Category Archives: Nature and Animals

Can Christians Change the Climate on Climate Change?

This NASA graph provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution.
https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/

Christianity isn’t under attack. But some beliefs of Christians are deserving of attack. Christians who deny climate change in the face of all evidence to the contrary cannot be allowed to wave the flag of religious freedom and force the rest of us to accept the misguided notion that God will somehow rescue us no matter what we do to our planet.

According to NASA statistics, 97% of scientists, after analyzing the evidence, have come to the conclusion that human actions are responsible for global warming. Many of these scientists are Christians. But they are being shouted down by evangelicals, led by a small group of powerful men who believe they have God on their side. Continue reading Can Christians Change the Climate on Climate Change?

How Much is Enough?

Rainy Duck

Rain falling, wind blowing, I enjoy a morning of sitting in a condo at one of the highest points in Duck, North Carolina.  Almost eleven years ago, in the face of my aggressive cancer that forced my husband and me to reevaluate our plans for the future, we made one of the boldest decisions we’ve ever made:  We decided to freeze the amount of money we were saving for retirement and invest in something we could enjoy no matter what the future held.  It hasn’t proven to be the wisest of financial investments, but it has definitely been an investment in our souls.  We’ve learned to love May and October most of all, when the weather is warm, but the beach is peaceful and the sunsets are stunning.

This morning I looked out toward the ocean, a quarter of a mile from our second floor condo, and thought about a news article in the Washington Postthis week, titled, “Collapse of Antarctic ice sheet is underway and unstoppable but will take centuries.”  Continue reading How Much is Enough?

Impatient with Your Life?

Ash w Impatiens

Spring reminds us of what is possible when we dig our fingers into the dirt.  We don’t need much—a handful of earth, a little water, a few seeds, and a little faith in the sun.

Simple, right?  Even I, an average rather than avid gardener, can make some things grow.  I plant impatiens in my flower bed, and by midsummer I can step onto my porch, look over those red blossoms, and find joy on even the most mundane or stressful of days.

But it isn’t always that simple.  Continue reading Impatient with Your Life?

“There Will Come Soft Rains”? (Lessons from Bradbury)

Rainy Saturday

It’s Saturday.  I sit by the window on my favorite day of the week, watching the rain fall steadily from a gray sky for the third day in a row.

I love Saturday.  It’s the only day of the week when I don’t have to shake myself from sleep and get dressed early.  On other days, I drag myself into the shower and stand with my face turned up to the spray until the water wakes me up.

I love the rain, too.  My husband and I shared our first kiss on a rainy day Continue reading “There Will Come Soft Rains”? (Lessons from Bradbury)

A Dog’s Life?

Beckley and Ahi

Tonight is the last night for another year that I’ll sit here writing in the glow of the Christmas tree.  The house is quiet, my daughter having gone back to her home a few miles away and my stepdaughter and her significant other out to see his friends on their last evening on the East Coast.

This evening my husband is enjoying a rare guys’ night with his soccer friends, many of whom he coached long ago when they were in high school.  They’ve played together for three decades now, through joy and children and job changes and loss.  Their friendship has been one of the anchors in my husband’s life.  They are family.

I have been left home to dog-sit.  Continue reading A Dog’s Life?

Holiday Spirit? Part Two

Hanukkah at White House

Holiday Traditions at the White House

One of my readers, Phil Buckberg, posted a story in response to my Holiday Spirit? blog on Tuesday.  I was delighted that Phil offered his own story from the perspective of his own faith, which has been my vision for this blog since I launched it a little over a year ago.  Since I’m not always sure that people see the comments at the end of a blog, I asked him if I could repost his story, and he graciously agreed.  Thank you, Phil, for making this a dialogue.  I hope that his story will inspire others of you to join in the conversation, so here is today’s guest blog:

Many years ago, when I worked for Xerox, we held a holiday-time fundraiser for a colleague who was, as I recall, a very young widow with mounting bills. As it was December, we made it a holiday party in which many of us sang and danced and generally made fools of ourselves for a good cause.

Our “director” decided that, for one part of the show, we should all wear our corniest Christmas clothing, whatever it might be. I told her that, being Jewish, I didn’t actually own Christmas clothes, Continue reading Holiday Spirit? Part Two

Know Any Snow Wimps?

Dec. 8, 2013

The snow begins–December 8, 2013

I hear it every year during advent.

No, that isn’t a typo.  Not Advent with a capital A—advent with a lower-case a.  The one that heralds the coming of Snow with a capital S.

I heard it this year for the first time at church last Sunday:  “I’m from [insert your favorite frozen tundra region here], and WE know how to drive in snow.”

Continue reading Know Any Snow Wimps?

Strength of a Spider’s Web?

Spider

For our departure from Denver yesterday, our grandson wore his favorite shirt—a Marvel comics tee featuring Spider-Man at the center of the superheroes.  Like most five-year-old boys, he loves all things Spider-Man.  He has Spidy shoes, pajamas, a backpack, and countless toys, including a device that shoots forth a string of silk in an imitation of Spider-Man’s web.

The shirt elicited commentary from more than one adult, including one who said, “That’s a great shirt!  I love superheroes!”  And when we passed a kiosk that sold sand crabs to passing tourists, our grandson stopped to point out the ones that had been painted red and imprinted with Spider-Man’s trademark white eyes, lined in black.

So it was fitting that when we finally arrived home in Maryland at 2:30 a.m., a watchful spider had spun a diaphanous web from the branch of the tree beside our front walk.  Though my husband and I were exhausted, we stopped to admire the intricate circles of the spider that sat at the very center of the web.

This morning, the web was gone.  But I could still see it in my mind’s eye, and I’ve thought about that web all day.  Fragile, yes.  I could have swept it away last night with a single brush of my hand.

But today I remembered a Smithsonian Magazine story from earlier this spring about University of Leicester researchers who set out to discover whether a spider’s web could actually stop a train, as Spider-Man’s web had done in one of the films.  Yes, they concluded, there is one spider—Darwin’s bark spider, native to Madagascar—that could weave a web strong enough to stop a moving train.

I was reminded again that that delicacy and doggedness are sometimes separated by a fine line of gossamer—that strength isn’t that far removed from weakness.

In the story of Job, one of Job’s friends tells him that he must have done something to deserve all the calamities that have taken away almost everything he holds dear.  Speaking of those who have forgotten God and implying that Job must be among them, he tells Job, “Their confidence is gossamer, a spider’s house their trust.”

Interestingly, later in the story, God reprimands Job’s friends, telling them, “…you have not spoken of me what is right.”

Perhaps it’s not such a bad thing to have faith in a spider’s silken web.  One could do worse than trusting the work of spiders.  They rid us of insects that plague us.  They weave webs that protect their own from dangerous enemies.

Yes, faith is gossamer.  But gossamer can be surprisingly strong.

Tell me your stories of silken strength.

God Particles?

god-particle-higgs-boson-gi

Though I love language and literature, I sometimes wish I’d had better science teachers.  Today was one of those days.

The Washington Post’s online version briefly posted a link to a story about a conference in Italy where physicists were discussing the Higgs boson, dubbed The God Particle in a book by Nobel Prize winner Leon Lederman because his publisher refused to let him call it The Goddamn Particle, a title he wanted because “nobody could find the thing.”

The title started as a joke, much to the dismay of the man for whom the particle is named—Professor Peter Higgs, an atheist who first proposed in the 1960s that the universe acquired mass in a split-second when particles joined together before decaying into the commonplace, everyday components of the world we know and understand.

Generally, I wouldn’t pay close attention to such a complicated scientific principle.  But today I did because the illustration accompanying the article reminded me of a long-ago sketch in a textbook that accompanied one of my favorite poems when I read it for the first time, James Weldon Johnson’s “The Creation.”

I once read the poem to my daughter when, as a three-year-old, she asked me how God got all those stars up in the sky.  I couldn’t explain the scientific principle of stars to a toddler, so instead, I read her Johnson’s poem, which says, in part:

And the light that was left from making the sun

God gathered it up in a shining ball

And flung it against the darkness,

Spangling the night with the moon and stars.

Johnson, best known as the man who catapulted the NAACP from being an organization of 9000 to one of 90,000, was one of my favorite poets, and this poem was my favorite of all his work.  When I read his poem, it brought the God of the Book of Genesis to life for me.  I could see and hear God flinging the stars against the sky and saying, “That’s good,” almost as if surprised at his own creativity.

So it was fascinating to me today when the illustration that accompanied the article in the newspaper looked very much like the sketch I’d seen so long ago in the textbook where I first encountered one of my favorite poems.

The artist’s rendition of the Higgs boson also reminded me of Michelangelo’s painting of the Creation, with the arcs of energy from the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland looking eerily like all those cracks from hundreds of years of wear on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

And so I wondered, yet again, why devout Christians and respected scientists consider the Biblical story of creation incompatible with scientific principles.  I am in awe of both, and I find them to be in perfect harmony with one another.  I read the story of creation and picture a God flinging the stars against the sky the way an artist splatters paint on a canvas with utter abandon, and I’m amazed at how colors collide into something incredibly beautiful.  I read about the scientists who are so passionate about particles they are only beginning to understand, as I struggle to understand their explanation, and I am in wonder at the incredible energy of that collider that tries to replicate the tiniest components of existence.

Both take my breath away.  So here’s to the scientists who seek to explain the universe.  And here’s to the Creator, who fashioned a universe that, so far at least, is simply too wonderfully complex to comprehend.

I’m in awe.  What about you?

Remember Your Roots?

Basil

I used to be a country girl, I thought to myself this morning as I stood looking over the fruits and vegetables at Jenny’s Market.  There was a time when I wouldn’t have had to stop in the middle of making summer pasta to go buy a vegetable I’d forgotten during the previous trip.

Jenny’s has become one of my favorite things about moving to western Howard County, Maryland a few years ago to get away from the congestion of the suburbs closer to Washington, where we lived for fourteen years.

The market is a family affair, and each summer I go there to buy vegetables—spring lettuce, green onions, baby potatoes, green beans, and tomatoes.  The family posts handmade signs on the main route leading north from the suburbs to their market, spacing them a few hundred feet apart and entertaining drivers during the evening rush hour:  Your wife said…to stop at Jenny’s…and pick up some…juicy strawberries…sweet corn…and fresh green beans.

Each time I shop at Jenny’s, I miss my parents.  My father, when he was alive and I was still living in West Virginia, supplied me with vegetables from his garden each spring.  And my mother, who is now in a nursing home, canned those vegetables each fall, making a sloppy mess of her kitchen but proudly giving me jars of corn and tomatoes every harvest time.

A little sad, I picked up vegetables my dad loved to grow and handed them to the teenager behind Jenny’s table, along with my earth-friendly recyclable bag.  As she calculated and bagged the produce, I cheered myself up by walking to the other side of the market to watch the youngest child walk underneath the table, chattering happily to himself.

As I got to the end of the table, I laughed at myself for being so nostalgic.  The last display at the end of the table held a basket of mangoes, clearly not grown locally by the family.  They, too, have modernized their business, buying and selling produce that isn’t available in the area.

And I realized that the basil I bought there and planted in pots on my deck was not something my parents ever grew or served at their table.  In fact, the herb that is a staple in my kitchen never even made an appearance on my mother’s spice rack or in her cart at the grocery store.

I shook myself out of the past and drove home to finish the summer pasta.  As I pulled into the driveway, I smiled at the flowerbed I planted last month, now lush and colorful from the summer rainstorms.  The last time my mom visited, she had told me how much more beautiful my flowers were than any she had planted.  And she frequently told me that I was a better cook.

But today I needed to remind myself that I’m still a bit of a country girl.  I needed to feel the earth in my hands, so I decided to repot a peace lily that wasn’t doing well.  I found a bigger pot and got out the potting soil.  Holding the base of the plant in my hand, I turned the pot upside down, expecting the soil to come out in the shape of the pot as it usually does when I replant.

To my surprise, only the soil in the middle dislodged, and when I set the pot down and looked at the plant in my hand, the roots were bound in the shape of the original flat and had never spread to the rest of the soil in the pot.  I realized that when I first planted it, I must have forgotten to shake those roots loose a bit so that they would adjust themselves to the size of the new pot.

In all the times this country girl has planted, I have never had this happen to a plant.  And I understood in that moment that people are like plants.  It isn’t healthy to stay root-bound in space and time.  To thrive, we have to allow those roots to grow and change—and sometimes to be replanted in a new place.

Had I stayed rooted in my parents’ garden, I would never have tasted basil or gone away to college or become a teacher or had a family of my own.  But they planted the seeds and tended the saplings that grew into each of those parts of me.

And part of me will always be a country girl, wherever I put down roots.

So tell me, where do your roots grow?