Friday, December 25, 2009

The welcome I gave at our church last night's Christmas Eve service

Welcome to the First Seventh Day Baptist Church of Alfred! This is perhaps the one-hundred-fifty-fifth time that Christmas has been celebrated in this building. The entire community has not always met here on Christmas Eve, but at least this congregation has celebrated it here on the Sabbath before Christmas Eve, every year since the building was completed, back in 1854.
The tradition of celebrating Christmas is apparently quite long in our family and, of course, goes back about two-thousand years. One of our earliest ancestors who lived on this continent was a man by the name of Joseph Clarke, and he was known as “The Immigrant”. His elder brother, Dr. John Clarke, founded the town of Newport, R.I. in 1639 and became the pastor of the first Baptist Church in the American colonies. Although John Clarke apparently had no children, he spent twelve years back in England lobbying for a new charter for Rhode Island colony, and the one he secured from King Charles II in 1663 was probably the first to ever grant such complete religious liberty for the inhabitants. His younger brother, our ancestor, was a solid citizen of that colony, and his descendants are many.
I can only assume that Joseph’s parents gave him that name to honor the earthly father of the one whose birth we celebrate tonight. He and his children thought so much of it that there was a Joseph in each of the next three generations, and several more since then.
So it is that our family, and each of your families, honors that tradition with your presence here. We gather tonight to consider the events of that night so long ago, to ponder what thoughts may have come to Mary, and to Joseph, and to all who witnessed those events. May this shared experience of reflection and celebration bring you new and deeper meaning for Christmas, the satisfaction of love shared among family and friends, and joy in abundance.

Let us pray:

Dear Heavenly Father, we gather this evening to remember a night long ago when one was born who would later ask his followers to love one another, and to love even their enemies. We find ourselves in a world very much changed while two millennia have come and gone, yet it is very much the same. We are still in need of that admonition to love one another.
There are now, as then, wars going on elsewhere, and we think of those whose duty it is to wage them. We think also of those who are trying to build peace between the families, tribes, and nations of the world.
We consider the awesome obligations of those who wield political and economic power in our nation, and in all the nations circling the vast oceans. We consider the fearsome duties of those with little apparent power, whose only occupation is simply to survive, and to help their families and friends to live another day. Guide each person who hears your voice, to lend a hand to another, across the Earth.
We ask that your wisdom might be granted to the greatest and the least, that all might benefit from it, and this world be made more peaceful. Let our hearts be so full of your love, and our minds so full of insight, that we might all live as did that babe, born in a manger, so long ago.
In His name,

Monday, December 14, 2009

Getting it

Some people just don't get it. The latest tripe is that people like Al Gore are just fearmongering about global warming so they can profit from it, but it's the oil/coal lobby that's financing the "there's no such thing as global warming" campaign so they can suck the last oil and dig the last coal out of the ground in their lifetimes. THEY are the ones who will profit from doing nothing.
There are those who say global warming isn't happening, and if it was, we can't afford to do anything about it. It would hurt the economy. Well, the science is solid that it is happening and the uncertainty is about exactly how that will impact things but they are all bad. I've heard that some economists have said that a warmer planet is a good thing. They should speak with experts on climate, because they're wrong. The entire global economy will be disrupted in lots of bad ways. The only ones who will profit are the greedy opportunists. And don't tell me that's what the U.S. was founded on. In our early years corporations obtained charters to do business in a state and if they acted improperly, their charter could be revoked by the people of that state. Now corporations have more rights than individual humans do.
An old friend cited Genesis 8 and said that chapter pretty well covered climate control, as he put it. In this chapter is the story of God promising never to exterminate the creatures of the Earth again, as he had in the great flood in the time of Noah. Another friend made some citation warning mankind not to play God, as if to say the asserting the reality of global warming was doing so. But my friends miss the point that HUMANS are exterminating species and have wrested control from God.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Musing Upon the First Day of Hunting Season

There is a comfortable simplicity about being outside in the world in the hours just before dawn. It’s not the middle of the night when it seems interminable, but when the observant creature can tell that daylight is coming soon. It’s not the middle of the day when activity levels are high. It’s that time when the nocturnal creatures are quieting down, and the crepuscular ones have not yet become active.
I walked down the path through the meadow, this morning when it was still misty from yesterday’s rain. It was overcast and moonless and quite dark, but I could easily see my way as I walked, flanked by this year’s crop of goldenrod, and the shrubs and trees that have begun to fill in what was once a farmer’s field. Nothing I saw seemed to have any color, but I have walked the path so many times that all the larger plants along the path were familiar. Shapes were soft-edged, and only near things were visible. All things were in shades of gray.
The air was almost perfectly still, so there was no chill, and my footfalls were all I heard. The quiet was calming. The only thing that might have surprised me would have been a deer if my approach had first startled it up from its bed alongside the path.
I made my way to the large ash tree where I’ve installed a platform on which our son can play his games. It serves a dual purpose, as I can wait there for white-tail deer to pass by, in hopes of filling our freezer with their flesh.
The ash tree stands along the southern boundary of the field, so it has been shaded on its southern side for most of its life. This prompted one of its branches which grew about fifteen feet northward to branch vertically in several directions, trying to capture as much sunlight as possible with its leaves. The greatest part of the limb is now nearly as big as the main trunk of the tree, more than twice the girth of my body, and its upright branches form an inverted tripod which cradles the platform as if it intended to do so.
I had placed a high-backed office chair there earlier, so I climbed the ladder and sat in it. It was easy, in such a close and quiet world, to relax. All I heard were droplets of water falling from branches, onto this year’s layer of fallen deciduous leaves.
The world, for a time, seemed familiar, small, quiet, and uncomplicated. All that was required of me was to see what I could see, to think my thoughts and, if I could be so skillful and so fortunate, to bring home food for my family. It is so often in such stillness, that wisdom comes to me. Life seemed a process in which success was assured.
But then the neighbor’s cock began to crow. Chickadees and other songbirds began to call. Squirrels began their morning territorial announcements and squabbled over boundaries. One came close and protested vociferously and repeatedly, that I was on its habitual path. I heard ravens’ wingbeats and calls as they passed from one horizon to the other, of my dome of awareness.
It being the first day of big-game hunting season, I began to hear guns going off, first in one direction and then another. Objects took on colors which deepened, and they became hard-edged. As the mist lifted and Old Sol came further around the corner of the world, I saw more and more trees, and at further distances from me. I heard more and more cars on the highway down in the valley, conveying people to their business or pleasure. Canada Geese, all honking at once, flew from wherever they had spent the night, to the beaver pond beyond the highway, for a day of feeding.
Now, in full light, the day seems larger and the world more complicated. Less of it seems within my control, nor even within my ability to influence. I’ll treasure that moment of comfortable simplicity. I’m sure I’ll need to find it again.

copyright 2009 G. Douglas Clarke

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

War on poverty

Recent analysis confirms that the poor are still with us. Further, many of them are still people of color -- higher percentages than "whites" like me. But there are more of all kinds, as the richest get richer.

Robert F. Kennedy's challenge, wish, and dream is unfulfilled.

"We cannot denounce extremists who reject our social system if we do not prove that system is capable of helping people lead a better life. This is the challenge I have come to offer you -- whether you are willing to apply the flexibility of our fiscal and economic tools to the great task of rebuilding our nation's shame -- and providing promise to the next generation of the poor, now dying slow, quiet deaths in our ghettos."

Those who say we should just let the poor fend for themselves (and of course few will come right out and say this, but many MEAN it, even if they won't say it), should be made to suffer their own prescription.

About Me

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I've been a number of things over the years: husband, father, environmental technical specialist, college instructor, carpenter, volunteer firefighter and ambulance driver, student of Lakota and Japanese languages, technical writer, process engineer, research technician, IT technician, emergency dispatcher, etc.