Past Spirit Sightings (The Archives)
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
Learn more. …
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
From Sandra Rooney
A California mental health initiative has created community gardens for those in need, in particular, for refugees. Four of the seven gardens in Fresno are dedicated to Southeast Asians, people like Lee Lee, a Hmong refugee, who tends her rows of purple lemon grass, bitter melon, and medicinal herbs along with other Hmong women. “It lightens the load,” said Mrs. Lee, whose depression has led her to think about suicide. “It brings peace, so I do not forget who I am.” Mee Yang, another Hmong woman working in the garden, said, “This is my happiness…You feel the world in this place, and it brings you back home.”
Daniel B. Wood, in the May 27 issue of The Christian Science Monitor, describes the myriad ways in which more and more Americans are planning to leave their electronic devices behind and seek out opportunities to get back in touch with nature, to do nothing, even as they use the language of “recharge” for their experience. Books are being written about “untethering” from media habits and addressing what author Richard Louv describes as “nature deficit disorder.” Barbara O’Connor, a retired communications/media professor, intentionally “disappears” several times a year. “Being quiet for an extended period helps me think more deeply,” she says.
Then there is the daunting pilgrimage, which hundreds of Sikhs undertake each summer to the isolated mountain village of Ghangaria, in the state of Uttarakhand, and to Hemkund, a sacred lake in the Garhwal Himalayas. To reach Ghangaria, they follow a route that is only thirteen kilometers/eight miles long, but climbing some 1219 metres/4000 feet in the first half of the route to just over 3050 metres/10,000 feet above sea level, then another 1219 metres/4000 feet in the second half of the journey to reach the hallowed lake.
The story behind this sacred lake relates to Gobind Singh, who lived from 1666 to 1708. Singh is considered their most influential founding father and introduced many of the practices which define the Sikh faith today. Singh wrote that in a previous life he had meditated at a mountain lake ringed by seven peaks, where he had become one with God, both physically and spiritually, before being reborn as the great Sikh guru.
New York Times writer Michael Benanav says this about pilgrimage: “Pilgrimages, religious or otherwise, are inspired by stories – some true, some fictional and some in which fact and legend are seamlessly stitched together. Regardless of their veracity, these stories resonate. The places where the stories are set become salient landmarks in the geographies of our imaginations. They seem to call to us from within, urging us to go to them and promising to complete us in some way if we do…it’s as though our inner world unites with the outer. At least for a little while.”
Explore...1 Kings 19:1–15a
Whispering God, the world is often too much with us. We are bombarded with news and images of hurricanes and tornadoes, death and destruction and loss. May we be still and hear the word you have for each of us that can bring peace and purpose for our lives. Amen
From Paul Turley
Following the death of Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan dictator, in October 2011, millions of dollars of Libyan money has remained unaccounted for. Now the Libyan government believes that more than one billion US dollars are in South Africa and it is asking the South African government for help in finding and returning the money to the Libyan people.
Of course, Gaddafi is not the first dictator to impoverish his country, whilst enriching himself and his family and the South African banks that allegedly hold that money are not the first banks to take deposits without asking too closely about their legitimacy.
Switzerland is reportedly holding one billion Swiss francs ($1.07 billion US) deposited by, among others, former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and ousted Tunisian president Ben Ali.
But this same sad story goes back into history. Only now are Swiss banks paying back money to Holocaust victims, money stolen from them by the Nazis and deposited in Switzerland during the Second World War.
And these are only the latest instances of the same sad story of abuse of authority and power that goes back thousands of years even to the story of Ahab and Naboth that we have in our text this week.
Explore...1 Kings 21:1–10, (11–14), 15–21a
God, as we read this litany of crimes that get repeated again and again in the human story, it would be easy for us to become despairing and cynical. Help us to remember the renewing and restoring experience of knowing you and to hope and work for community where no one lives in fear and no one is dispossessed. Amen.
From Paul Turley
Being an asylum seeker is hard.
Not only do you have to leave your home in fear of your life, you must usually do so with very few of your possessions. Seeking asylum may require all of your savings and the proceeds of anything you can sell to pay someone who promises, often without any basis for you to trust them other than desperation, that they will get you to safety. If and when you arrive in a hopefully safe country you find yourself having to prove to the authorities in the country in which you are seeking asylum that you are genuine in your reasons for leaving your country of origin.
That is never easy. In fact, 73 percent of all asylum claims in the United Kingdom, for example, are rejected in the initial stage of assessment. However, if you are a lesbian or a gay man, things are even harder, and 98-99 percent of gay and lesbian claims are rejected in the initial stage. The story of Glory, an asylum seeker from Nigeria, illustrates this harsh reality. In order to escape the torture she was experiencing in her homeland, where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by up to 14 years in prison, Glory initially claimed asylum in the United Kingdom on the ground that members of her family had been killed and persecuted. When she later gained enough confidence to reveal she was a lesbian, and claimed asylum on that basis, Home Office officials said her case lacked credibility, and a judicial review of her case is now pending.
The United Nations Refugee Convention does not have a category for people seeking asylum based on their sexual orientation. In addition, those who come from countries where being gay or lesbian is a crime and a social shame, are reluctant to even tell refugee authorities their true reason for seeking asylum for fear that they will receive the same treatment again. Think about it for a moment: how do you actually prove to someone in a uniform who has the power to allow you to enter a country of refuge or to deny you, that you are gay or lesbian or straight?
All countries who accept refugees quite rightly have screening processes to ensure that their country is kept safe. But what happens if the emphasis shifts from welcoming all who have legitimate need, to policies that ensure that all who can possibly be rejected are rejected, for whatever reason?
For countries that are signatories to the Refugee Convention, and that pride themselves on a culture of fairness and justice for all, there are serious questions that must be asked about the treatment of some of the most vulnerable citizens of the earth.
For those of us who follow Jesus, who saw everyone as his brothers and sisters, and who himself followed a God of the widows and orphans, our responsibilities are crystal clear.
Explore...1 Kings 17:8–16, (17–24)
There are no characters in biblical stories more vulnerable than widows, women whose personhood was denied because they no longer “belonged” to a man. In the world of asylum seekers there are also those made vulnerable because their personhood has been denied. Glory had to deny who she is – in her own country and in order to receive refugee status.
The widow, whose energies have all been spent to ensure her survival and that of her son, is called to immense sacrifice in order to minister to Elijah.
God of the orphan and widow and of all who suffer because of who they are and where they live, we pray in hope to you. We know that your hope and desire for the world is that all people everywhere will be received in love, with respect and in peace. Give us the courage to stand for this world, and to tell those who would demean, reject and abandon others because of their skin color, their country of origin or their sexual orientation, that for this we will not stand. Amen.
From Paul Turley
Thomas Frey, from the Da Vinci Institute, a non-profit futurist think tank, sees three new technologies that he believes will change the way we live in the next little while: driverless cars, teacher-less schools, and 3D printing. Sometimes we think that life just goes on with only the smallest of changes and then sometimes change changes everything. For example, television, which at first seemed a poor substitute for radio, reached more than 70% of homes in less than a decade after it was introduced.
The motorcar, a frivolous toy for the rich to begin with, went from nothing to one million cars sold in the United States in the first decade of the Twentieth century. Both of these new things have changed our society almost beyond recognition. Today, all the major car manufacturers have research units dedicated to the driverless cars and Google CEO Sergey Brin believes they could be mainstream within five years. And he should know. Google has been testing a fleet of driverless cars for the last couple of years and it was the Google headquarters that was chosen as the site for the signing of the bill to allow driverless cars onto Californian roads.
Here’s how Mark Frohnmayer, CEO of Oregon electric car company Arcimoto, describes the future: “Ultimately, you’re just going to hit a button on your smart phone, a vehicle will pull up, you’ll get in. And once you start to get a lot of [autonomous electric vehicles] on the road, they can do things that no cars can do. They can flock together, they can be more efficient in terms of how they use energy; so what we’ll see is a dramatic reduction in congestion, smaller lanes, a dramatically reduced need for parking lots, and better utilization of our urban cores. Within the next 20 years the potential for just a fundamental reboot of the topology of our cities.”
No one could have anticipated how much the motorcar was going to change the way we lived and thought about our lives. It was the introduction of a totally new way of being in the world. Perhaps too no one can yet truly imagine how much the new technology of the driverless car will change the way we live our lives. We could choose to imagine that it will never happen and that even if it does nothing will change. Or, we could choose to embrace the new thing that looks like it is coming and explore all of what it might mean, both good and bad.
Pray... God, help us to sing a new song. Not one for the sake of novelty but a song of righteousness and truth that seeks to reveal your presence in human life and the life of the world. Help us to receive the changes that seem to arrive so rapidly not with cynicism or weary disinterest, but in the hope that all things can work together for good. Amen.
From Ray McGinnis
When Metro Meteor retired from horseracing due to bad knees, Ron and Wendy Krajewski wondered what was next for their beloved horse. At first Metro Meteor was able to go on short trail rides. Eventually, however, the condition of his weak knees deteriorated so much that Metro wasn’t able to take anyone for a ride. The Krajewskis were paying high medical bills to address their horse’s deteriorating condition.
While caring for their horse the Krajewskis noticed that Metro Meteor liked to move his head a lot. Ron, an artist, got the idea of trying to see if the horse could hold a paintbrush. Ron knew that elephants were able to paint with their trunks, so he imagined his horse holding a paintbrush and bobbing his head in front of a canvas. Ron reasoned that if Metro stayed still long enough in front of the canvas it would be a way for the horse to paint alongside Ron, who would paint for hours at a time. It would be a way for the two of them to spend more time together.
Since Christmas 2012, Metro Meteor has become a painting sensation. The horse is the best-selling artist at Gallery 30, which displays local paintings in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, across the border from Metro’s home in Rocky Ridge, Maryland. The signature style of Metro’s paintings features colourful, sweeping brushstrokes. There are also specks of sawdust in the paintings. This is because as Metro paints, the sawdust from his movements gets thrown up onto the brush gripped in his teeth and onto the canvas.
“For his large paintings, there is a waiting list of 120,” said Ron Krajewski in an interview at the beginning of May. In total, about 40 large and 150 small works have been sold, adding up to more than $20,000. The Krajewskis donate half of Metro’s sales to the New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program, which finds homes and rehabilitation for retired racehorses.
“Art scholars are not going to have long lengthy discussions trying to decipher the hidden meaning to Metro’s paintings. He is a horse,” state the Krajewskis on Metro’s website. Typically, horse and owner paint for an hour or two maybe four times a week, Ron said, adding that Metro never seems to get bored with the task.
Explore…Proverbs 8:1–4, 22–31
Prayer links…God our Creator, you offer new possibilities in surprising circumstances. May we accompany you in the call to rejoice in your creation and to participate in its unfolding splendour. In Christ we pray. Amen.
From Ray McGinnis
Oz the Great and Powerfulis a movie based on the Frank Baum books about the Land of Oz. Different from the classic 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz with Judy Garland, this one is set about thirty years prior to the original with the visual cue at the opening: Kansas 1905.
Oscar Diggs, Oz, is a fibber, a con man and a ladies’ man. He’s employed as a travelling carnival magician at the beginning of the 20th century, working in Kansas. Flirting with the girlfriend of the carnival strong man gets him into trouble. Oz escapes from the strong man by climbing into a hot-air balloon and is taken, via tornado, to a strange, new place. As in the 1939 movie, the Kansas scenes are in black-and-white on a narrow screen, but in 3-D. The movie springs into colour and widescreen during the Oz sequences.
In the new land, Oz meets a friendly flying monkey (Zach Braff) and a brave china doll (Joey King). Oz also works his charms on the lovely Theodora (Mila Kunis), not realizing the possible repercussions of his actions. Oz learns that he may be part of a prophecy, one that involves a saviour wizard who will lead the magic kingdom to safety and prosperity. This prophecy also involves killing a wicked witch, yet it is not clear which witch is which: Theodora (Mila Kunis), Glinda (Michelle Williams), or Evanora (Rachel Weisz). Oz learns that the Tinkers, Munchkins, and Quadlings are kind-hearted, simple country folk who are mostly farmers with no experience in fighting. Furthermore, they are forbidden to kill anyone. Going reluctantly into battle, Oz uses what skills are available to him, employing magician tricks, such as fireworks and photography to combat magical forces.
O God, who makes all things new, pour your spirit upon us. Where there is fear, bring us hope; where there is despair give us a vision to broaden our horizons. Where our ability to communicate is frustrated, open us to new ways of speech, tear down the walls that divide us from each other and from you. In Christ we pray. Amen.
From Ray McGinnis
In the fall of 2012, poet Susan McCaslin and her husband Mark discovered McLellan Forest, a beautiful mature rainforest in their town of Langley, British Columbia, in the Fraser Valley, an hour drive east of the city of Vancouver. When people think of Langley they usually don’t think of forests at all. They think of rolling farms, suburbs where there once were farms, and very few trees. Susan and Mark enjoyed walking the trails in this forest, some of which led to an old growth black cottonwood tree with a hollow at the base of the trunk big enough for numbers of children to hide in.
Then they learned that the Langley Town Council had decided to sell the forest in order to raise money to build a recreation centre. Since the forest was publically owned, people raised questions about the desired use for the land as there were other options for locating and building a recreation centre. The Council responded by giving an environmental group called WOLF fifty days to raise $3 million to buy the forest. Those in favor of preserving the rainforest objected that it was unjust to make taxpayers purchase land that already belonged to them. And they questioned why two beneficial projects, preserving a rainforest and building a recreation facility, should be pitted against each other.
If the McLellan Forest were sold, the land would not be accessible to the public and a vital ecosystem would be lost. Susan McClasin remembered an old hermit monk from ancient China named Han Shan who scribbled poems on rocks and suspended them from trees. Susan asked some poets to send poems about trees and tied these with string around the tree trunks. Word spread to blogs and websites and soon there were over 200 poems from poets around the world. One hundred and sixty students from the Langley Fine Arts School poured out of two yellow school buses to sketch and photograph the forest.
In 2013 the Council voted to save at least 60% of the park. The local Fort Gallery is now featuring a series of paintings of the forest by local visual artist, Susan Falk, donated toward raising funds to establish trails in the forest. The exhibition will also feature readings of poems about trees by local poets.
Prayer links…God of the unexpected, when circumstances seem impossible, when there is no sign of liberation, you reach out in love and show us again that you are our God. You, Creator, show us through signs of nature itself, shaking us up with the power of an earthquake or the beauty of a tree, beckon us to be believers. In Christ we pray. Amen.
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