Past Spirit Sightings (The Archives)
From Sandra Rooney
Ever since his election, by both behavior and speech, Pope Francis has caught the attention and imagination of not only millions of Catholics around the world, but other believers and non-believers as well. From choosing to name himself after Saint Francis, revered by Catholics and many other Christians for his simple values, poverty, and love of nature, to shunning the papal apartments for more modest quarters in a Vatican guesthouse, he has shown his intention to move the church from its preoccupation with appearance to being a poor missionary church in dialog with the world, and a church that serves the needs of the people.
He has said that all members of the church need to avoid the pitfalls of attachment to worldly things and be more humble, urging all members of the clergy to spurn comfort and get out among the poor and needy. He made headlines last month when he suspended Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Else, Bishop of Limburg, Germany, whom the media dubbed the “bishop of bling,” for his alleged lavish spending. Pope Francis has said the Vatican must become more transparent in its financial dealings. He has even suggested that Catholic convents and monasteries that are empty should be opened up to house migrants and refugees.
That the Pope is reaching his flock seems demonstrated by the fact that, as of October 29, he had passed 10 million followers across nine different language accounts on Twitter, the popular social media network. His tweets include prayers and short passages from his homilies. In July, the Pope was named “the most influential world leader on Twitter” by Burson-Marsteller, a Swiss public relations and communications firm.
Pope Francis has emphasized the need to be aware of the trap of becoming an apostle of one’s own ideas, and warned of those whom he said were obsessed with ideology, forgetting the commandment to love without exceptions. He has faulted the Roman Catholic church for focusing too much on issues such as gays, abortion, and contraception, to the detriment of its larger mission to be “home for all.” “This is the way of the Lord,” he concluded one homily, “It is to worship God, to love God above all things, and to love your neighbor.”
What contemporary images come to mind as you read this passage from Isaiah?Where do you see initiatives of compassion and justice in the world today that might point to a new day? What might you do where you live and worship, in order to be participant in the kind of world Isaiah envisions?
God of infinite possibilities, it is easy for us to look at our world and see only the clouds of hunger, pain, and injustice. Help us to recognize also the many ways in which you seek our participation in creating a better world, a world of compassion, justice, and love. Amen
From Sandra Rooney
In recent weeks, the media have given us vivid images of wild fires raging in New South Wales, Australia; a category 5 cyclone, which hit the east coast of India forcing tens of thousands of coastal villagers to flee their homes; millions of displaced Syrians, on the streets and in refugee camps, facing starvation as well as winter’s cold as the civil war there drags on.
We’ve also seen images of Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani schoolgirl shot in the head a year ago by Taliban extremists. Malala, a Taliban target because of her outspoken support of education for girls, has made a full recovery and her voice as an advocate for education, especially for girls and women, is being heard around the world. A nominee for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, she has met with President Obama and spoken at the United Nations.
She appears fearless in the face of continued threats against her, saying, “Now I’m living a second life. God has given me this new life for the cause of education.”
Appearing on The Daily Show, she left John Stewart speechless with her response when he asked her how shereacted when she learned that the Taliban wanted her dead. “I started thinking about that, and I used to think that the Talib would come, and he would just kill me. But then I said, ‘If he comes, what would you do Malala?’ I would reply to myself, ‘Malala, just take a shoe and hit him.’ But then I said, ‘If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty… you must fight others, but through peace and through dialogue and through education.’ I will tell him how important education is and that ‘I even want education for your children.’ And I will tell him, ‘That's what I want to tell you, now do what you want.’”
A fund, named for Malala, has been established to promote primary school education for children around the world. The fund’s first program is in the Swat Valley, where Malala’s home is. Schools destroyed by the Taliban are being rebuilt, but poverty is often the key obstacle to education for girls. Girls, whose mothers must work in the fields, often miss school because they have to look after the home and younger children. The Malala Fund is offering families of girls a stipend if they will agree to take them out of work and send them to school.
Explore… Psalm 145:1–5, 17-21; Haggai 1:15b–2:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:1–5
This week’s scripture passages link David’s psalm of praise with Haggai’s effort to motivate the people to rebuild their temple, assuring them of God’s presence with them and promise for the future. The author of Thessalonians warns the faithful about those who would read the events of the day as signs of the “end times.” Many of the events that fill our news media might well prompt us to wonder if they are signs of the “end times.”
Merciful God, restore our spirits with the assurance that a way can be made where there seems to be no way. Give us strength and wisdom to see beyond the dark shadows and lead us into light. Amen.
From Paul Turley
Is it possible that the story of Jesus meeting Zacchaeus as told in the 19th chapter of Luke’s gospel could be the first recorded “truth and reconciliation commission”?
The purpose of a truth and reconciliation commission is, of course, first to establish the truth. According to The International Center for Transitional Justice,
Societies and individuals are entitled to know the truth about mass human rights violations in the wake of armed conflict or repression. All cultures recognize the importance of proper mourning to achieve personal and communal healing.
International law clearly recognizes the right of victims and survivors to know about the circumstances of serious violations of their human rights and about who was responsible.
The ICTS recognises, as of early 2011, 40 official truth commissions around the world each seeking to provide accounts of past abuses.
One of these commissions, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Canada, established in 2008, has recently conducted the sixth of seven planned national events to hear the stories of Aboriginal children who for more than 120 years were removed from their homes and placed in Indian Residential Schools. British Columbia Reconciliation Week took place between September 16 and 22, 2013.
According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Indian Residential Schools were part of the Canadian government’s attempt wipe out Aboriginal culture. Or as Amy Georgeput it, “Those schools were built so that we would die.”
Only after the truth has been established can reconciliation begin. Shawn Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations in Canada, put it this way:“Our healing journey requires that we fully understand this history, the government policies and the actions that resulted, and that everyone understands that what happened to us was not our fault,” he said. “From this understanding, we are breaking the cycle of historical abuse and violence.”
One of the most important things that reconciliation requires is remembering. The International Center for Transitional Justice says, “Victims of human rights abuses cannot forget, and states have a duty to preserve the memory of such crimes.”
As an example of how difficult even the preservation of memory can be, in the Bosnia and Herzegovinan village of Prijedor, in the early months of the Bosnian war in 1992, 3,000 citizens were killed or disappeared. As of this date, the municipal government of Prijedor still refuses to memorialise the suffering of non-Serb citizens of Prijedor, who have no memorial for their dead, while the government has built numerous memorials to Serb combatants who died in the conflict.
In a letter sent to the government of Prijedor by the United Nations Secretary General and notable human rights advocates, the authors call on the authorities to “uphold victims’ universally recognized right to truth, which encompasses the basic right to grieve and honor their dead.”
Explore... Luke 19:1–10
If we imagine the story of Zacchaeus as a kind of truth and reconciliation commission, which elements of the story establish the truth of the situation? Which elements point toward the beginning of reconciliation?
Why do you think the detail that Zacchaeus was short and climbed a tree was retained in the telling of this story?
In what sense was Zacchaeus lost?
God, we need truth and reconciliation in so many places and in so many relationships. Give us the courage and the perseverance to seek the truth and to face it. Remind us, too, of the reconciling work of Christ in our lives and give us the wisdom and the grace to reconcile with one another. Amen.
From Paul Turley
Just 1% percent of the world’s population now holds 46% of the world’s wealth, while 86% of the world’s wealth is held by 10% of the population.
These extraordinary figures come from a new report by the Credit Suisse Research Institute. While global wealth has increased to $241 trillion, the amount siphoned off by the super rich has grown even faster so that the old saying “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer” continues to be true even in these time of unprecedented wealth creation.
This is bad news for the world’s poor – doubly so because wealth is still stubbornly linked to goodness in the minds of many people. If a person has money, the story goes, it is because they have worked hard and have been frugal or even blessed for their goodness by the gods. Conversely, if a person is poor or unable to find work, the idea still persists that there is something wrong with them; they are profligate or they truly don’t want to work.
But these figures might also be bad news for the wealthy and the super wealthy.
Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, explains: “When so much of the purchasing power, so much of the economic gain, goes to the very top, there’s simply not enough purchasing power in the rest of the economy.”
As Reich points out, consumer spending accounts for 70% of all economic activity. (Remember George Bush’s plea to Americans following the events of 9/11 to keep spending?)
In 1928 and again in 2007, about one quarter of all income was held by one percent of the U.S. population and in both 1928 and 2008 the economy went into depression, a disaster for the U.S. and for the rest of the world.
And what of the psychological damage to those who cannot provide properly for themselves and their families – even as they see the “good life” on television and the internet, and are constantly told that all they have to do to join the rich is “think positive” and do work they believe in?
As gap between rich and poor widens, a divide opens that allows us to talk about “them.” And “they” are always different from “us,” and “we” are always morally superior. After all, isn’t it true that “we” have the money and “they” do not?
Explore... Luke 18:9–14
If you were to tell this story today, who would replace the Pharisee and who would replace the tax collector? Are their people in your community or country who are constantly referred to as a group, as “them”? What does it mean in the context of this story to be justified?
God, we are sad and ashamed that the great dream of equality, of a true common-wealth that was so much a part of the global conversation following the Second World War, the urge that led the recovery of Europe and that moved on to the Green Revolution, now seems to lie in tatters in so many parts of the world. Forgive us and let us not loose hope that the world you want, a world of justice and enough for all, is still possible and is still our shining goal. May we never loose hope. Amen.
From Paul Turley
"We come here for strength."
That’s how Laurie Odjick, from the Quebec First Nations community of Kitigan Zibi in Canada, explains her involvement in the eighth annual Sisters in Spirit gathering.
Odjick and hundreds of other women gathered on the steps of the steps of Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada’s capital. They gathered, as they have done for each of the eight other gatherings, to demand justice.
They want the Canadian government to hold a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada dating back to the 1960s.
Some estimate the number of missing and murdered women at 600; others say the figure could be much higher. The Native Women’s Association of Canada says many cases have gone undocumented.
Reminiscent of theAsociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo, who, in weekly protests on the Plaza de Mayo for nearly 30 years, carried photographs of their children who had been “disappeared” by the military dictatorship of Argentina. The Sisters in Spirit in Ottawa carried photographs of missing women and girls and two large display boards filled with hundreds of felt figures representing aboriginal women.
Like the mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, the First Nations women of Ottawa are gathering international recognition and support. As you read this, the United Nations special rapporteur on indigenous rights is traveling around Canada speaking with aboriginal leaders and governments. His attention is being drawn to the issue of the missing and murdered women.
Surely we are entitled to hope that the democratically elected government of Canada will not be as unresponsive as the brutal dictatorship of Argentina in its attitude to women seeking justice for their children?
Explore... Luke 18:1–8
There are at least two elements of our text that are present in the experience of the Sisters in Spirit: the persistence of the woman not only in her willingness not to give up but also in her unshakable faith in justice. The second element is the woman’s willingness to be a public spectacle in order to receive the justice that she fervently believes is hers. What do these two elements of our text (and others that you might identify) tell you about the work of justice seeking?
What lessons do you think our text has to teach us about prayer? Is God the judge who needs to be cajoled into being just? Is God testing us to find out if we have enough faith or trust before God responds?
Our text assumes that justice is required from those who have power. Are there relationships in your life where you have power? What kind of justice is required from you in these situations?
God, we do not need to be historians to know that getting justice has always been a long and difficult struggle. We do not need to even read the papers to be sure that justice is denied to many, even as we pray this prayer.
God, it is our prayer that we will be sensitive to injustice, dissatisfied with the lack of justice, angry at how slow justice is in arriving, and persistent in our work for a just world for all.
From Ray McGinnis
Lee Daniels’ The Butler draws on the story of an actual White House butler named Eugene Allen. However, the movie is mostly fictional. It uses the story of Mr. Allen as a springboard to showcase the unfolding social history of the lives of black Americans from the late 1920s through the election of Barack Obama. A 2008 Washington Post article entitled “A Butler Well Served by This Election” was the inspiration for this 2013 film.
Forest Whitaker gives a standup performance as fictionalized butler, Cecil Gaines. We meet Gaines in his childhood, suffering the hardships of slave-like circumstances on a cotton farm in 1926. We get snapshots of his life as a youth dreaming of a new life. Whitaker arrives in the role a few years before his character’s move to the White House working at a Washington, D.C., hotel.
Cecil’s biggest lesson is silence. There is the physical silence of not saying anything or responding to anything said by the white people that he attends. Then there is the silence behind his eyes. In order to maintain his position and be successful as a butler in the White House, he cannot afford to allow his real emotions break through his calm appearance.
Director: Lee Daniels
Film company: Weinstein
Release date: August 16, 2013
Starring: Forest Whitaker, Jane Fonda, Oprah Winfrey, John Cusack, Cuba Gooding Jr.
Focus: Once Cecil makes it to D.C., we are introduced to his wife, Gloria (Oprah Winfrey), and their two sons. With Lewis, the oldest, Cecil finds himself in conflict over his style of being servant to others and Lewis’ own eagerness to advance Civil Rights as a Freedom Rider. Cecil is pulled between the evident injustices that are a catalyst for the Civil Rights movement Lewis is drawn into, and gratitude that his circumstances have improved, by degrees, since he was on the cotton farm in his childhood, where he learned to polish silver.
What motivated the Samaritan to express gratitude? Why would those who weren’t foreigners be less likely to be grateful? How do you think adversity impacts thankfulness? What reflections can you offer with regard to Jesus’ statement to the Samaritan, “your faith has made you well?” What do you think Cecil Gaines has to be thankful for? What circumstances in his life might cause him to not be thankful for what he’s got? What is the relationship between wisdom and gratitude; gratitude and being outside privileged society? What in your life has helped or hindered thankfulness in you?
God of all our circumstances, you seek our welfare and well-being, as your children. Healer of every soul, stir in us thankfulness that honors the small victories in our lives and in the lives of others, while we still wait for your reign of justice and peace to prevail. In Christ we pray. Amen.
From Ray McGinnis
On June 1, 2008, the Canadian Government established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to heal the broken relationships between aboriginal or First Nations and non-First Nations Canadians stemming from the residential school system. Part of the TRC’s mandate was to host seven national events in different regions of Canada, at which victims of the Residential Schools would be able, for the historical record, to give witness to their experiences so that everyone could grow and learn lessons from the injustices done to native peoples.
Five years later, the TRC met again, this time in Vancouver, from September 16 to September 22. Members of the general public were invited to attend and listen to stories of the aggressive assimilation practiced at these schools. Many children, some as young as four, were beaten, raped, and malnourished, and all were forbidden to speak their native languages. Meanwhile, back at in the First Nations communities, the sound of children in the villages faded away, as all the children, except for the infants, were taken away to these schools.
Daily forums took place at the Vancouver event, during which people in church communities could hear survivor stories from Anglican, United Church, and Roman Catholic residential schools. It was an important and difficult step for many to take: to leave their homes, to listen to First Nations people recall their painful experiences, and to witness fresh tears shed over the injustices suffered years earlier.
Dr. Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., (the American civil rights leader who was murdered for the threat he posed to the status quo) spoke words of hope to those gathered for a Reconciliation Walk on September 22. She dreamed that one day all peoples in Canada would be able to say to one another, “free at last, thank God, we are free at last.
What does Paul recall and remember? What does he long for? In view of this, what does Paul remind his readers? How are the testimonies of the residential school survivors, and the tears they shed, important in terms of our efforts to live in God’s way? Can the shedding of tears cleanse and heal? Can telling and listening to survivor stories help kindle the gift of the Creator in both the teller and the listener? What hope is there that the suffering might cease and give way to joy? What other situations can you think of where speaking one’s truth and shedding tears led to healing and opened a way to encounter life with God?
Creator, surround us with your love. May your peace be upon us. May your spirit sustain us. May your vision for human community empower us to live into your way and be channels of your peace. Amen.
From Ray McGinnis
Blue Jasmine is Woody Allen’s latest movie. It opens on Cate Blanchett in action, as Jeanette “Jasmine” Francis, talking incessantly to the woman beside her on a plane. Jasmine is travelling to San Francisco to see her sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), but this is no casual social visit. Jasmine has fallen from grace. Once a woman of leisure, married to smooth-talking millionaire businessman Hal (Alec Baldwin), she is now destitute — which didn’t stop her from flying first class, her sister points out — and needs a place to crash while she regroups.
The two adopted siblings are not cut from the same cloth. Ginger is a divorced mother of two. She works as a cashier. Ginger’s ex, and the father of her bratty kids, is a contractor named Augie. Augie and Ginger have a history with Hal and Jasmine, by way of a bad business deal that cost the former couple their one shot at happiness.
A Wall Street con man of the highest order, Hal doesn’t care who loses as long as he wins. But as we learn through a series of flashbacks, even Hal’s luck has an expiry date. His story provides a backdrop evocative of both the financial crisis and all the investment crooks who have made off with the life savings of many an innocent victim in recent years.
Prayer links…God of our unfolding, be with us in times of change. Help us to notice the signs of the times. Keep us alert to what is in front of us. Prepare us as we take each next step that we may be open to the leading of your spirit as we tune ourselves to your voice. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.
Who can tell where the wisdom of the idea of electric cars lies? If we were to go back 120 years, when automobiles were in their infancy, the merits of the internal combustion engine era were being lauded to the skies. That success is currently putting the planet under threat, with the seemingly little-controlled exhaust emissions damaging all of life.
Now one of the world’s biggest motor manufacturers has launched the first zero-emission all-electric family car at the Low Carbon Vehicle Event 2013 in Bedfordshire, United Kingdom on September 4–5. This is the UK’s premier low-carbon vehicle technology event for vehicle manufacturers, automotive suppliers, and research institutes.
The Ford Focus Electric runs entirely on battery power for up to 100 miles between charges and has a top speed of 85 mph. At a price of £28,500 even after a government grant, it will cost twice as much as the cheapest petrol-powered Focus. Senior Ford technical staff from the company’s Dunton Technical Centre state that the most significant overall reductions in carbon emissions will come from traditional power units such as Ford’s sophisticated turbo-powered, direct-injection EcoBoost engines. According to Ford product development chief, Graham Hoare, “The internal combustion engine has not reached the end of the road. EcoBoost represents the current ‘state of the art’ in petrol technology and future improvements will deliver further efficiencies and CO2 reductions.In the medium term the internal combustion engine will remain the high-volume propulsion solution, supplemented increasingly by electrification and mild hybridisation.”
The arrival of the Focus Electric comes a day after the UK government said that in order to cut carbon emissions every new car sold in 2040 should be an electric or hydrogen vehicle. Transport minister, Norman Baker, states that the move to low-emission vehicles provides both huge opportunities for the automotive sector as well as bringing life-changing benefits to towns and cities by improving air quality and reducing carbon emissions.
We are so often either bamboozled with technology or star-struck by glossy advertisements that our wisdom is clouded or diminished. May we redouble our efforts to see through the fog to glimpse the wisdom of God and affirm the value of our own experience as expressions of that wisdom. Amen.
From Fraser Macnaughton
The Norwegians have a wonderful expression: “There is no such thing as bad weather…just inappropriate clothing!” Hopefully the fire-fighters dealing with one of the largest California wildfires on record are indeed appropriately clothed as the firestorm roared deeper into Yosemite National Park and the fire-fighters started winning the battle to contain it. The so-called “Rim Fire,” which was burning mainly in the Stanislaus National Forest west of Yosemite, nearly doubled its footprint in the park in a day, creeping closer to thousands of homes. Although the flames reached the shores of a reservoir, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission stated that there was “little risk for direct impacts” on the city’s water supply because of the rocky terrain. A fire-fighting force of some 4500 personnel, backed by bulldozers and water-dropping helicopters, worked to encircle and suppress the flames.
The Rim Fire has charred nearly 184,500 acres since it erupted on August 17. The blaze scorched more than 40,000 acres of Yosemite, forcing the closure of some campgrounds in the more remote northern part of the park and the main entrance road from the direction of the San Francisco Bay area.
Climate change, drought, and human settlement in previously uninhabited areas have all played important roles in the growing number and ferocity of US wildfires. However, forest ecologists say it is no coincidence the Rim firestorm exploded through areas which had seen few blazes, if any, for almost a century. During those hundred years, humans managed to tame the Sierra Nevada, investing immense effort and ingenuity to snuff out the wildfires that used to blaze through its forests. Loggers were able to go about their business without disruption, and settlers were emboldened to build homes in ever more remote areas. It was “man versus nature,” and it seemed as if humans had won. That conceit is currently going up in smoke so powerful that it is choking people hundreds of miles away. Nature had reasserted itself.
The Psalm speaks of the voice of God “flashing forth flames of fire,” “stripping forests bare,” and “shaking the wilderness.
In our arrogance that we can control everything, we only expose our shallowness and lack of wisdom. May we come to see how much wisdom we have lost by not listening to the ways of earlier peoples and to the forces of nature. Amen.
From Fraser Macnaughton
In the United Kingdom the argument over “fracking” (the extraction of shale gas from deep underground) is raging between scientists, local people, environmentalists and business developers. New opinion polls show strong public opposition to fracking. Asked if they would like to see various alternative types of energy projects in their area, 60% of people said they would be happy to have wind-farms or turbines but only 23% were supportive of fracking taking place in their area.
Sir Bernard Ingham, press secretary for former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, spoke out as police scaled down their operation at an anti-fracking protest site in West Sussex after four weeks of demonstrations. Ingham said: “It seems they want us all to live in their yurts, tepees and wigwams in a sort of glorious save-the-planet pre-industrial squalor, regardless of our manifest objections. If that is not totalitarianism, I don’t know what is.”
One half of the UK coalition government accuses the other. Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats have poured scorn on Chancellor George Osborne’s push for a shale gas revolution in the UK, pointing out that the process of fracking has caused extensive environmental damage and water pollution in the United States. One of the environmental concerns is the fear that fracking will take place in many areas of Britain that are on the doorstep of important bird migratory routes.
This stance angers the pro-fracking lobby, which contests the claims that serious environmental damage has been caused by pumping water underground at high pressure to release trapped gas. Osborne and other Conservatives believe that shale gas is the answer to the UK’s energy needs and will create thousands of jobs. They claim that local shale fuels, if they can be extracted safely, are better for the environment than imported ones.
Perhaps in order to meet the energy challenge of a secure, low carbon, and affordable power system, the protesters, politicians and the energy industry will have to find an awkward consensus.
It is so often so hard to know what to believe. May we be able to discern the way of God, based on God’s passion for creation, as we navigate the muddy waters of vested interest, politics, and self preservation. Amen.
From Sandra Rooney
Once we put a note in a bottle and tossed it into the ocean, hoping to get a response from some faraway place. Today we face much more dramatic evidence of what is going into the ocean miles away. Two years after the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that swept ashore in Japan, killing more than 15,000 people, solemn reminders of the disaster continue. As much as 300 tons of radioactive water may be pouring into the Pacific every day, while the managers of the Fukushima nuclear plant and the Japanese government continue to look for ways to contain the contaminated water. Tsunami debrisis washing ashore in Hawaii and along the Pacific coast of the United States and Canada.
Earlier this year a 35-foot steel tank and numerous small boats came ashore in British Columbia. Two floating docks beached themselves in Washington and Oregon. They harbored large amounts of marine life that required decontamination to prevent invasive species from establishing themselves on the U.S. coastline. The debris slowly making its way across the Pacific to North America is only a fraction of the estimated 5 million tons of rubble and other materials swept into the sea by the tsunami. According to Japanese government estimates, approximately 70 percent of the debris sank off of Japan's coast, leaving 1.5 million tons to float across the ocean. It is unknown how much of that is still floating.
“Very little research has been done at mid-water depths, and particularly on the seafloor, as to what extent of debris abundance is there and what particular ecological impacts debris has on those marine environments,” according to Nicholas Mallos, ocean debris specialist with the non-profit Ocean Conservancy. And there are no good numbers about how much of the debris currently in the sea comes from the tsunami versus from everyday garbage and abandoned fishing gear. A tsunami’s worth of ocean trash is created each year by the things we buy, use, and throw away.Mallos emphasized that working to reduce everyday consumer waste will make the oceans more resilient in the face of unavoidable debris disasters like tsunamis.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has been tracking the debris, which can pose a navigation hazard to boats and an entanglement or choking hazard to wildlife. Debris washing ashore around the Hawaiian Islands could damage reefs, introduce invasive species, and threaten endangered species. Derelict fishing gear is always a threat to seabirds and migratory species.
While we don’t know the extent of the danger that ocean debris poses, we do know something of the importance of healthy oceans to life on earth. Oceans provide the primary source of protein for more than 1 billion of the world’s people. They absorb nearly one-third of human caused carbon dioxide emission and ocean plants produce half of the world’s oxygen.
We see the ocean waves pounding against a rocky coast and know your awesome power, O God.
From Sandra Rooney
There is so much pain in the world, not just personal pain, but also collective trauma, which can leave wounds that linger for generations. Think of the treatment of native peoples, slavery, and the Holocaust, or even the trauma of Hurricane Katrina. In the summer 2013 issue of YES! Magazine, Lisa Gate Garrigues writes about how some communities are finding ways to respond to collective trauma, which may be “historical, trans-generational, cultural or ancestral, each with its own nuances,” according to Sousan Abadian, a former fellow at the MIT Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformational Studies.
“Coming to the Table” is a non-profit organization founded by descendants of both slaves and slaveholders in partnership with the Center for Justice and Peace-building at Eastern Mennonite University. Racial reconciliation requires that both groups meet face to face so that they can build authentic relationships, strong enough to withstand the challenges of honestly facing their past, present and future together.Their approach includes the mutual sharing of stories, the arts, and apology.
“Kindred Southern Justice Healing Collective,” a network of more than 100 healers and activists of color and their allies, is rooted in a Southern understanding of how trans-generational trauma is connected to a history of slavery, unethical medical testing, and economic displacement. Kindred’s participants celebrate the healing traditions that kept their ancestors going: song, art, prayer, touch, and community. They believe not only in collective grief, but also in collective resiliency and resistance.
Dr. Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart, applying the concept of historical trauma to native people in the Americas, writes, “Genocide, imprisonment, forced assimilation, and misguided governance have resulted in the loss of culture and identity, alcoholism, poverty and despair.” She identifies four steps necessary for healing: confronting the trauma, understanding it, releasing the pain, and transcendence. These steps require education to create awareness; sharing the effects of trauma, which provides relief; and collective mourning/healing, which can provide grief resolution. Ray Daw, a Navajo health administrator in Alaska, is using this approach in work with Native communities, utilizing indigenous models of healing to promote healing from the wounds of history.
For psychotherapist Armand Volkas, a child of Holocaust survivors, recognizing the potential perpetrator in all of us is important in the reframing process. He uses drama therapy, ritual, and storytelling to facilitate workshops between groups with a history of collective trauma between them: Jews and Germans, Israelis and Palestinians, Turks and Armenians, Japanese and Chinese, African Americans and European Americans. “Humanizing the enemy is one of the first steps,” he says. It starts with just bringing people together.
The groups described above make use of a variety of approaches: face-to-face meetings for racial reconciliation, traditional healing practices, providing opportunities for collective mourning/healing, and drama and storytelling, among others.
We pray for all who use their gifts and skills to heal those who are in physical pain and set free those in bondage to the hurt of historical trauma. May we as individuals and communities be willing to face our traumas, large or small, ancient or fresh, that we too might be healed. Amen.
From Sandra Rooney
On August 28 Americans will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the “March on Washington,” which set the stage for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. There have been many marches since then, in Washington and around the world, but for Americans, perhaps none more significant than the one on August 28, 1963, 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Film clips show thousands of people, peacefully gathered for perhaps the country’s most important purpose, equality for all citizens.
The Public Broadcasting Society (PBS) recently broadcast Bill Moyers’ interview with Rep. John Lewis, the last of the ten speakers at the 1963 March who is still living. In 1963, Moyers was the 29 year-old deputy director of the Peace Corps, and Lewis, a 23-year-old, had just been named the head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
Moyers and Lewis, now a fourteen-term Congressman from Georgia, recalled that extraordinary event – 250,000 people of every age and color together on the National Mall in Washington, DC. While the event is most famous for Martin Luther King Junior’s “I have a dream” speech, the list of notable speakers included Floyd McKissick, chair of the board of the Congress of Racial Equality (standing in for James Farmer, executive director of CORE, who was in jail in Louisiana); Eugene Carson Blake, head of the National Council of Churches; Rabbi Joachim Prince, of the American Jewish Congress; Roy Wilkins, head of the National Association of Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); Walter Reuther, head of the United Automobile Workers Union; and A. Philip Randolph, who organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and was considered the dean of black leadership.
In the years leading up to this day, African Americans had been arrested and jailed by the hundreds and thousands, some for sitting at “whites only” lunch counters. They had been beaten. They couldn’t register to vote because of the color of their skin and they lost their jobs if they dared to register. Now they had come together in nonviolent protest, marching for jobs and freedom, for the fulfillment of the American dream, the American promise.
In the PBS interview, Lewis says that he had no concerns about whether it was going to be a peaceful march. He believed that “the people, especially out of the South, had been touched by the spirit of the movement. They were committed to the philosophy and the discipline of nonviolence.” And so many, he said, “were from the religious community. I knew it was going to be all right.” Moyers, however, remembered that the city was tense. “Many of the people working in the District stayed home out of fear of the violence that had been talked about. . .15,000 paratroopers were called up on the ready.” Police leaves were canceled, liquor sales were banned in the city, and they even canceled the National League baseball game scheduled for that afternoon.
The march stayed peaceful, even when young John Lewis put the challenge very directly: “You tell us to wait, to be patient. We cannot wait. We cannot be patient. We want our freedom and we want it now.” What was needed Lewis said, was, “to complete the revolution…all of the black masses are on a march for jobs and freedom.”
We are easily discouraged by the challenges that surround us. Help us, O God, to remember that we are not alone in the struggle, that as we join our hearts and minds with others, we may find the strength “to move mountains.” Amen
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From Paul Turley
In whom do we put our faith? Or, to put it another way, who do you trust?
We used to trust governments. During the Second World War, when governments on both sides of the Atlantic told people that the situation was grave and a combined national effort was needed to defeat the enemy, people by and large responded. However, since Watergate, the Iran Contra Affair, the Iraq war, and now the extent of government spying in the United States recently leaked by Edward Snowden, governments aren’t usually the first institutions we trust. In fact in a recent survey in Australia only 54% of people felt that the government can be trusted.
What are we to make of the Snowden case? In the last few days Snowden has made it clear through his new Russian lawyer that he is seeking asylum in Russia. On Saturday July 27, The Guardian newspaper reported that there were “authoritative reports” earlier in the week that Moscow had granted Snowden permission to stay in the country. In the same report The Guardian quotes US attorney general Eric Holder saying that the charges faced by Snowden do not carry the death penalty. Holder added that the US “would not seek the death penalty even if Mr Snowden were charged with additional, death penalty-eligible crimes.”
Who then shall we trust in this situation?
Snowden, who tells the world that he did what he did because he believes in the principle declared at Nuremberg in 1945: “Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.”?
The US government, whose surveillance of millions of citizens around the world and in its own county has remained, until now, a secret? In addition, a government that has been accused again and again of engaging in “extraordinary rendition” whereby suspected terrorists have been transported, for the purpose of interrogation, to countries known to condone torture?
The Russian government, which will to jail its own citizens who criticise the current regime? Remember that officially Snowden is not yet in Russia but only in the transit lounge of the Moscow airport.
Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, who has close ties to the Putin administration?
The Guardiannewspaper, to whom Snowden supplied top-secret NSA documents?
Trusting no one is hardly ever an option, not if we are concerned with justice.
Explore... Hebrews 11:1–3, 8–16
God, if it was ever true, it is true now; we live in a complicated world. Learning who and what can be trusted is an important part of coming to maturity and being an effective member of society. Give us wisdom, insight, and courage as we seek out truth and trustworthiness. Amen
From Paul Turley
Sales of Bentley cars were up 26% globally in the first quarter of 2013 compared to the first quarter of 2012.
Audi says that it had “the strongest first quarter in its history,” in the first quarter of 2013.
BMW, Daimler, and Mercedes Benz all report growth in sales in 2013 over the same periods in 2012.
At the same time the unemployment rate in the United States remains at 7.6% and even that figure is disputed as being too low, with some commentators suggesting that the true rate is closer to 11%, and the rate for African Americans is nearly 14%. It is also very possible to be fully employed in America today and still be living in poverty.
It is now becoming clear to even the most casual observer of society that while social and legal inequality is diminishing, economic inequality is rising in all western nations. The post-war promise of a true common-wealth in which prosperity would be shared by all has been in decline since the end of the 1970s. It began so strongly, with millions across the western world being able to afford houses and cars, but now many face the prospect that their children will have a lower standard of living than they have enjoyed. And all of this in a time of growing prosperity.
In their 2009 book, The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett give many examples of how the growing inequalities within many western nations lead to increased social and physical ills. They conclude that countries and states that have less acute stratification of incomes enjoy better health, greater trust, less violence, less social dislocation, and greater communal harmony.
God, in a world when some have everything and some nothing, where some can make decisions that affect their lives and others must accept only the decisions of others, help us to remember that this is not the world that you want us to live in. Help us to work toward a world that reflects your welcome and care for all. Amen
From Ray McGinnis
Nelson Mandela, Nobel laureate and former president of South Africa, remains hospitalized. But his health is reportedly improving after spending five weeks in a Pretoria hospital with a lung infection. Mandela has been in critical condition since June 8 when he was hospitalized with the recurring infection, which he first contracted during his 27 years as a political prisoner under the former Apartheid regime.
Mandela’s grandson, Zondwa Mandela, told Reuters he hoped his grandfather would be “seated with us” for the “small lunch” planned for Mandela’s 95th birthday on Thursday, July 18.
Mandela was South Africa’s first black president following Apartheid, a system of racial segregation enforced through legislation by the National Party governments, who were the ruling party of the country from 1948 to 1994. Under Apartheid the rights of the majority black inhabitants of South Africa were curtailed and white supremacy and Afrikaner minority rule was maintained. In 1948 new legislation classified inhabitants into four racial groups (“Native,” “White,” “Coloured,” and “Asian”). Residential areas were segregated, sometimes by means of forced removals. Non-white political representation was completely abolished in 1970, and beginning that year black people were deprived of their citizenship.
It was Apartheid that Mandela struggled against, a victim who eventually both governed and forgave his tormentors. His worldwide appeal includes honours from the USA (Presidential Medal of Freedom) and the USSR’s Order of Lenin.
During Mandela’s current illness there have been nationwide prayers and tokens of support left in makeshift shrines. Prayers have also been offered internationally including by the Archbishop of York in the UK.
Holy One, where there are examples of courage, like Nelson Mandela, may we be encouraged. In the face of life’s eventual decay and surrender to frailty and death, may we honour those who are passing away. Help us acknowledge the places of anticipation and waiting in the face of events that will unfold in their own time. Teach us to pray in ways that offer us a way where our spirit meets your sprit. Grant us wisdom. In your name we pray. Amen.
From Ray McGinnis
Chris Hadfield is a colonel in the Canadian military and aformer Royal Canadian Air Force pilot. He has flown two space shuttle missions and served as commander of the International Space Station. He returned in mid-May from his second space mission. He recalls that he spent as much time as he could up in space with his nose pressed up against his window, like a giddy little child. Hadfield made his first presentation since his return from space to a crowd at the University of Calgary. As this year’s Calgary Stampeded Parade marshal, Hadfield is helping to lift spirits of the city recently hit hard by flooding of the Bow River.
“It’s quite a ride, it’s a wonderful little spaceship – if you get a chance you really ought to ride one,” Hadfield said when describing his ascent on a Soyuz spacecraft. He showed images snapped from Earth’s orbit, including pictures of pre- and post-flood Alberta in June and the rich blue waters of the Bahamas, to him the most beautiful place in the world.
“The space station is a possibility, it’s a capability,” Hadfield said. “For me to be able to live on it and be the first Canadian to command it has been a huge honour.” Hadfield will publish a book this fall, The Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, about his life and adventures as an astronaut.
God of the universe, you offer us many ways toengage in the world around us. Help us to find a pace that inspires. Be with us when we are frustrated with others or ourselves. Open us to a flexible wisdom as we follow your spirit’s lead. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.
From Fraser Macnaughton
As concern for the declining health of Nelson Mandela grips South Africa, Mamphela Ramphele, a leading apartheid-era activist, has launched South Africa’s first new political party in five years. Ramphele states that the ruling ANC (African National Congress) is destroying the continent’s biggest economy.
Agang – Sesotho for “let us build” – was formally launched as a party on June 22 and will contest the 2014 elections. Party leader and academic, 65-year-old Mamphela Ramphele, was an anti-apartheid campaigner and former partner of Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko. She is backed by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. Ramphele says that millions are still living like forgotten citizens and that the country had not come far enough, fast enough. Agang has made tackling corruption and improving education two of its main goals. Retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu described Ramphele as a brave and principled leader and said the graciousness of South African politics in the 1990s had largely been surrendered at the altar of power and wealth. “Few thinking South Africans would not welcome the entry into South African politics of someone of the calibre, background, intellect and resourcefulness of Mamphela Ramphele,” Tutu said in a statement.
As the country looks towards a post-Mandela era, many who were involved in the anti-apartheid struggle across the world have been dismayed at the behaviour of many of the leading lights of the ANC. The ANC is regularly accused of poor governance and failing to deliver basic services such as housing, water and jobs.
Agang’s stated aim, according to Ramphele, is to galvanise South Africans to build on the democratic foundations left by former President Nelson Mandela and other anti-apartheid leaders, a legacy which some believe is being squandered by the ANC.
Ms. Ramphele has spoken about the possibility of forging coalitions with other parties, and analysts say the most obvious candidate is the Democratic Alliance (DA), South Africa’s official opposition. However, loyalty to the ANC among South African voters runs deep. The ANC won the 2009 election with 65.9% of the vote.
Explore…2 Kings 5:1–14
Unexpected people, from outside the current leadership circle, become agents of compassion and healing for Naaman.
There are those in South Africa who feel that the compassion and healing which characterised the beginning of the post-apartheid era leadership has become lost in the current political structure.
We are called to be agents of change, agents of compassion. May we be prepared to take risks for the gospel, go out of our comfort zones, and be prepared to bring Christ’s compassion and justice to our community and world. Amen.
From Sandra Rooney
Fifty years ago the so-called Green Revolution promised to provide food enough for the world’s population. Modern high-yielding varieties could double or even triple a farmer’s harvest given the right conditions and chemical inputs. Climate change is now changing the equations and threatening the livelihoods of millions, among them those living in the densely populated river deltas of the world. Though these areas hold some of the most productive farmland on the planet, they have become among the most threatened areas.
In May 2009, Cyclone Aila roared into the Ganges River delta on the coast of India and Bangladesh. Hundreds of thousands were forced to flee as seawater flooded the rice fields and swept their homes away. It has been four years but salt still in the soil inhibits the growing of vegetables and rice. And this delta coastline is retreating more than 600 feet a year, the salt encroaching even farther inland. The seeds touted as the answer to global hunger fifty years ago were quick to fail after Cyclone Aila.
As farmers in that area adapt to rising sea levels and more powerful storms, they have discovered that one thing that will still grow there is a salt-tolerant rice variety developed more than a century ago by small-scale farmers. One farmer, who lost everything to Cyclone Aila, started over with a handful of the old salt-tolerant seeds. He and other farmers like him are now using those seeds to grow at least enough rice to feed their families.
Scientists have been traveling across India trying to find and save what remains of the traditional seeds. According to a US Public Television report, “Farmers in India once cultivated more than a hundred thousand distinct varieties of rice alone.” Most of those rice varieties have been lost forever, but those that still exist are being used to propagate more seeds. One small nonprofit seed farm is distributing those seeds free of charge to farmers in the Ganges River Delta.
While the goal of feeding the world’s growing population remains the same, our climate-changing planet is providing new challenges. Scientists are now working to discover the secret of these salt-tolerant seeds, working to breed climate-resilient traits from the traditional varieties into new high-yielding seeds. The new plants are designed to tolerate limited amounts of drought and flooding during the same growing season. While scientists are developing super-seeds that may transform agriculture in the future, many of the world’s poorest farmers are turning to seeds their ancestors used, as what might be called “a sort of genetic insurance policy against an unpredictable future.”
Explore...2 Kings 2:1–2, 6–14
Seeking leadership, accepting a leadership role, and taking up the mantle of leadership each has its own dynamics.
Prayer links ..
God of hope and promise, we remember what Gandhi said: “There are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” May those of us who do not face daily hunger accept the challenge of responding to the needs of those who do, making your presence a reality for those who are hungry. Amen
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