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Daily Reflections Earth Healing

Daily Reflections
by Al Fritsch, S.J.


A series of written meditations and reflections



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Table of Contents: Daily Reflections

November 2009

Copyright © 2009 by Al Fritsch


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Autumn frost on hydrangea
Estill Co., KY
(photo: Sally Ramsdell)


November Reflections, 2009

     November's color is more subdued than October's, though as the global warming trend continues and with less wind, the autumn colors now linger for a longer time. The brilliant yellows, golds and reds give way to more subdued coppers and browns and crimsons -- and then eventual heavier frosts and breezes brings on defoliation. The smell of rotting leaves assure us that in November the autumn is half-spent. Without looking far we discover some new-found qualities: no mosquitoes or biting insects, no snakes, no searing sun; the shapes of the naked trees show the wonderful forms of stems and branches. Garden greens and root crops abound. We gather black walnuts and pick autumn pears. Our winter-residing birds, including the cardinal, bluejay and wren, add a streak of color and sound after many of the summer guests have gone south for a time.

    November's many good things also include: pumpkin pie, hickory nuts, winter squash, fresh-pressed cider served piping hot with a dash of cinnamon, tangy endive, spicy mustard and super-nutritious kale, Thanksgiving dinner, the taste of a different soup each day, Christmas decorations and lights, the first snow of winter, and brisk outdoor exercise.









A blooming rose, grown from a favorite aunt's cutting

*photo credit)

November 1, 2009        Remember the Overlooked Saints

     Today we honor ALL the saints -- not just those canonized in some formal manner.  When some artists depict this day, we suddenly see a montage of saints we recognize --  Peter, Paul, Francis, etc.  However, this is misleading.  The picture should have been of your grandmother and the vendor down the street, who was so kind to everyone in need.  Today, we honor the kindly, merciful, generous, hard-working, loving and peaceable folks, who raised families and scraped for their upkeep, who suffered without complaint, who bravely looked death in the face, and who went on to the Lord by the millions and billions throughout the ages.  Close relatives decorated their graves for a time, and when they too became feeble and passed on, plots became overgrown, forgotten and reused.  Life went on, and the departed became a statistic.

But is that the total picture?

     The span of living human memory is not the end.  God remembers, and calls the countless good home to heaven;  the good Lord blesses them with renewed life and gives them the gift of eternity -- something way beyond Earth-bound memory.  Their graves have crumbled, but their good deeds shine among the company of the elect.  We are challenged to follow in the footsteps of popular saints who died in heroic fashion.  We are also challenged to realize that ordinary folks who were faithful are also worth using as examples and even praying to, since they are now in special divine favor.  Thus, we see that sainthood is not just for the very special and unique few, but that special gifts are present in everyone.  All have the opportunity to gain eternal salvation and to join together within a glorious throng -- not as single individuals apart from others, but as members of a growing chorus of those who enter the Light.


                   Prayer to All Unknown Saints

    Saints of the universe, we trust you are numerous and somewhat nameless, except within your own company.  You have all the good qualities for persevering and continuing with enthusiasm in the praise of the Almighty.  We call upon all of you to assist us in the work ahead.  We look to you, because we do not wish to compete for a limited heavenly space, to excel over others, to stand out  apart from others; rather we come to know that individually we can be lost, but in company we are saved.  We rest in confidence that the Lord will give us the needed grace to join your ranks -- the poor, the weak, the ill, and those who are so often overlooked.  To save our Earthly community requires large numbers of workers imitating you in fidelity and enthusiasm.  You laid the groundwork for glory in small and patient ways.  You gave gradually of yourselves until the energy ebbed away, and life was transformed into eternal light.  You excelled through a collective excellence; you participated with unselfish devotion.  Guide us in doing the same, for we seek to follow your example.







Skyward reminder of coming winter
*photo credit)

November 2, 2009       Pray for Those Who Passed On

    For if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death.

                       (Second Book of Maccabees 12:44)

     Average people often wonder why this day is called All Souls Day.  They may think the name is quaint, but forget that a sizeable portion of this world's population prays for, with, or to the dead and a greater proportion will respect the dead in some specially human fashion.  In part, the issue of remembering the dead was taken up on November 2, 2008, as "Diamonds in the Rough," that is, those who died an untimely death before being polished by the suffering that comes with the knocks of ordinary aging. 

     Many of the primitive and advanced cultures respect the dead:  the Mayans in Central America, Pacific Islanders, the Chinese and Japanese, Roman Christians in the catacombs, and on and on.  Many religions base this respect on a conviction that the deceased are still present in some way.   Honoring the dead becomes an integral part of many cultures, though individuals within those cultures may not render such honor.  Tombs, monuments, cave writings, biographies, grave stones, memorials, and special days of prayers or feasting are expressions of respect for the dead.  In parts of this Hemisphere Native American tribes have blended ancient rituals with Christian practices and traditions.  A number of Earth religions consider the spirits of their deceased as very close at hand, and accessible to immediate conversation.  Some prepare meals, bring flowers, burn candles and incense.    

     As mentioned explicitly in the Christian funeral prayers, we believe that in death, life is not ended but changed.  As Goethe says, this life is the childhood of our immortality.  Christians do differ in whether a process of purgation may occur after death. for those not yet purified by suffering or the toil of life's journey.  All Christians hold that a number (differing in quantity or proportions) bask in the Divine Light -- the Church Triumphant.  Actually a majority of Christians hold that a number of people are in an intermediate period of purgation -- the Church Suffering.  The groups of those who have arrived and those arriving plus those of us on Earth make up a total community of faith in the Lord.  We here or beyond can assist those still on the journey -- the poor souls who are part of one total body.  Thus many of us follow the tradition of praying for the dead (above quotation).  We affirm this process of purgation and the indication by Jesus that forgiving sin is a process (Matthew 12:31)  And I tell you every sin will be forgiven but not that against the Holy Spirit.  

     Prayer:  Lord, may the souls of our loved ones who have passed on rest in peace.  Please help those who linger in hospices, senior citizen homes, and prisons as they endure their earthly purgation or purifying; make all pure through the blood of the lamb, and prepare them for seeing the "light," as they pass from this mortal life.  May their struggle be shortened and their rest peaceful. 






Pie make from autumn-harvest apples, a home-baked comfort food
*photo credit)

November 3, 2009       Create Domestic Comfort Zones

     Once on a brisk autumn day, when we were performing an environmental resource assessment in the Northeast, we found that some residents were using air conditioning and others heaters.  That strange anomaly occurred over and over upon closer look. "Oh no, that is not unusual; it happens at our place all the time."  Heating and cooling the same building simultaneously!  Isn't this energy waste?  I have entered some overheated rooms in winter and some terribly cooled rooms in summer.  At a car maintenance place, my remarks at over cooling in summer found ready agreement by the accounts person, "Yes, and that is why this heater is on near my desk." Why not work out uniform comfort zones?

     This reflection repeats one of the practices mentioned under "Keeping Cool through Other Practices" (July 8, 2009).  However, here attention focuses on heating, not cooling -- and the resultant energy bills for the coming winter months.  Americans often tolerate (demand) cooler or lower summer indoor temperatures in air conditioned space than they "tolerate" in heated space in winter.  A building will be cooled to 62-65 degrees Fahrenheit in summer, and the same space heated to 75 degrees in winter for the very same people showing, if nothing more, their propensity to waste energy.  The difference between what is desired in summer (62 degrees), if followed in winter, and the 75 degrees, if followed in summer, could save close to one-third of many heating/cooling bills. 

      For heaven's sake, establish a comfort zone.  Say, set the thermostat at 71 degrees.  Now advance it 8 degrees as the "summer limit," that is, 79 degrees, and cool to this temperature;  now reduce it 8 degrees from the 71 medium for the "winter limit" of 63 degrees.  If people find either extreme too much, set their temperature as required -- but adhere to it in both summer and winter.  Establish their collective comfort zone and abide by it.  Then if they find this intolerable due to being too hot or too cold, move them to cooler or warmer parts of the building, and have them adjust the amount of clothing worn, which common sense really dictates.  Honoring one's comfort zone year round could result in major energy savings.

      Getting a person familiar with thermometer readings, and his or her own comfortable feelings, is an educational task in a country that says we must be super-cooled in summer and super-heated in winter.  Both of these are unhealthy conditions.   Should we tolerate complaints of an overly pampered people?  As an important side benefit in establishing comforts zones, studies show that residing in higher summer temperatures and lower winter temperatures cuts the instances of flues, common colds and respiratory disease problems.  Think of human health as part of the total human comfort zone, for who enjoys a nagging cold? 

     Prayer:  Lord, teach us to see the gifts You have given as meant for our benefit but not our extravagance.  Help us to take comfort in and delight in sharing resources with others.






A sunflower, providing wildlife food and self-sowing seeds for the coming year
*photo credit)

November 4, 2009   Prepare for Copenhagen Next Month

     While  the United States shares with China the role of making the world's largest carbon footprint (together we account for 40% of the world's total), still we Americans can be of great service by addressing the problem of climate change as emphasized by President Obama on September 22, 2009, at the United Nations special session.   Here are some ways that this can be done:

     * Specify a national policy of carbon reduction through a movement towards a renewable energy economy (wind, solar, etc.) ASAP.  The current stimulus package is moving in that direction, and this must be accelerated by a "Man to the Moon"-type program with a focus that is equivalent to a wartime footing;

     * Openly challenge other nations to do the same, especially the developing ones who are still enamored by cheap coal-fueled electricity generation -- forgetting that some of the cost is borne by the world in general, and the poorer nations in particular;

     * Obtain a commitment from the richer nations to help fund clean energy projects in the developing nations -- and allow this to include preserving forestland through subsidies rather than by make-believe cap-and-trade scenarios; 

     * Consider absolute caps on generation of polluting carbonaceous fuels, and enforce these by fines for major polluters;

     * Accept biofuels in the mix provided that these truly reduce the carbon footprint (disputed for some varieties), and do not allow biofuels to compete with food sources and inflate prices;

     * Offer special assistance to the island nations (Maldives, etc. ) that will be flooded by the rising ocean levels in the coming decades as more of the world's icecaps melt;

     * Develop a program for sharing solar and wind technologies with developing nations so they can find a more even playing field;

     * Do not be tempted to include new nuclear powerplants in the upcoming "clean" energy mix, for these are exceptionally expensive, tempt further nuclear proliferation, have persistent safety and waste disposal problems, and can only operate if the government accepts the ultimate risk of a major disaster; and

     * Show a willingness to abide by major decisions on climate change by agreeing to an international treaty that must be approved by our Senate -- with voters urging their senators to act.

     Prayer:  Lord, this planet has never before faced a crisis of such magnitude and of our own human-making.  Inspire our elected representatives to see the seriousness of the situation and to act with urgent speed to begin a process of saving our fragile Earth. 







Pastoral autumn scene, Anderson Co., KY
*photo credit)

November 5, 2009    Know the Reality of Instant Communications

     Recently, a story was told of a teenager who had wrecked two vehicles while texting.  In one instance, she ran through a red light; in another, she hit a truck from behind while distracted by her messaging.  When confronted, she said she simply had to do what she was doing -- a compulsion for instant communication with others.  Her state, Utah, is forbidding such operations while driving and, hopefully, the penalties that await one who imbibes alcohol will be applied to this dangerous practice as well.  Many good reasons can be made for having devices that can connect with home, loved ones, and 911 in an instant.  Consumers are convinced that "everyone" needs access to instant contact with others for safety and welfare.  In reply to someone initially shocked by my personal lack of instant contact, emergencies aside, we can uncover some limitations to instant communications:

     Name destruction -- An instant is enough time to blacken someone's reputation.  An irresponsible person need only post an unfounded rumor on the web, and this becomes a permanent entry and remains for search engines to find.  The power of such damage is immense.

     Time wasted -- People who are in such instant chatter could be doing other useful things that require silent space and concentration such as language study or book reading.  Today being busy means being on a phone with someone else or simply texting. 

     Health threatened  -- Chattering becomes a compulsion that not only consumes quiet time, but also exacerbates stressful conditions.  Overuse of electronic devices means less time engaging in physical exercise and being outdoors in fresh air and full spectrum sunlight;  also overuse of electronic devices can involve neck and back strain, carpal tunnel syndrome and eye problems.

     Wrong connections -- The improperly monitored vulnerable people can easily find links to those up to no good.

     Frivolous overload -- Instant communications means that time required to think out and study problem areas is neglected.  The individual who seeks to be always connected to another (parent to child or inverse) is being retarded socially and intellectually.

     Ill-preparation --  We can shoot from the hip in an instant and then regret it for years to come.  The time lapse to allow emotions to cool is good for healthy interpersonal relations.     

     Economic advantages obviously exist or else why the explosion of cell phones and instant communication devices in this first decade of the twenty-first century (from nearly none in 2000 to an estimated six billion in use by 2013). For instance, fishers can find markets up and down the coast of Kerala, and thus not resort to dumping excess catch that is unneeded at a saturated home base market; all parties prosper.  This expansion of business activity is being felt throughout the developing world where advantages abound. ("Mobile Marvels,"  The Economist,  September 26, 2009.)

     Prayer:  Lord, our prayer is the best instant contact.  More  people need to learn to use it frequently and well.







A chicken shed full of daily fresh eggs
*photo credit)

November 6, 2009     Take the 2009 Simple Lifestyle Test

    On World Community Day, it is wise to ask whether we strive to live like responsible inhabitants on our planet:

   1. Grow some of my (our) food  --  If we eat food we grow, we identify with the place, control growing conditions, save transport fees, and experience the joy of gardening.

    2. Drive energy efficient vehicles -- If we take only necessary trips and lack easy access to public transportation, an energy efficient vehicle can become a major means of conservation.

    3. Install at least five compact fluorescent bulbs --  This switch, if performed by all Americans, would reduce the need for new electric power plants to almost nil for a decade.  

    4. Use appliances sparingly -- Refrain from using unnecessary electric or gas appliances; reduce or stop television use; cut off appliances in standby mode;  buy energy-saving appliances; keep cool without air conditioning.

    5. Use solar energy --  Where the opportunity allows, dry clothes outdoors;  install solar space, hot water and greenhouse applications;  consider solar food cookers, food dryers and photovoltaics.

    6. Heat and cool consistently -- Often people cool to lower temperatures in summer than they find comfortable in winter, and the inverse with heating.  Keep year-round at a medium temperature say 70 degrees F (+8 degrees in summer and -8 degrees in winter).

    7. Create green living space -- Design and build or acquire relatively small residences, using local construction materials, insulate well, allow for multiple use of interior space, and keep place airy and free of toxic materials.

    8. Recycle and reuse when possible -- Disposable materials made of paper, empty metal containers, cardboard, and plastic waste materials should be recycled.  Obtain needed clothing and home furnishings from flea markets and yard sales.

    9. Replace lawn with edible landscape/wildscape -- Fuel and other resources are expended in mowing and maintaining lawns;  these resources could be redirected to less costly utilitarian or ornamental purposes such as gardening or fruit trees.

   10. Conserve water -- Most of us know most of the common ways suggested to conserve water (shorter showers, etc.); some people may find the major one (compost toilets) beyond current means.  Water savings equal resource savings;  consider water purification and distribution to your residence.

     Prayer: Lord, encourage us to live our lives more simply.









A colony of winged ants, sensing the chill of autumn
*photo credit)

November 7, 2009   Recall the Catholic Worker Founders

     You and I may never have had the privilege of meeting Dorothy Day (1897-1980), except through her writings and through the testimony of Catholic Worker Movement individuals whom we meet over the years.  Connie Ridge, one of Dorothy's admirers, ran a house for homeless women in Washington, DC; she invited me to go to New York for Dorothy's funeral, but pressing business prevented me.  However, Dorothy's life, first as a radical Communist and then as a convert to Christianity, who never abandoned her basic radicalism throughout a very long life, deeply impressed me.  She stayed poor and was with the poor.  Her passionate devotion to peace and justice issues was legendary.  She was a devout person who did not hesitate to go to jail when opposing war and social policies.

     Dorothy Day's legacy is the Catholic Worker Movement, which continues to serve the underprivileged and the outcast in its rather informal and decentralized manner.  The Catholic Worker Movement is not an organized association, and does not have any general rules or trademarks or business logos.  It has no national coordination, salaries, insurance policies, and retirement plans, although they are expected of modern organizations.  The movement is somewhat anarchistic to say the least.  The monthly periodical, The Catholic Worker, is still listed as one penny (30 cents a year subscription), and has substantive articles on peace and justice issues, along with pertinent book reviews and other topics.  The paper is produced by a devoted staff of volunteers who live in the style of Dorothy Day.  It is assembled at the St. Joseph House, 36 East First Street, New York, NY 10003,  (212) 254-1640, near a homeless shelter called Maryhouse at 55 East Third Street.

     A closely associated part of the core movement, with my closer familiarity, is a rural counterpart to New York city's Maryhouse, namely, the Peter Maurin Farm at 41 Cemetery Road, Marlboro, NY 12542.  We were able to perform an environmental resource assessment for this property a few years back.  The farm also serves as a homeless shelter/office complex.   The farm took many of our assessment suggestions, along with others, very much to heart, and is becoming a greener place as well.

     Peter Maurin (1877-1949) was a farmer of French peasant stock who is regarded as co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement along with Dorothy Day.  The two were convinced that having rural and urban components in the Movement was appropriate, and so Peter took his farming skills to the Hudson Valley location.  My regret is never having met him either, since we most likely shared much in common socially, religiously, economically and politically. Both Peter and Dorothy remain models for many people who struggle to present alternatives to this disjointed and dysfunctional world culture in which we live.

     Prayer:  Lord, continue to furnish us with great models to follow in a time when such a need is so great.




 Remnants of the white snakeroot, Ageratina altissima
*photo credit)

November 8, 2009   Acknowledge the Power of the Widow's Mite           

     This poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury.  For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.             (Mark 12: 41-44)    

     In a small village among the one million such communities in the vast country of India, some people are turning to bike pumping and small-scale wind power to meet their emerging electricity needs.  They are not waiting until the umbilical cord of a transmission system reaches them;  they are becoming self-sufficient through their own efforts.  Through their own skill as poor folks they are contributing to the saving of our wounded Earth.  How different from a cap-and-trade mentality that allows some to pollute and continue in extravagance.  Many contribute to Earth's treasury with all they have, their livelihood.

     Every time we read the story of the little widow placing the few coins that she needed into the treasury box and hear the clinking, we are touched.  What else could we be?  However, this story is repeated many times over in many different ways: those who give themselves as caregivers for a loved one, or donate a kidney to an unknown, or share the meager produce of a small garden.  Each contributes in a small way, but whole-hearted giving has a power all its own.  First, small gifts give hope to the recipient; then they also empower the giver in a special way; third they become an example for others who hear about them to do the same; and last but not least, they contribute to the power that the lowly have through the spiritually dynamic act of Resurrection or new life. 

     Large contributions receive publicity, adulation, and are a subtle exertion of power, for the wealthy say that what is given is theirs to give, and that they have the right to dictate how it is spent.  Is a billionaire really giving, or simply seeking support so that he or she can continue to hold on to billions of ill-gotten goods that belong to all the people?  Large contributions have pernicious ways of making recipients to be supporters of the givers, and thus ensure that profound change will be delayed.

     The very "small" contributions from one's want or need are extremely powerful.  A freedom is exercised by the giver; a trust in the power of God, satisfying needs and working in the world, is expressed; a dynamic of giving totally and thus receiving totally is at work, for from death to self comes all new life in sacrifice.

As observers of the scene of giving, where do we stand between excessive adulation of the wealthy and overlooking the small fry?  It is far better is to work with the small contributors and help restrict the holdings of those who can dictate where their excessive wealth is to go -- and do this through fair taxation.

     Prayer:  Lord, teach us to see the hidden and small giving of extremely generous people, and make these the examples of how a better world is emerging.








An old ash tree, holding fast the autumn color
*photo credit)

November 9, 2009    Solve the Deer Proliferation Problem

     The middle of the regular deer-hunting season is a good time to address the proliferation of certain forms of wildlife (geese, turkey, and deer) in this country.  Proliferation of some species is in contrast to the demise of certain native species like frogs and migratory birds.  While not forgetting the endangered wildlife problems, we see the geese, turkey and deer populations explode.  Today there are more deer in North America than there were when Columbus discovered America -- over ten million.  Deer (and geese and turkeys) were rarely seen in our Kentucky countryside in my youth sixty years ago, but today they are commonplace. 

     Deer are more ubiquitous than geese or turkeys, since they inhabit urban and suburban as well as rural areas, wooded and clear areas, and sites where there is plenty of water or little.  Deer are beautiful and graceful, but they are also carriers of disease and a danger on both well used and sparsely traveled highways, especially at night when temporarily blinded by oncoming headlights.  Concerned citizens address deer problems in different ways.  One gardener in Wyoming erected a sixteen-foot high fence to keep the deer out.  Folks in suburban Cleveland asked me what they could spray to keep deer from ravishing their expensive and extensive shrubbery.  At the "Midwest Energy Conference" in 2002, the subject at one session quickly centered on deer control.  During my stay at Marquette University in 1998, a professor came in all sleepy-eyed; he said he had been up to 3:00 a.m., at the suburban city council on which he served, debating deer problems.

      Most deer control measures such as a host of chemical repellents and noise-making devices are only partly successful.  Some people use hot pepper sprays on deer-attracting plants; however the first rain washes them all off.  Orchard managers install netting around sapling to dissuade deer browsing.  Aggressive dogs can discourage visiting deer, but that only deflects the problem elsewhere.  Fencing is always one mainstay though deer can clear some rather high ones.  The folks at St. Anthony's Farm near Petaluma, California, discovered by accident that parallel four-foot-high fence could discourage deer, which hesitate to jump because of confusion on where they will land.

     Nature lovers and non-meat eaters may object but, short of reintroducing wolves, culling is the easiest form of deer control.  Besides, venison is far superior to tough goose and certainly comparable to or better than grain-fed beef, being low in fat and high in protein.  If properly prepared, deer sausage is both a treat for the meat-eaters and a locally grown food.  Furthermore, hunting need not be merely for pleasure, but a re-establishment of nature's balance where common predators are absent.  And hungry folks like low-priced venison.

     Prayer:  Lord, teach us to be practical in all things, both striving to save the endangered species, and to balance the excess of certain wildlife species in our midst.





A lone oxeye daisy, spotted in early November
*photo credit)

November 10, 2009  Observe International Week of Peace and Science

     November's Veteran's Day is an ideal time to consider beating swords into plowshares.  This is a time to remember those who most hated war and sought a lasting peace for our troubled world.

Science and technology can be promising in working towards the goal of peace:

     * Energy research in coatings could facilitate the production of low-priced photovoltaic energy that could compete with electricity generated by coal-fired powerplants.  Potentially, the solar coatings on rooftops or other hardened surfaces could generate sufficient electricity to make centralized powerplants obsolete -- as will most likely be the case by 2050.  Lower costs for wind-generating equipment and further research in a future hydrogen economy are other fruitful areas of study;

     * Drug and medical developments could be the cure for a wide variety of unconquered diseases.  Malaria and many tropical diseases could be attacked, and the toll of one child dying every six seconds from preventable diseases could be halted, if resources were focused on curing and healing those already affected; 

     * Security surveillance, through rapid and low-invasive personal identification procedures and monitoring systems, are open to technological breakthroughs and to making the world safer;

     * Food safety monitoring, especially with regard to the vast volume of imports from other nations, is a high priority in this country -- and proper screening and decontaminating procedures are to be perfected and installed;

     * Disarmament procedures to detoxify and completely destroy chemical and biological weapons and the nuclear stockpiles should be implemented so that terrorists do not have access to them;

     * Aids for the physically challenged, need a close coordination of science and technology.  Some of the improvements such as allowing computer and Internet access to the blind are truly marvelous.  One could also add all types of educational improvements for the mentally challenged as well; and

     * Low-priced water purification systems are needed as potable water becomes a growing problem in rapidly urbanizing areas. Systems must extend beyond small scale purification of drinking water at residential levels to include desalination of vast quantities of water needed for irrigation for the production of food for a hungry world. 

     Prayer:  God, all Wise, make us turn our collective attention away from weapons of war to the fruitful task of bringing peace, a noble undertaking far less costly than a trillion dollar world weapons program, and able to employ far more people in more meaningful work opportunities.




Fort McPherson, a United States veterans' cemetery
*photo credit)

November 11, 2009       Honor War Veterans

     Vince was a war veteran who would regale anyone who visited his Frankfort, Kentucky, home with stories about his adventures in Europe during World War Two.  More than just talkative, he was enthusiastic in his narration of those stories.  And he had a written collection of episodes, which described much about his character and conduct during the liberation of France and Germany in 1944-45.  What a veteran!  After many fruitful senior years assisting others, especially youth, he passed on to the Lord.

     Today we give special attention to Vince and all war veterans.  Armistice Day started as a special occasion in 1918 at the end of a "war to end all wars."  But unfortunately we have experienced other conflicts since then -- World War Two, the Korean War, Vietnam, the first Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan -- some count sixty global conflicts in sixty years.      War veterans deserve  remembrance, for they risked their lives for others.  Recently, an Iraq war veteran came to my door and asked for food.  It struck me that while we make an effort, Americans so often overlook the welfare of their veterans.  Lately, the federal government has done a better job with veteran hospitals, educational packages, retirement benefits, burial expenses and cemetery places.  Many do not join the pressure groups seeking veterans' benefits.  Perhaps that is because veterans differ as to whether they want to relive their military experiences.  For the sake of their mental health, some strive to forget the wartime episodes.  Only in recent years has medical attention been directed to assisting those who have been mentally affected by warfare. 

     Now over one thousand World War Two veterans well into their eighties die each day -- and the services of honor guards are in great demand.  The last Civil War veteran died in 1955, and now the last of the World War One veterans is being laid to rest.  Thus glory passes!  In turn, each war's group of veterans gathers for graying and thinning reunions.  I recall, when in studies at Fordham University in the 1960s, observing a mustering of a few New York area World War One vets -- and it was a sad looking group.  Unfortunately, the total veteran ranks seem to be replenished with each successive war and we have had too many.

     War veterans express a sense of fidelity and willingness to sacrifice for the common good of our country; they have risked life and limb for others -- and are worthy of our deepest respect.  If we are to heal our Earth, we need people who are willing to sacrifice and devote some of their time for others -- though hopefully not in harm's way.  The struggle to save our wounded Earth is just as important as any of the foreign wars America has fought.  We need people who can become the new veterans who "wage peace."  Let's listen to Vince's stories and profit from them. 

     Prayer:  Lord, teach us to respect the veterans who risked much for what we so often take for granted.




Ginkgo, a blind and happy black labrador retriever
*photo credit)

November 12, 2009   Consider Cap-and-Trade as Claptrap

     The utter arrogance of those who think they are green and can trade with the pure air that belongs to all of us as commons is disappointing.  This exploitation forces some of us who still want some form of social justice to side with those who still see a "socialist behind every bush," and will oppose any chance to reduce pollution -- which requires governmental intervention.  It is the trading that disappoints us, not the possibility of caps;  the "capping" means defining a misdeed and making culprits pay fines until these activities are eliminated.  The "trading" is the enticement to Wall Street capitalists who are bankrupt in thought but who seek ever greater bonuses;  they are fast on the road to bankrupt the nation and world unless they are forced to return their ill-gotten gains.  Many of those who support cap-and-trade are friends of Wall Street who just might be the "traders," and possibly make a fortune on the deal, along with "environmental" lackeys who still think the market can solve it all. Unfortunately, they also have the ear of the present administration that wants an energy bill passed as soon as possible.

     Such trading or exploiting of the resources of the commons has been going on far too long -- hundreds of years.  We must reclaim the commons, and the last who should have their hand in the reclaiming are the traders who have messed up this world through their greed and insensitivity.  If polluters are wrong -- and they certainly are, -- they should not be able to buy their way out of the mess, but rather they should pay.  Call it what it is, a tax or a fine.  This is far too late in the game to allow the exploiters of yesteryear to continue in the conn game of taking and be legally protected in their takings -- whether gold or beaver furs or cod fish or oil or pollution "credits."  Haven't we grown just a wee bit in these hundreds of years to know a thief when we see one?

     An absolute cap as the Sun Day joint letter by a host of activists state is simply different.  This means that each major polluter is required to conform to the best technologies for clean production of electricity or use of fossil fuels, and that any exceeding emission limits will have to pay a fine or tax.  Trading so polluters can buy time is a perfect shell game, for it either includes groups that do not and will most likely not pollute, or who say they will clean the air through a budding forest that has no guarantee of maturity.  No one should pay another to pollute;  everyone should pay for polluting, and the payment must be to the commons, the people of this Earth who have or will suffer from the climate change resulting from the extravagances of the polluter.  Some say the consumer will pay higher energy prices, but energy conservation and renewable energy really save and provide benefits -- and all are beneficiaries, including the air and water commons.

     Prayer:  Lord, teach us not to be sucked in by false promises, but rather to do the right thing.  Help us to call a spade a spade, to look out for all including the global commons, which we all need in order to benefit from a higher quality of life.






Blue skies
*photo credit)

November 13, 2009    Set a Swords-into-Plowshares Course 

     We Americans have inherited from previous mind sets and circumstances, not the splendid isolationism of earlier America, but the onus or responsibility of being the "police force of the planet."  However, this more recent policy deserves periodic review, since a good application of the principle of subsidiarity is that each community at whatever level should be in charge of its own welfare to the degree possible.  Nevertheless, some issues transcend the ability of a local community, e.g., pandemics, natural or human-made disasters of various sorts, climate change, globalization issues, etc.  As a nation we must be involved -- but we do not have to act alone any more than in peace keeping. 

     In September, President Obama chaired a UN Security Council meeting that voted 15-0 to start a process of working towards an ultimate goal of eliminating the world's stockpile of nuclear weapons on an enhanced timetable.  This is a must in preserving the peace of the world just as much as closing the Guantanamo internment camp, halting F-22 fighter production, reducing the fleet of British Trident-type submarines, closing unneeded military bases, and ridding our country of chemical weapons.  Often acts of closing down outmoded and outdated weaponry meet with resistance by communities faced with job losses and economic readjustments.

     But a deeper issue emerges:  why shouldn't outmoded and uneconomic military industries or bases be closed for the common good and the need to turn swords into plowshares?  The determinations are made by impartial observers, and the decisions have been accompanied by recommendations to members of Congress, some of whom wallow in the pork barrel.  The local political clout of the senators and members of the House of Representatives seems to be at odds with the national and global good of closing unneeded military establishments.  Voters must move past special interests and encourage their elected representatives to vote for what's best for the country and world.

     As a nation, we have become far too dependent on the military -- somewhat like a chemical or drug dependence.  Interest groups are good at lobbying for pet projects.  Closures need not be bad news, especially when land, materials and financial resources are now freed up for peacetime uses.  However, peace-making opens a host of job positions that may not be as lucrative as military enterprises, but can be quite fulfilling.  Few resources are given to opening lands for training peacemakers in a variety of capacities (see "Peace Corps and Volunteers," October 14, 2009), for training overseas specialists, for basing and locating disaster relief workers, and for researching and testing materials to be used for appropriate technology both at home and abroad.  Preparing for worker retooling is just as important as shutting down military facilities.  Thus closure plans should become conversion plans.

     Prayer:  Lord, teach us to be peacemakers and to see the benefits that accrue to all by being so.




A sky that speaks of winter
*photo credit)

November 14, 2009    Make America Recycles Day Meaningful

     Tomorrow is America Recycles Day.  Has the term "recycling" gone out of style even before it has acquired its full effectiveness?  Today we consider not just what we are doing individually, but what our community, state and nation are doing to reuse materials.  Most of us recycle a few things, if nothing more than donating clothes to be reused by another.  Some are in communities that require recycling of a host of materials (metal, glass, newspaper, cardboard, and some plastics).  Much depends on regulations, convenience of pick-up services, accessibility of drop-off points, and even the incentive of money for such conservation measures.  Unfortunately, "recycling" is a chore, and inconvenience simply does not always grab our imaginations.

     I grew up before the advent of consumer plastics, and before the word "recycling" was a common term.  Yet on our farm we were almost total recyclers.  Wood wastes and paper tinder were burnt in fireplaces and used for plantbeds, glass jars reused for canning, ashes scattered on garden areas, clothes passed on to more needy families, food wastes fed to dogs, hogs and chickens, manure and agricultural wastes spread on the fields, rocks (limestone) crushed for pasture land, and wire and other metals reused to reinforce concrete or to be refashioned in the blacksmith shop into metal items.  Virtually nothing went without being recycled, because it never left the farm, where neatness was a virtue demanded though not always totally attained.  We were not perfect, for we filled our sinkholes (in a limestone and karst region) with some unusable glass products and building materials.

     The need today is for each citizen to regard it as his or her duty not to allow things to leave the premises without their reuse or disposal being responsibly designated.  If this were the case, we would reduce the waste materials considerably.  We would sort our waste materials and take them or ensure that they get to recycling centers.  Currently, our local recycling center is just two blocks away and this center takes plastics, metals, three types of glass, newspaper, and cardboard.  Our church takes unused clothing and other household materials, and these sell well at very low prices to those in need.  All my food peels and other organic wastes are composted in the garden area.  We strive to make a conscientious effort to reduce landfill-bound materials.

     A national recycling policy could reduce wastes and the energy needed to process virgin materials.  Actual subsidies or tax relief ought to go to recycling centers, since profitability is marginal except on a high volume.  Methane generated at landfills could be utilized.  The return of the deposit on beverage containers would go a long way in cleaning up the countryside and reducing the waste volume.  Municipal garbage could be composted and used as soil supplement in specific locations.

     Prayer:  Lord, teach us to use all things wisely and to see that nature has no wastes; nor ought we.






Leaf of the silver maple, Acer saccharinum
*photo credit)

November 15, 2009     Learn Lessons by Observing

     Learn a lesson from the fig tree.  When the branch becomes tender, you know that summer is near.   (Mark 13: 24-32)    

     The Lord tells us to be observant, to be open to learning from the things around us, to know what is happening, the seasons and the changes in conditions.  Often we overlook Jesus' teaching point, and consider only a few people such as naturalists, investigators or insurance adjustors to be keen observers.  Jesus is saying that ALL of us must do the same, and be open to the lessons that the things around us teach us.  Today, our fig trees are the forests undergoing dramatic defoliation.  Change occurs.

     Observation is called for at the personal level so that in the prophet Daniel's words we can be wise and "shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament."  The past was not perfect for us; the future can be better.  We each have a dissatisfaction with the immediate past, whether within our individual lives or our relations to our family.  Improving these relations takes observation, for nothing stays stationary;  change is always in the air as people grow, mature, rebel, get sick, age and need help.  With the grace of God we can go with the flow, ride with the tide. 

     Observation comes at the community level where we are uneasy at the way things are going around us.  We can close our eyes and deny things are going awry; we can excuse ourselves by saying the neighborhood must be cared for by others;  we can escape into our own allurements or be reduced to silence.  Or we can observe and then act as good citizens.  Observation is only the first step, but spirituality rooted in sacramental life leads to action.

     Observation at the national level is more disconcerting, for the more we get away from ourselves in the concentric circles that make up our lives -- personal, family, community, regional, and out to this national level -- the less we seem to have a power to influence events.  However, it may be the other way around.  If we influence another, then a reaction will occur that will affect far more people.  Public witness has an effect, whether it be a bumper sticker or a well phrased question at the right moment.

     Finally observation is needed at the global level.  We know that climatic changes are occurring all around us.  Glaciers are melting, oceans are rising, forest disappear.  This is the end of the ages, and Christ comes in the final seconds of the Earth's geologically age;  his second coming is soon to occur according to such a perspective. There is a sense of expectancy, like that of the family awaiting a soldier's return from war.

     Prayer:  Lord, we give You thanks for the eyes of faith to see, and the will to make the changes that this season entails.  We prepare as Thanksgiving Day approaches, to find that all things are gifts from You, even this moment of grace to determine changes needed for ourselves and our world.







A lone black-eyed susan in November.  Anderson Co., KY
*photo credit)

November 16, 2009  Consider Ten Ways to Make Churches Greener

     Parishes in harder financial times and with a mandate to use God's gifts wisely need to be greened.  However, this is an ongoing process.  The following suggestions are not merely theoretical;  we have effected them in either or both of my parishes:

     a) Use energy efficient light bulbs in all areas, especially for most often used lighting;

     b) Turn up the cooling temperature in summer and down the heating temperature in winter.  A hot water tank has been replaced in one residence by energy-on-demand devices along with clothes washing with cold water -- and the presence and use of clothes lines;

     c) Change greenspace to "edible landscape" by planting areas in trees (apples, plums, peaches, pears, nectarines, cherries and mulberries) and garden varieties (thirty types of vegetables, herbs and flowers, including permanent patches of mint and strawberries).  One parish has cut the greenspace in half.  At the other parish the demand for blacktopping for increased car parking was resisted and these areas have been left in greenspace along with tree plantings;

     d) Use energy efficient vehicles getting at least forty miles to the gallon of gasoline.  Likewise make an effort to carpool when possible to distant meetings and events;

     e) Halt the use of domestic air conditioning and retain large shade trees that keep residences relatively cool in summer;

     f) Install and utilize rain catchment systems -- existing cisterns and rain barrels on outbuildings (work in process);

     g) Use permanent glassware, silverware and dishes for meals when possible, though this has not yet been implemented here for major events that include carry-outs;

     h) Add insulation through energy efficient windows (more are in process), new roofing materials, and rugs in older home residences with drafty floors;

     i) Recycle all paper, cardboard, several types of plastic, metal containers, and clear, green and brown glass.  Also institute monthly sales at low prices of clothing and some household items, which assist the lower-income local community folks; and

     j) Distribute food with care.  Here food handouts are generally made through the community cooperative efforts of a "food pantry."  However, extra food is distributed in hardship cases, and this involves principally nutritious, non-processed basic food.  One parish runs a food-purchase and cooking or "Kitchen" school.

     Prayer:  Lord, give us the courage to do what we preach.










A migrating flock, heading to the South for winter
*photo credit)

November 17, 2009    Take Seriously Geography Awareness Week

     Geographic illiteracy is rampant in America -- and perhaps elsewhere in this world, for all beyond the local neighborhood and towns.  As many as half of Americans could not name the various states on a national map.  Can you name all the state capitals?  The major river systems?  The major Interstate routes and their origins and destinations?  Can you identify all the capitals of the G-20 nations?  The major sports teams and their host cities?  Just how good are you at common geography?  What about Jim, the New Englander, who told me he thought Buffalo was where bisons roam; he boasted of having never crossed the Hudson -- after being three years in New York City's Bronx.

     On major travels we are moved to read the maps and figure out our upcoming itinerary, though "Mapquest" and other Internet services will do the job for us, with specific verbal directions, exact mileage, and even a trip map that we can print off.  That is geography made too easy, even though it can save time, and give us the best current route.  It has much the same effect as a "Spell Checker" for a lazy speller, and makes us focus on the route and overlook the places we pass through or near from starting point to destination.  If done well using maps, travel is a basic way to improve our local, regional, national and even global geographic skills. This can become an entertainment or business mode giving us a sense of places, which may remain in our minds long after the trip.  To a lesser extent so do travel books and stories, video and audio tapes, educational tv shows, and movies.  Some people do enjoy maps.  Inspect our draft of the Ethnic Atlas of the United States on this website.

     My boast to others is to be able to travel to within ten miles of where 90% of Americans live without using a map.  That means using the Interstate system and major U.S. highways to reach the populated areas.  The catch of course is the other 10% composed of scattered rural areas, and the difficulty involved in the last 10 miles, especially in major metropolitan areas.   While the boast is nice, it can also mean taking some traditional routes, but temporarily hindered due to construction, because we neglect to consult roadbuilding and detour advisories.   

      Geographic awareness gives us all a sense of where we are, the great expanse of America, the diversity of places, proportional state and regional distances, scenic beauty, local history, and interconnectedness of populations.  What we hear in the news makes more sense, if we know where the places named are located relative to others.  From an ecological standpoint we learn mountain barriers, river watersheds and general climatic conditions.  Our national consciousness is related to the geography of place, something well worth the time needed to familiarize ourselves with maps.

     Prayer:  Lord, help us to want to know where we are, so that we can better understand where we are ultimately going.









A bare tree, waiting for winter's chill in Kentucky
*photo credit)

November 18, 2009     Be Prepared with ICE: In Case of Emergency

     Since only one-quarter of Americans carry details as to who to call in case of an emergency (ICE), it is wise occasionally to think about such matters.  No, we do not expect a serious accident will happen to us, still we just might be wrong.  In fact, I discovered that upon looking into my billfold in preparing this, that the phone number of the person to be notified had become illegible.  Still when many of us hike, we do not carry personal identification -- and we could be hit by a car or have a heart attack.  The concept of updating an ICE goes well beyond a standard address book.  Who knows when something might occur requiring that our next of kin be notified?  And so our attention involves caring for those who are to find out about our mishap -- not just us.

     The ICE information should be prominent enough for first responders to have quick access.  This idea was promoted after the London bombing disaster in mid-2005, and allows contact of the next of kin to obtain valuable medical information.  A British paramedic, Bob Brotchie, encouraged people to enter emergency contacts in their cell phone address book under the name "ICE" along with alternative contacts such as "ICE2" and "ICE3."  In an emergency situation, ambulance and hospital staff will then be able to contact these persons.  It's so simple that everyone can do it -- at least everyone with cell phones.  Other steps could be taken by people who only use stationary phones.  Even the posting of passwords to a computer with proper people is of great importance, for otherwise such computer records remain inaccessible.  

     This brings one to another ICE measure, and that is preparing for funeral arrangements long before the hospice worker appears.  A notice left somewhere as to particulars would be most helpful for those burdened with preparing our final arrangements.  Our practice within the Society of Jesus is to spell out details (burial instructions, notification lists, songs, homilist at a funeral, pallbearers, and preferred place of burial, etc.) and to make duplicates and have them filed with a person who will be responsible for arrangements.  This sheet should be updated every five years, since preferences and circumstances change with time.

     Living wills are another matter, as well as property wills and other such last testimonies.  Even to write about this, makes me fully aware that a number of designations of my writing materials have not been completed.  Yes, at the start of this year my intention was to spend a few hours each month on compiling a method for others to follow with ease in routing materials.  We all have a habit of leaving this to a future date -- and sometimes the postponement goes right up to and includes the ICE event. 

     Prayer:  Lord, help us to take our vulnerability and mortality seriously, at least for the sake of those who will have to be responsible for final preparations.  Emergencies do happen to the least expecting -- and that all to often includes US.










Unidentified mushrooms on the forest floor
*photo credit)

November 19, 2009   Make It Yours: Use Less Stuff Day

     Why constantly bring up the need to halt acquiring and storage of unnecessary stuff?  The reason is that "stuff" has a way of retarding our growth in environmental consciousness in very subtle ways.  Stuff costs money to acquire and maintain.  We seldom think of just how much of what we buy in order to have enough to meet essential needs is junk.  To earn the funds to make such purchases takes more and more of our lives.  Boaters and camper owners spend much time paying off the bills for big ticket items.  Those who have extensive credit card debt must ask some basic questions about our frequently overstuffed areas: 

     Foods:  Do we need so many items in the pantry?  On the dinner table? In the refrigerator?  Do we tend to consume less by buying a more limited number of items from lower-priced stores (example the Save-A-Lot chain) handling a smaller variety and fewer brands?

     Household cleaners:  Do we need all the various brands and varieties or can vinegar, ammonia, a box of soda and a basic cleanser be sufficient for most jobs?

     Paper materials:  Do we share books, periodicals, and other printed materials with like-minded people?  Do we reuse the backs of pages as scrap paper?

     Containers:  Do we reuse containers when storing or purchasing items?  Do we buy bulk products so as to reduce container use? 

     Energy conservation:  Do we curb use of lighting, cook in larger batches, heat and cool within wider comfort zones, and turn off unused electronics?  Do we use renewable energy?  Do we get rid of electronic devices that are cluttering the place? 

     Water conservation:  Volume wise, water is the stuff we use most of -- and that can certainly be essential use.  Do we use only the water required for brushing teeth and washing larger and less frequent loads of clothes or dishes

     Gardening:  Do we practice organic gardening that uses no commercial (non-natural) chemical pesticides and similar plant-growth-related materials?  Do we grow more of our own food?

     Cosmetics:  Are we willing to omit unneeded beauty products and perfumes?  Do we see that stuff makes us unpresentable?

     Transportation and Rest:  Do we refrain from travel so as to rest?  Do we see that much can be done in the free time that less travel entails?  Isn't having stuff the reason we want to escape and get away from what clutters our lives?

     Prayer:  Lord, give us the insight to see the disadvantages of a materialistic culture, the way that things direct our lifestyle choices, and distort our aspirations for a better quality of life.









The mid-autumn sky, with almost-full moon
*photo credit)

November 20, 2009    Consider Mid-Autumn Verse  

                       An Autumn Message


       A change confronts us, a whisper, a hint,

         Dawns come later, evenings soon spent,

       A profound stirring in nature's fraternity,

         Breaking summer's seeming eternity. 


       Crimson, scarlet, rust and gold are seen,

         mixed with verdant pastures and evergreen,

       to form a grand finale, a season's clue,

         the ebbing of life's cycles which are renewed.


       Smells of fall ‑‑ dry decaying leaves,

         pungent wood smoke hanging at the eaves,

       iodine-like black walnuts out to dry,

         The scent of mothballs, one can't deny.   


       Soundscapes tell the time ‑‑ the swish of birds

         in winter flocks, the cawing of crows ‑‑ avian words,

       the screech of debris that the raker claims,

         the yell in unison at the hometown games.


        One can taste the change ‑‑ picked tomatoes hardly hale,

          replaced by endive, turnips, mustard, kale,

        and pumpkin pie, squash, pears, mince meats,

          and fresh‑pressed cider and other apple treats.


        Feel the chill, sense the autumn sun at noon,

          tempt one's lunacy by the harvest moon,

        Goblins, spooks, witches everywhere

          foreshadow the coming darkness we fear.


        We hastily do the chores of fall ‑‑ antifreeze,

          chimney‑cleaning, caulking, cut fallen trees,

        stacked woodpiles, roof patches, roadway rock.

          and that annual turning back the clock.


        Our senses tell us something's on the wane,

          as nature's cycle cuts into our own fast lane,

        that summer's flowers must wilt away,

          and our bloom of life has had its day.      


        If fall must come, then let it be,

          a time to hear, smell, taste, feel and see,

        and give thanks for seasonal friends,

          gently announcing our own earthly ends.










An interesting twisted stem
*photo credit)

November 21, 2009     Support the World's Poor

     How many of us can fit into the shoes of an African mother who sees her son or daughter dying of a preventable disease?  Are we as helpless as she is obtaining access to a proper health facility or treatment?  One of this week's BBC nightly news broadcasts has a relief official saying that one child dies somewhere in the world of a preventable disease every six seconds.  Incredible!  That would come to five and a quarter million infants each year, none of whom were able to reach maturity, much less old age.  The cost of saving one quarter of that number of children is estimated at a little over three billion dollars and is being raised by a coalition of groups to buy treated netting to prevent malaria for over one million Africans.  Think of that amount;  it is the same amount that the financially troubled Merill-Lynch gave as bonuses when entering the deal with Bank of America.  The bonuses of one company alone could have saved the lives of over a million children.  What is the Lord going to say to us all on Judgment Day?   Why didn't we see priorities?

     The manner in which this and other rich countries treat the so-called "legal" property holders is an utter scandal.  Why a scandal?  Because the wealth of the world belongs to all, and especially to those in basic need.  If resources cannot be freed for such essential needs as food and basic medicine, the term  "cannot" really means that the laws are fashioned to favor retention of wealth by the influential elite of a given country.  Actually, democracy means looking out for the will of all the people, not the privileged few.  The most basic want on the part of the billion hungry people of this Earth is for food, and then move a step more and include medicine as well as employment and basic education.

     How can we in a democratic society stand by while our poor brothers and sisters suffer?  Some people are moved to spend time after retirement or when able to assist in local services for the poor (soup kitchen, homeless shelter, etc,).  Others of us can share our food budget with an organization that cares for orphans in a foreign land (my preference is the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA).  Others prefer to financially support relief organizations that seek to provide basic needs to the world's poor.  Concerned citizens should contact legislators by letter, email, phone or personally in order to provide more international relief from wealthy to poorer nations.  Maybe the financial reforms that halt those bonuses is your area of concern, namely a tax on excess wealth so that governmental agencies can have resources to assist others in need.   Seek congressional legislation to expand the Peace Corps to include training people in developing nations.  Launch out into the deep, for we cannot stand silently by while such disaster comes to so many of our brothers and sisters.

     Prayer:  Lord, inspire us to speak up for the poor and to find the best way to help them according to our own resources.








Shapes of an autumn tree
*photo credit)

November 22, 2009   Act Kingly with Christ the King

     Yes, I am a king.  I was born for this.  I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth, and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice. (John 18:37)

     We Americans are steeped in a republican tradition that lacks kings of any sort.  Yet today we join the rest of the world in celebrating the feast of Christ the King, as our Church year draws to a close.  We can join an alternative crowd from the one that greeted Jesus on Good Friday, for "we have no king but Christ." Being without a national tradition of royalty means we are unfamiliar with nobility and all its trappings, bows, and titles.  However, such royal practices are not what Christ means, and so, if we lack these, we may be well along the road of redefining kingship just as Jesus was before Pilate.  For Christ, the leader was not someone out and above others, but one who is of service and is up in front of them, an integral part of a body working for the good of all.  The emerging divine meaning of kingship does not include privilege or elitism, and we should never allow it to be so.

     People who are more commoner than elite can be of greater service in the manner that Christ encourages us to be.  Perhaps the service of citizen militia in the Revolutionary War is closer to what Christ wants than a noble at the service of the king or queen.

This commoner image has a number of advantages:  we are willing to take on the humblest role for the good of all;  we do not see ourselves as using energy and time engaging in tasks that only set some apart from others;  we can stay focused with the work ahead; and we are willing to work closely with others who are working as one body of Christ. 

     This more modern and republican concept of kingship allows us the freedom to go beyond finding Jesus answering to Pilate;  we, as other christs, must practice a certain independence;  we need to define our own roles in the "kingly" work of service, something that comes through our Baptism and the gifts from the Holy Spirit at our Confirmation.  Thus we cannot act alone, but we have to make independent decisions while we act.  Such freedom includes good and bad qualities, for some would say, "You are acting alone; how dare you not follow the king."  The response is that our king, who cleaned out the Temple, changed the character of our relationship to a given culture:  he acted counterculturally.  So too we are expected to do the same in our own age and place.  As followers of the Lord, we are expected to do what has to be done here and now.  We are to be good citizens;  we are to take care of each other and our environment;  we are to be watchful and on the lookout for those in need; we are to question the privileges of the wealthy, who by their possessiveness seek to control the distribution of what is common to all, and is needed for the basic livelihood of all.  Acting in a modern kingly fashion is not easy to do.    

     Prayer:  Lord, teach this unkingly people how to faithfully follow according to the kingly mandates of our baptismal vows.









An autumn drive through Mt. Vernon, KY
*photo credit)

November 23, 2009   Drive Smart This Thanksgiving Weekend

      Thanksgiving holidays are America's finest way to celebrate.  Nothing can crash that celebration faster than a "crash" of some sort whether a collision, with fatalities and hospitalization, or a fender bender.  The following suggestions are meant for all who travel by means of private auto -- including this writer:

     * Never use a cell phone when driving.  Keep that as a personal axiom.  Tell loved ones you will call them from the next rest stop.  Sometimes it is not we, but the other fellow who is driving erratically because he or she is on the phone and not concentrating on the road.  More and more states are addressing this growing problem through outright banning of cell phone use by auto and truck drivers -- some of whom seem to be tweeting while driving.  When people call you and you know they are driving, make it curt and short saying we do not converse with distant drivers.

     * Drive defensively.   There is an absent-minded driver out there trying to remember everything that needs to be done before taking the Thanksgiving trek.  This person could do something unexpected and so be on the look out.  It has happened to me on several scary occasions, especially when someone fails to give a signal.  Remember that some people are doing unaccustomed heavy driving this week.

    *  Pull off the road when tired.   All of us know that it is too difficult -- and dangerous -- to drive when sleepy.  Don't fool yourself.  The world will remain a better place if you take that quick nap that is the true pause that refreshes.  With experience any of us drivers find that there are ways to stay more alert: a dose of caffeinated beverage, popcorn, an open window for a few moments in brisk weather, loud music to which you are unaccustomed, and another driver to change places with you. 

     *  Know your trip directions.  Nothing is worse than not being certain where one is driving.  Study the directions ahead of time, look up the exit outlet prior to the one needed, and place the listing on the dash for use when traveling in unfamiliar territory.

You may have your own tracking device and that can help, but learn the directions anyway before you start.

     *  Give some time to prayer.  Asking for guidance and strength when the trip begins is a good practice.  Some like to say vocal prayers on the trip.  Thank God after a successful trip as well.

     *  Let others drive difficult portions.  Some of us are losing the skills we had in earlier years and so we will not drive in certain highly urbanized areas.  It is too stressful.  Seek to avoid heavily congested areas if possible. 

     *  Drive within the speed limits.   

     Prayer: Lord, may the protecting spirits guide us on our trip.







Bright leaf of the sweetgum tree
(*photo credit)

November 24, 2009     Celebrate National Family Week

     Thanksgiving is a family feast, and so we naturally turn to family support at this time of overly stressed family life.  For some of us, the focus will involve entertaining the loved ones returning to celebrate the Thanksgiving meal and gathering;  for others who are the travelers it is to bring a smile and good wishes to the one who acts as host or hostess.  Certainly Thanksgiving is good for families ultimate or extended, who are able to gather and celebrate.  But what about the broken families of this world?  Can we do something for them? 

     * Communicate.  Greetings to the ones who are stressed the most, or who are isolated may come in the form of letters, phone calls or emails.  While most families are able to get together, still others have duties or are hindered from gathering and ought to be remembered.  Maybe these can be located and assisted.

     * Visit another.  Some people are shut-ins and lack the personal visits that mean so much, especially during this week when they will miss the Thanksgiving with others.

     * Undertake citizen action.  Work for a health reform package that includes all Americans.  When one in six are not insured, they are outside the "family" of care, and feel the isolation.  Our support of comprehensive health care is the best we can do to make them all part of the family.  The same holds for support of affordable housing and equal educational and job opportunities.   

     * List the anniversaries.  Some time this week recall whether the listing of anniversaries and birthdays is marked on next year's calendar.  That ought to be done before it is overlooked.

     * Give personal encouragement.  Say a good word to those near and dear who struggle with family problems:  meeting bills, facing indebtedness, passing exams, dealing with drugs, limiting television and texting time, and many other concerns.

     * Serve others.  This is the one week of the year when the volunteer services may be most needed.  So often we think of the holidays ahead and where we travel and our upcoming entertainment.

However, others hurt in many ways and they need our help.  Look, see, rise up and do something.

     * Pray together.  Quite likely this is a practice that is neglected because of busy routines, and yet closeness demands that the Lord be with us in our activities as a family.  By praying we discover a great difference in our lives and a spiritual dimension that is so often missing. 

     Prayer:  Lord, help us to expand our view of family and see those who are near and dear, and those far away as part of the entire human family to which we are committed to becoming  closer.






Late autumn with green Eastern redcedar
(*photo credit)

November 25, 2009    Inventory Our Service Potential

     God gives us many gifts some of which have not been actualized.  If tomorrow on Thanksgiving Day we list the gifts given, how about considering our "potential" one that are there to be triggered into action?  "What can we do in a better way to change the world?" A thorough personal inventory may be necessary and, like any assessment, may require advice from others.

     A first step is to review the possible areas of service open to you that attract you in some fashion.  What type of local service can be easily performed according to where you are at this period and the amount of time and energy available?  Are your interests on a broader level such as state, regional, national or global arenas?  If the condition is one of being incapacitated, do your interests lend themselves to communicating with those in need or associated caregivers and telling them you pray for them?

      Second, list your personal talents, skills at delivery or writing, amount of available time, ability to travel to the site of the activity, and sufficient knowledge about or access to information about the service to be rendered. 

     Third, list the excuses that could crop up as to why not to involve yourself at this time in this service-- lack of money or time or personal support.  Perhaps, a better approach than a full time commitment is starting with a shorter span of time and seeing whether this could be beneficial to all parties before the investment in a long-term commitment.

     Fourth, lack of experience or confidence may make you prefer to work in association with others who have established a leadership role.  Assisting those already giving good service is of immense value that is often overlooked by those wanting to reinvent the wheel. 

     Fifth, pray for the grace to have the energy to be of ever greater service, to see that lack of some things should not hold you back from others, that even a certain humility in not being fully skilled could be an asset among those with whom you can serve.  However, let's not allow the lack of complete skill in an operation to stop some minimal effort to help our neighbor.

      A lack of resources may be a resource in itself and allows for an openness and freedom from any preconceived reforming activity that could be secretly put on the agenda for service rendered.  We know that "necessity is the mother of invention."  Resourcefulness is often quite impressive, and thus a good service tool.  Those who come with earnestness can be highly successful.

     Prayer:  Lord, as we approach Thanksgiving, allow me to see that my giving could even improve, knowing that You have given me many resources that could be shared with others.






A heavenly view
(*photo credit)

November 26, 2009      Thank God on Thanksgiving Day

     A ministry of Thanksgiving is most effective on this most blessed of secular American holidays.  Let us each show our immense gratitude for our many God-given gifts.  Even if we were to list as many things as we can think up this entire day, there are more in store for the treasure of gratitude:

     Thank God for --

     *  Caregivers and charitable response by so many from so many parts of the world for those who are ill, forsaken and the victims of wars or natural disasters;

     *  People who do the normal services for our community -- the police, fire personnel, first responders, 911 operators, and others who keep us civilized and civil as well as cared for;

      * Sufficient energy sources even at higher prices and the added hope that renewable energy sources will be replacing our carbonaceous fuel sources;

     * the people who have touched our lives and have now passed on to their eternal reward;    

     * New life in all its forms and with all its promises;

     * A sparing from a pandemic that could always come at any time and bring ruin to many communities;

     * The United Nations, which is willing to undergo reexamination for the well-being of peoples in every land;

     * Relatively good economic health and the protection to save us from the disasters of this past year;

     * The use of all forms of rapid communication and the many messages we received and sent to inspire, encourage, and give basic information to others;

     * The visits of friends and the hospitality shown us as we travel about;

     * The freedoms we continue to enjoy;

     * The people who raise and harvest the food that we are eating today, and our ability to obtain sufficient sustenance for life; 

     * The lives we lived this past year; and

     * Our abilities to use the Internet, to read, to reflect and to pray.

     Prayer:  For all these things -- and more -- we thank You Lord.




Shadows and light in autumn color
(*photo credit)

November 27, 2009     Learn to Count Calories

    What better day to consider our calorie intake that we have and to be more on the alert about possible overweight.  What's not listed here, can be found on food packages.












Red cabbage, nature's work of art
         (* photo by Sally Ramsdell)

November 28, 2009    Make Proper Food Choices

     America's major days of traditional foods (turkey, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, etc.) is Thanksgiving and "leftovers" day.  Thus as these foods are behind us we look beyond for choices when we eat out.  Since many folks suffer from obesity and other health problems, we ought to think nutrition in meals out:

     Top choice:  When food is accompanied by water instead of sugary soft drinks, a meal can have a greatly reduced calorie content (see yesterday's Calorie Counter), even though the fast food places may make water less accessible than profitable sodas.  If soft drinks come with the meal, choose a diet drink.  Water can replace the desire for an additional double or triple helping.

     Item choices:  The choices can be quite important, as is shown on the above listing of meats and even soups and vegetables.  A serving of baked beans has several times the calorie content of other choices, which may prove just as enjoyable and filling.  The same applies to creamed soups as opposed to non-creamed varieties.

     Sweet choices:  Desserts are usually what do us in.  Think about the pie choices at Thanksgivings past!  On rare occasions, as on that feast we may take a calorie-loaded selection, but what really counts are day-by-day choices over time.  Fresh fruit is far better than sweet desserts; fruit is filled with nutrition and better types of sugars.  Even the selection of the type of pie makes some difference, but that is generally marginal compared to eating fresh fruit.   A choice of cheese cake (200 calories for a 2" piece) is better than a piece of chocolate cake with icing (2" piece), which has an astounding 445 calories.  Angel food cake of the same size has only 110 calories.   

     Vegetable choices:  Most of us know that vegetables are available much of the year in fresh or at least in frozen and canned form.  However, it is fashionable, especially among youth to reject them in whatever fashion.  Many cooks regard pasta choices as faster to fix and to fill hungry stomachs.  How about more vegetables to replace these standard American menu items?  With all our resources, America has rather limited menus, and fast food places know it.  Salads and vegetables make good meals, and schools and homes are getting the message -- finally. 

     Salad Dressing choices:  A salad by itself contains very few calories, but many prefer garnishing it with something interesting -- and that is where we find the calories.  For instance, a chef salad with regular oil (1 tbl) is 160 calories, whereas with dietetic dressing it is 40 calories.  The same salad with an equal amount of mayonnaise is 125 calories; with Roquefort, Russian or French dressing, it is 105 calories. 

     Prayer:  Lord, you endow us with freedom;  inspire us to use that freedom wisely in all things, and especially when we choose the foods we are to eat.





Jack Frost nipping the blackberry
         (* photo by Sally Ramsdell)

November 29, 2009      Consider Advent Celebrations

     Advent and a new Church year start today.  During this holy season we each ought to consider doing something very special to give it more than a time of Christmas gift purchases.  Let's strive to bring Christ back into Christmas throughout Advent.

     Light the Advent Wreath -- This spiritual symbol of Christ's coming originated in the Middle Ages through hanging wooden ox cart wheels in a rather dry location near the home fireplace, so they wouldn't warp in the wet winter weather.  These were decorated with Christmas foliage and candles as the season progressed, adding candles as the days got shorter and the nights longer.  Today, we make wreaths from evergreen boughs and among them place four candles, three purple, the major Advent color, and the fourth rose for the joy of the third Sunday of Advent.  An additional one is lit with each successive week.

     Link Christmas decorations with Advent --  Ask the question amid the decorations, "Who is coming at Christmas?"  Advent prepares us to experience a more spiritual Christmas expectancy through the readings of the Old Testament.  Install a crib instead of reindeer and Santas.  Let festive lights focus in on the importance of that crib scene.  If commercial decorations appear early, so ought the spiritual ones during the preparatory season.

     Integrate caroling with Advent songs -- Include Advent hymns in the choral singing and caroling.  Why should some beautiful Advent songs be reserved for the Church or liturgical settings alone?  They may be sung as well with the standard Christmas ones.

     Provide for children's celebrations -- Bring in the concept of Mary and Joseph looking for a place to stay, as Spanish families do in their Posadas.  This may be a perfect time to intermingle Hispanic and Anglo culture in an integrated gathering and take time to explain the origins of the celebration.

     Prepare a special Advent dish -- Several nationalities have their own special foods, especially in relation to fasting from meat.  At home, my mother would make homemade noodles (from flour and eggs) or Alsatian Spaezel in the handed-down recipes that were served with tomato sauce.

     Link Advent to Earth themes -- We all await the healing of our wounded Earth and the coming of a New Heaven and New Earth.  That expectancy is really part of the Advent liturgy.  We should anticipate a future Earth of justice and peace among all the people and all creatures.  Can't we dream of an Earth where all have affordable housing, adequate food, potable water, a sound education and basic health needs satisfied?  Advent means the coming of peace.

     Prayer:  Lord, come to us in a special way this Advent to make it a spiritual experience for us all here and now. 





The "wooly bear" - an early prediction for winter's weather
(*photo credit)

November 30, 2009      Accept the Coming of Winter

     For many children and a sprinkling of adults, the approaching December brings thoughts of snow, ice skating, Christmas gifts, jingle bells, green and red decorations, and all the good things of the season.  For others, but not all of us, the days of dreary November are now past and we look forward with less enthusiasm but some hope to "the winter months."  As we grow older, we find winter weather harder to endure than even the "global warming" summers.  Perhaps there are things to break the spell of hardship ahead and we should look for these in hope.

     Freedom:  With the heavier layers of winter clothing, we think of ourselves as not being free.  Not so.  We are free of mosquitoes for another few months, hornets, wasps, snakes, and other creeping and crawling varmints.  We are free of sunscreen and sunburns,  air conditioners and their accompanying respiratory difficulties, overly hot cars and bedrooms, stagnant ponds with green algae, dried out or overgrown lawns, leaves in the gutters, and vehicle noises at all hours of the night.  Summer is gone for awhile.

     Coziness:  In what other season can one become so contented?  The snow is falling and we can go nowhere for a short while.  A cloak of fuel-saving snow blankets the house and allows us to concentrate on a good book or movie. Just stay put and contented.

     Friendliness:  Summer has its parties but there's something nice about the Salvation Army kettle, the caroling in the nursing home, the tinsel and string of lights on homes we totally overlook at other times of the year.  There's a demand that we say "hello," when we would have passed people by at other times.  Winter demands communication in ways that other seasons can omit.

     Variety:  Cooking can be a fine art especially in winter.  That's when variety is fine-tuned for people who lack summer's fresh produce.  This is the time to bake cakes and prepare candy, try new soups and salads, open up the root cellar and canned goods, get out the nut cracker, make popcorn and, more rarely, kill hogs, resulting in sausage and other pork dishes.

     Slower pace:  Winter is supposed to be a slower time and not to involve much travel.  When we decide to avoid a distant event, we make room to stay home.  Winter is when we can think about things needing added concentration.

     Anticipation:  Winter is the beginning of a new growing season, and so our thoughts turn to the increase in light in late December, and the stirring of the Earth itself.  We will soon be beginning a new year, and the old will be behind us.  This is the time of hope starting with Advent.  We are preparing for new life, and that is something to truly look forward to.  Bring on December!

     Prayer:  Lord, allow us to take on each season as it comes, knowing full well that each has a goodness worth appreciating.



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

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

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