Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Creator, Through The Created

  I've mentioned that I teach a college Nutrition class. We hosted two speakers in the last week, both farmers. One farms thousands of acres and the other, hundreds. Both are successful men with wonderful families; both are open about their faith in God and how it drives their worldview and business practices. Both are ethical, intelligent and caring. One farms conventionally and the other organically. The students have so much to think about!

     What struck me was that each spoke about God openly. Each stayed after to offer sage wisdom and advice to students. They cared. Neither man was asked to speak about his beliefs or faith, and yet it was clear that in farming the land they came to know God more deeply. I have friends who are interested in crystals, some in art, some in the oceans, some in saving women from human trafficking, some interested in climate change. From the perspective of a Christian, I believe that the Creator is drawing them to him through nature--through his creation. They may see him differently, or they may not yet acknowledge him. Christians are human and imperfect but their God offers choice. He sings a love song which is heard and experienced through the senses in many ways. And he awaits his beloved.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Kansas Mangroves

       My students in class had never heard of mangroves. It is understandable, as they are young and we are in Kansas--pretty far away from mangroves. No, they are not a place to find men, though you can find man living in harmony with them. Mangroves are an ecosystem far from Kansas, but which impact it, nonetheless. We have all heard of how the destruction of rain forests affects the planet. People breathe oxygen; plants "breathe" CO2. In an age where we're really studying the effects of carbon in our atmosphere, I find it astounding to learn that mangroves sequester (breathe in, if you will) up to five times more CO2 than the rain forests on the planet. That is significant.

        It is also significant that we have destroyed 35% of the world's mangroves in the last few decades, with an estimated 1% destroyed each year. Shrimp farming, coastal development, resorts and golf courses are some of the causes of destruction.

       So what is a mangrove? It is a coastal ecosystem in the subtropics and tropics. Trees and shrubs grow in this shallow, watery area at the edge of saltwater bodies, and provide nurseries to young fish, shellfish and marine mammals. I read that some sharks will swim thousands of miles to return to the mangrove in which they were born. Mangroves also control storm surge, fight erosion and protect coral reefs. There are large projects and initiatives that have begun in effort to conserve mangroves and even to help generate new ones.

       My friend, Bev, is a scientist who has studied mangroves and their amazing contributions to so many ecosystems. My students were in as much awe of her work as I was when first hearing about it. Bev is a force for change on a global scale. My students looked at each other, wondering what they could do. Then they discussed the many things they could on a personal and community level that affected the world, and water runoff--and even mangroves. And we felt empowered and motivated.

       In a Nutrition class which covers topics like diet, vitamins and minerals as well as feeding the world, population growth and food availability--mangroves fit into discussion surprisingly well. Feeding our people and taking care of our planet can be done without hurting either. We just have to want to enough.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Childhood Friends, Lifelong Friends

       I am looking forward to seeing two of my oldest friends later this week. We have not been together--the three of us--since 2000 when my late husband passed away. Though Bev lived hundreds of miles away with a busy speaking and teaching schedule, she was by my side within hours of Bob's death. Sandy was there within minutes. I count myself so blessed to have friends like them.

       My work colleagues cautioned today, "Don't get into trouble!" The worst I can imagine us doing is laughing too hard and annoying some around us. I admit I feel I will become childlike again. But I have gotten pretty "in-touch" with my inner child. My temperament allows it. A Myers-Briggs INFP, a melancholic with sanguine as well as phlegmatic flares, I guess I am a natural contemplative.

     My brother once commented that I was more like my mother than he. "I wish I could care more about things sometimes, like you do." I admitted that I wished sometimes I was not so empathetic: it takes a lot of energy. It also leads to some disillusionment, as I have intimated in the last couple of posts. Without disillusionment, though, is life realistic? For many it leads to anger and distrust. I reflected in my last post about trusting God with the big picture, and that thankfulness was a key to true joy. Happiness is momentary and transient. Joy is a cenote: a wellspring under the surface.

        It is thought that the Mayan culture, which grew to an estimated 20 million occupying the Yucatan Penninsula in the first millennia A.D. survived because of thousands of miles of cenotes: underground caverns full of water. Crystal clear. Life-giving. Though joy may be unseen and unfelt because of tragic life events, that spring is ever there, ready to well up when we least expect it. I felt it--not as happiness, but of peace--when riding in the ambulance just after Bob's death. I felt it again a month later driving to my Mom's place in South Carolina. One minute wondering how the world could go on, the next feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter--it seems implausible. The Peace of God which passes all understanding. Truly.

          Sandy and Bev and I have differences, especially in regard to politics and religion. We all three feel emotions very deeply. We are testimony to deep love and understanding and tolerance. I think that much of what Sandy and Bev and I will talk about will revolve around our life experiences and how we've met the challenges faced. We'll talk about memories as well as menopause. Sometimes life events are themselves the cause to ponder, and sometimes they are the signal that it is time to ponder the past. Tears as well as laughter can heal. I plan on much of both--with some feasting and thankfulness and joy.