do I purchase what is needed or is money wasted on unplanned
* Do I patronize the local farmers' markets for foods not grown in my garden?
Prayer: Lord, thank you for seeing me through this portion of my life's journey. Help me to be honest with my progress and to resolve to continue in a spirit of hope for what is to come.