Friday, February 14, 2014

Proper Handling of Gifts

What is the proper way to treat a lovely gift that you have been given? Would it depend on the value of the gift, who the giver is, or whether or not you plan to pass it on to others? What if your health, your life - and that of others - depended on it?

Shoppers worldwide are using approximately 500 billion single-use plastic bags per year, which is about a million bags every minute across the globe, or 150 bags a year for every person on earth.  If you joined the bags end to end they would circle the globe 4,200 times.
Plastics do not decompose, but merely break up into smaller pieces, although some do break down into polymers and toxic chemicals. It can take anywhere between 20-1000 years for a plastic bag to break up. The #1 man made thing that sailors see in our oceans are plastic bags.
More than a billion people around the world do not have access to safe drinking water, but most countries that buy bottled water do have the luxury of quality tap water.
Each year, 53 billion gallons of bottled water are consumed globally - Americans drink 8.6 billion gallons of those.  17 million barrels (340 million gallons) of oil are used yearly to produce bottled water.
Plastic water bottles take 450 years to break down; only 1 in 5 bottles is recycled. - the other 4 contribute to the 3 million pounds of plastic water bottles added to landfills each year. Some of those end up in the ocean.
Across the world, 13-15,000 pieces of plastic are dumped into the oceans every day and there are believed to now be 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of ocean.
There are 5 ocean gyres in the world where plastic gathers due to current circulation. These gyres contain millions of pieces of plastic and our wildlife feed in these grounds.
At least two thirds of the world’s fish stocks are suffering from plastic ingestion,  
approximately 1 million sea birds die from ingesting plastic,
and 100,000 marine creatures a year die from plastic entanglement - these are the ones that are found.
Scientists have identified 200 areas in our oceans declared as ‘dead zones’ where no life organisms can now grow.
Is this how we treat gifts given in love?  
The heavens are the LORD's heavens,
but the earth he has given to human beings. 
Psalm 115:16
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established,
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them dominion
over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth! 
Psalm 8: 3-9

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Getting from Here to There

Peering out, I see a vast landscape below - wrinkled, rumpled, and worn - spreading out in all directions as far as I can see.
Appearing as a patchwork quilt, some of it has been cultivated; circles, squares, and rectangles clearly indicate patterns of tilling, planting, and irrigating.
Some of it is wild and untouched - or nearly so - hills and mountains with rugged edges descending into steep canyons or wide valleys.
 Throughout the cultivated land, and less so through the wild, run narrow, winding roads, appearing much like pencil lines drawn at random.
We know that they really are not random, but only appear that way from the air. They each serve a function - most of them, at least - to lead you and me and others from here to there.

As I study these myriad, meandering pathways, the thought occurs to me that we really often have no idea where we're going.

We usually know where we begin our journey and where we want it to end, but no way can we see the entire route. From my vantage point high above, I can easily see the long-range route of each path - the straight, level sections, rolling hilly parts, steep winding curves, and sometimes the dead ends. All of this may be apparent to those who travel those ways frequently, but for others the finding is in the traveling.
And even if someone were to view their chosen route from high above, carefully plotting their course, the reality of traveling there might be entirely different.

For there are always the unknowns - detours, alternate routes, unforeseen obstacles, unplanned changes, sudden disruptions, and other things we never imagine.

And so it is not always a simple matter to get from here to there.

Is this not much the way our lives are - simply trying to get from here and now to there and then?  We all know it is never that easy, for our chosen paths are not always straight, smooth, and even.

Some of us know exactly where we want to go, carefully choosing a direct route that should get us there with a minimum of time and trouble.

Others of us have no idea where we want to go, daily muddling through and taking whichever turn in the road looks like it might lead somewhere, anywhere at all.
Those who plan carefully may be in for surprise route-changes on the way. Those who wander may stumble onto a route that takes them to a place they never thought they'd be.
Most of us probably think it's better to plan ahead, but there really are no guarantees. Much of our road in life is simply unknown.
So what are we to do? There is an African Proverb that says If you don’t know where you're coming from, you don’t know where you're going.” It is best to figure out where we are now before plotting a course for the future. Weighing our options is always a good idea, as is getting some advice from others who might have taken the same route.

It can be a lonely journey, so we mustn't forget to ask for directions and help when we need it. Together, we can step boldly forward in faith, but we must have some idea of where we want to go. For, as Lewis Carroll wrote: "If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there."


This is what the LORD says:
       Stand at the crossroads and look,
       ask for the ancient paths,
       ask where the good way is, and walk in it
       and you will find rest for your souls. 
            Jeremiah 6:16

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way, walk in it" 
            Isaiah 30:21