Monday, April 29, 2019

Time for a rerun

What with Easter and all, life was busy, and I missed marking Earth Day in these moodlings of mine. I usually like to post something to remind us all to be gentle with our planet. Today I'm working on a little presentation I'll be giving to the 2019 class of Master Composter Recyclers, and I had another listen to the little video a bunch of MCRs and friends put together. Here it is, a little rerun to remind us to live more lightly on our planet.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Laudato Si Sunday Reflection: Easter Alleluias

Today's reflection is brought to you by
Revelation 1: 17b - 19.

You touch us with your healing hands
and say,
"Do not be afraid."

You are the first
and the last.

You live in us and in all that you have made.

Your death and resurrection
show us
that we
and all of creation
will die
and rise again.

You are alive forever,
and you hold the keys
to our existence.

Show us the way
to the fullness of life
that you have promised.

Help us to work with you
toward a world of resurrections!

+Alleluia, Amen.

* * * * * * *

This is the season when we remember that we are Easter People -- that all the evil and darkness in our broken and messed up world can not overcome light and love.

The anointed one known as Christ helps us to realize that we are all children of God, and as such, we are loved beyond all telling. Even so, we are far from perfect, and our planet is suffering from our particular faults -- greed being one of the main. With 7.7 billion of us inhabiting our Mother Earth, the importance of remedying our greed is critically important -- or life will become unsustainable.

None of this is news -- we have known for a very long time about the poverty, pollution, deforestation, war, global climate change and other destructive problems created by the human race. The difference now is that we are reaching the tipping point. Recent floods, storms and fires constantly in the news are making this abundantly clear.

Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home is Pope Francis' letter to the world, his insistence and encouragement to make necessary changes in the way we are living. Combining it with the example of a Good Friday that has never been completely forgotten, we know that resurrection is possible, and that the light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness has not overcome it. So as bleak as our environmental outlook is for the moment, there is hope. Especially if the Easter People of Mother Earth speak up for her every chance that we get.

So here's what we do: we take every opportunity presented to us to make choices that help our planet, and remind others to do the same. We talk to our priests and pastors about our sister, Mother Earth, and our concerns for her. We ask them to share the ideas of Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home from their pulpits (especially Chapter 5). We continue to lobby our elected officials to keep creation and all our family members affected by climate change at the forefront of their minds as they govern. We think, act, and pray for positive changes in the way resources are shared and managed around the globe.

And we continue to sing our Alleluias until things improve...

Thursday, April 18, 2019

My antidote for a post-election hangover

My post-election hangover isn't because of alcohol -- it's from concern about what our future premier might do to social services, education, LGBTQ2S+ rights, and our already struggling environment. His arrival at his election speech in his big blue Dodge Ram pickup truck was a symbolic gesture, I know, but it only demonstrates how tone-deaf he is to the serious issues of climate change and poverty. His emphasis on the economy might not leave a lot of room for the needs of marginalized community members and the environment, so the best antidote is to be vigilant and active in standing up for and with them.

If you're feeling the kind of concern that I am, prayer is always a helpful tool to keep us grounded. And this Easter weekend, there are plenty of opportunities. As usual for this time of year, I'll just highlight my two favourites on Good Friday.

The Outdoor Way of the Cross begins at 10 am at Immigration Hall (10534 100 St), and is a beautiful reflection on many of the most important issues humanity faces. It lasts approximately two hours, and takes participants on a 2 km route through the inner city before ending at Hope Mission for lunch.

And Friday evening at 7 pm in the beautiful Providence Renewal Centre main chapel (3005 119 St) is Ecumenical Prayer Around the Cross, with scripture, silence and song from the Taizé community. Why not bring your friends and neighbours of different denominations to pray with us for peace, unity and reconciliation, the very things that Jesus came to share with us? All are welcome at both events, and they offer just the right balance to all the politics of the past weeks, in my humble opinion. Hope to see you there.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Laudato Si Sunday Reflection: God is God, and I am not

Today's reflection is brought to you by
Philippians 2: 6-11.

You ARE God.

But you don't use your status to your advantage.

Instead, you use it for ours.

You empty yourself,
lower yourself (as servants do),
becoming one of us.

And then you die on the cross
to show us that all our deaths
lead to resurrections.

To show us what love is really all about.

And so we exalt you,
Name Above All Names.

All creation bend our knees to you
and our many voices sing your praises.

You ARE God.

Thank you for everything.


* * * * * * *

I spent this week looking at paragraphs 65-69 of Laudato Si, which can be accessed by clicking here. It reminded me that as a member of the human race, I am beloved by God, as is pointed out in paragraph 65: "Saint John Paul II stated that the special love of the Creator for each human being "confers upon him or her an infinite dignity".... How wonderful is the certainty that each human life is not adrift in the midst of hopeless chaos, in a world ruled by pure chance or endlessly recurring cycles!"

However, the encyclical's assertion that we are all conceived in the heart of God needs to be applied to all of God's creation all the time (even when it's not particularly convenient for human beings). I would argue that the chickadee outside my window is also the result of a thought of God and should be accorded dignity on that basis as much as I am. Therefore, using pesticides to control bugs that the chickadee likes to eat is a sin, right? And not just because that pesticide might travel through the food chain to us human beings...

Our broken relationships with God, our neighbours and the earth are the focus of paragraph 66. Sin is the disruption of those relationships, the disintegration of harmony, the disruption of the web of life. After Jesus, Saint Francis was one of the first to notice the lack of harmony and try to make up for it, and I sometimes wonder if his sermons to the animals weren't one big apology on behalf of the human race, with a reminder that God loves all creatures better than human beings seem to.

In addition to reminding us that "We are not God," paragraph 67 also says, "Although it is true that we Christians have at times incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures, nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God's image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures." It goes on to explain that Scripture exhorts us to care for, protect, oversee and preserve our earth and its fruitfulness for those who follow after us. It also reminds us that the earth belongs to God and our claims to ownership of anything really aren't valid, though we seem to forget that on a regular basis. Can you name any of your so-called possessions that aren't actually a gift from God, directly or indirectly?

We "must respect the laws of nature and the delicate equilibria existing between the creatures of this world" (paragraph 68), and take special care not to take advantage of the creatures with which we share creation. Here's where the Wisdom of the Biblical accounts comes into play, noting scripture passages that underline the importance of humane treatment of all God's creatures. This section is most concerned that we see that "the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures."

"By virtue of our unique dignity and our gift of intelligence, we are called to respect creation and its inherent laws," says paragraph 69. Wise elders among our First Nations brothers and sisters have been closer to the truth in their respect for nature, and we have so much to learn from those who seldom lost sight of the fact that "[Humans] must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things" (paragraph 69). This phrase comes from the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is also a tenet of original First Nations culture, one that our North American consumer cultures have conveniently forgotten in our pursuit of material goods. 

Ah, here's the whole point: what does it look like to "avoid any disordered use of things" in my life? 

Well... if I didn't wear earrings or other unnecessary ornaments, animals might have healthier habitats that are less polluted by mines. I suspect that I eat and use products made from animals that are raised in inhumane conditions when I could get ethical products by dealing directly with small-scale producers if I do a little research and go further than my local grocery chain or big box store for the most convenient items. And when I waste electricity or other forms of energy, I'm contributing to unnecessary fossil fuel emissions that change environments and habitats for creatures all over the world. 

As always, it's a matter of awareness, of recognizing that every consumer choice we make matters in one way or another, and choosing the best option every time. Do we really have to put herbicide on the coming crop of dandelions? Or can we allow them to be early food for our bee populations? All we need to do is wake up to better ways.

Here's a nice little video to help increase awareness...

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Springtime near the Rockies

Things could get quite interesting for my husband after the provincial election on April 16th, so we decided to get away for a little break beforehand. Lee booked us a weekend for two at the Prairie Creek Inn, and we enjoyed the peace and quiet out near the Rockies.

One of the "Charming Inns of Alberta," the Prairie Creek Inn.

Of course, we're adventurers too, so we drove the local forestry trunk roads, looking for wildlife and other points of interest. And we definitely weren't disappointed.

Mamma moose and her teenager...

making sure we behave.

White-tailed deer -- their tails were like flags bouncing across the meadow.

Pussy willows just starting to pop.

The road down to this bridge was white-knuckle driving for the ice!

See the frozen falls?

But these were nothing compared to Ram Falls. 
Just the walk down amazed me -- God bless the welders
who put up the railings!

A pretty sheer drop on either side, and it was windy!

The North Saskatchewan is a pretty colour closer to its source.

Everywhere we went, it was quiet, except for birdsong, 
squirrels, and the wind in the trees.
Nothing but silence when I woke in the middle of the night.
It was exactly what my soul needs now and then.

We were so blessed to be able to enjoy springtime near the Rockies in this year of Blessing.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Laudato Si Sunday reflection: Participating in a new thing

Today's reflection is brought to you by
Isaiah 43:16-21.

who have saved your people
time and time again,
you tell us,
"Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth,
do you not perceive it?"

You make a way where there was none before
and provide for our needs before we even know them ourselves.

All that you have made will honour you,
for you care for us whom you formed for yourself.

May we care for your creation
so that every creature can live in peace and justice
and declare your praise to the ends of the universe.


* * * * * * *

Did you hear Monday's news about Canada's Changing Climate Report, put out by scientists with Environment and Climate Change Canada? The news that, on average, Canada is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world filled me with a deepening sense of doom, and the feeling that I need to do more to reduce my impact on the planet. If we think last year was bad with its storms, droughts, fires and floods, how much worse will it get? I don't like to dwell on it, and the only way to handle those dark feelings is for me to push more positive ways.

The more modern reading of this week's reading from Isaiah above reminds me that our global climate crises all stem from the fact that human beings have forgotten how to appreciate and be thankful for the many, many blessings we receive from God, who created our sister, Mother Earth. Unfortunately, in our forgetfulness, rather than cooperate with God and find new ways to live more sustainably, too many of us imagine that we are entitled to more than our earth can logically provide to each person on the planet. Most of our earth's ills can be traced back to greed.

This week's reading of paragraphs 60-64 of Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home (click here to access it) is a wrap up of Chapter One, What is Happening to Our Common Home, and a brief introduction to Chapter Two, The Gospel of Creation (how I like that idea -- creation as good news).

Paragraph 60 points out two extremes of opinions regarding how to deal with the ecological problems our earth is facing, one being the myth that progress and technology will solve all our problems, and the other the idea that human presence, impact and intervention on earth needs to end. Of course, the real answer lies somewhere in between. The trick to living well is always finding the right balance, the place of sufficiency rather than too much or too little.

Now that we've made it through Chapter One, we've seen the many ways that "our common home is falling into serious disrepair" (paragraph 61). Looking at all these ecological and social problems, Pope Francis explains that we need to be a faith community that understands the importance of hope in finding the way out, redirecting our steps, and solving our problems before we reach the breaking point. If I'm reading the world correctly, more and more of us are attempting to simplify our lifestyles in an attempt to slow "the rapid pace of change and degradation" simply because the breaking point is a scary place to live! And we're inviting others to join us in our efforts, which is a really good thing.

In paragraph 62, the idea that "science and religion can enter into an intense dialogue fruitful for both" is mentioned. Science's logical approach combined with religion's faith-based hope have more of an opportunity to 'make things right' than either could alone. It's kind of like my own relationship with my husband. He's the engineer, the scientist, the logician who works with his head, and I am the gardener, the artist, the facilitator dealing in heart practicalities. Together, we're an excellent team, if I do say so myself, because we bring different gifts and talents to bear on our marriage's challenges. Likewise, science and religion can find balanced solutions to earth's problems by working together, science's thought processes with religion's belief in beauty, goodness and truth.

Pope Francis is insistent when he says that we need more than one way of looking at the complexities of our ecological crises -- "no branch of sciences and no form of wisdom can be left out, and that includes religion and the language particular to it. The Catholic Church is open to dialogue with philosophical thought; this has enabled her to produce various syntheses between faith and reason. The development of the Church's social teaching represents such a synthesis with regard to social issues; this teaching is called to be enriched by taking up new challenges" (paragraph 63).

If you haven't read about Church social teachings, click here for a wonderful explanatory webpage from Development and Peace. Why not take a few moments to check them out? They have so much to say about how our world should and could work. I can't help but feel that if we applied them not only to human life, but to all of creation, our world would be in much better shape.

Laudato Si reminds us that faith convictions can offer Christians and other believers "ample motivation to care for nature and for the most vulnerable of [our] brothers and sisters" (paragraph 64). In his message for the 1990 Day of World Peace, St. Pope John Paul II spoke of how Christians "realize that [our] responsibility within creation, and [our] duty toward nature and the Creator are an essential part of [our] faith." When our faith moves us to act responsibly, there is always hope.

And when we remember that all of creation is a gift into which we have been born, there is always gratitude, which prevents us from taking things for granted. If we hold onto gratitude, we're more likely to use our blessings wisely. And we're more likely to participate with God in bringing about the new things with which God wants to gift us.

I know I've posted the song below more than once, but to me, it's a gorgeous reminder of our many blessings, showing so many reasons to continue on in hope and gratitude.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Scratching the gardening itch...

I'm a pretty happy woman these days because of many things growing all around me. Call it garden gratitude.

One day back in February, when it was miserably cold, I just couldn't take it any more. I shovelled my way to the greenhouse door, chipped away enough ice that I could actually get it open, and hauled in a frozen bag of potting soil that we purchased last fall. While it took two days to thaw, My wonderful husband set up some grow lights in our dining room (yes, that's the pink glow when you walk past our house in the evenings, and no, we're not growing cannabis!) and I've been watching seedlings sprout every since.

Some seeds I probably should have started earlier than I did (only planted my annuals last week) and some, I probably should have waited to plant (I can only imagine how leggy some of my tomato plants will get before they can go outside), but it's all good. I've been enjoying scratching the gardening itch, at least a little. So if you need a bit of green in your day, here's a little visit with our present greenhouse inhabitants. Once the annuals are up, they'll go out there, too.

A fairly happy bunch

Volunteer pansies from last fall's pots that I transplanted into trays.

Onions and leeks that I wish I'd started a bit sooner.

Three happy pepper plants (germination rate wasn't great this year).

That wasn't the case with baby tomato plants --
I think every single seed has showed up.
If you want a tomato plant, let me know!

I'm hoping for a June tomato crop for our eldest daughter's wedding --
I've got a few new heirloom varieties, including one called "42 days."

I bought a bag of 9 dahlia bulbs at Costco for $14. 
Thus far, five are viable. Considering that single bulbs
cost $7 at Canadian Tire, I seem to be coming out ahead.

We've been enjoying a few simple salads, too. 
Next week I'm going to plant more lettuce in our cold frame --
can't quite get rid of that gardening itch
even with so much already growing!