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Rural America at Risk

Dairy Barn at Malabar Farm State Park, Lucas, OH, Author OHWiki (PD)

  • 25% of rural American children live below the poverty line [1].  As of 2013, that translated to over 2.6 million children.
  • 25% of rural Americans are unable to obtain regular health care due to distance [2].  Over 100 rural hospitals have shut their doors since 2010.  Burnout among overworked rural physicians is high.  Family medical practices in small towns are closing down.
  • Nearly 25% of rural Americans – 14.5 million – still have no access to broadband [3].
  • Meanwhile, large retailers like JC Penney, Sears, and Macy’s are abandoning rural America in droves [4].  Apart from requiring longer drive times by shoppers, this has resulted in a loss both of sales tax revenues and jobs.

Rural communities are being stressed from nearly every quarter [5].

Overseas Markets

For the second year in a row, soybean farmers have been left without a buyer for 60% of their crop due a trade war with China [6].  America’s soybean exports (which fell more than 70% in 2018) recovered in 2019, but remained down more than 34% from their 2017 total.

Wheat growers are likely to face the next challenge [7].  Middle East tensions threaten wheat exports.

Farm Bankruptcies

Not surprisingly, farm bankruptcies rose in September 2019 to their highest level since 2011, even as the stock market soared [8].  They included Dean Foods, America’s largest milk producer. Read more…

Restoring the Earth

Sea otters, Authors Dave Bezaire/Susie Havens-Bezaire, Source flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

Mankind is failing at stewardship.  Around the globe, a million species face extinction [1].

But over the past 50 years scientists have discovered something of crucial importance to restoring damaged habitats.  The earth has the capacity to heal itself, if keystone species are allowed to return [2].

Keystone Species

Bob Paine, Prof. Emeritus of Zoology at the University of Washington, first coined the term “keystone species”.  These are animals of central importance to the ecosystems they occupy.

Jim Estes, Prof. of Ecology at the University of California/Santa Cruz, found that sea otters are the keystone species in the Aleutian Islands.  They prevent spiky urchins from devouring the kelp forests which support dozens of underwater species.  Without otters, urchin barrens result.

Role of Predators

Predators, it turns out, regulate the health of an entire community, from the top down.  This rule applies from the Equator to the Poles.  In North America, for example, deer overgrazing is threatening forests, in areas where wolves have been removed. Read more…


“Politics makes strange bedfellows” (Puck Magazine, 1899), Artwork by Louis Dalrymple, Library of Congress (Digital ID ppmsca.28593) (PD-old-70-expired)

The following excerpt is from an editorial in Christianity Today, which has caused a great deal of controversy [1].  The editorial addresses the character of Pres. Donald Trump, the actions from which his impeachment arises, and the impact on Christian witness.

“…the facts…are unambiguous:  The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents.  That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral…

Trump’s evangelical supporters have pointed to his Supreme Court nominees, his defense of religious liberty, and his stewardship of the economy, among other things, as achievements that justify their support of the president.  We believe the impeachment hearings have made it absolutely clear, in a way the Mueller investigation did not, that President Trump has abused his authority for personal gain and betrayed his constitutional oath…

To the many evangelicals who continue to support Mr. Trump in spite of his blackened moral record, we might say this:  Remember who you are and whom you serve.  Consider how your justification of Mr. Trump influences your witness to your Lord and Savior…”

The hope among Evangelicals has been that an alliance with Pres. Trump – and silence with regard to his defects of character – would provide this country with a sufficiently conservative judiciary to restore the rights of the unborn [2].

Unfortunately, that hope is misguided. Read more…

A Growing Monster

Anti-Semitic graffiti in Lithuania, Author Beny Shlevich, Source flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

  • A Europe-wide CNN poll in November 2018 found a rise in anti-Semitism and a decline in Holocaust memory [1].
  • Anti-Semitic incidents in Germany rose by almost 10% in 2018, to a 10 year high [2][3].
  • In December 2018, a Greek Holocaust Memorial was desecrated for the fourth time [4].
  • In January 2019 a synagogue was vandalized in the Bulgarian capitol Sofia [5].
  • In June 2019 planned construction on the site of mass graves dating to the Holocaust came to light in the Ukraine [6].
  • By July 2019 anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom had spiked [7].  A video showing West Ham soccer fans singing an anti-Semitic fight song about rival club Tottenham Hotspur (which has a largely Jewish fan base) was posted to Twitter.

There is a monster growing in Europe.  Anti-Semitism has increased substantially since the 2015 immigration crisis [8].  France reported a 74% increase in violence against Jews.

“An alarming pattern of anti-Semitism is spreading across Europe, from France to Germany to Sweden and elsewhere on the continent… Antisemitism is not, and cannot, remain just a Jewish problem.  This is an issue that affects all Europeans, and Western society as a whole.”

–Ronald Lauder, Pres. of World Jewish Congress

[1]  CNN, “A Shadow over Europe” by Richard Allen Greene, 11/27/18,

[2]  France 24, “Anti-Semitic attacks rose sharply in Germany in 2018, report says”, 2/13,19,

[3]  New York Times, “The New German Anti-Semitism” James Angelos, 5/21/19,

[4]  Times of Israel, “Greek Holocaust memorial vandalized for 4th time this year”, 12/17/18,

[5]  The Jerusalem Post, “Synagogue in Bulgarian Capitol of Sofia Vandalized by Stone-Throwing Incident” by Zachary Keyser, 1/22/19,

[6]  Israel National News (Arutz Sheva 7), “Ukraine plans construction atop Holocaust-era mass graves” by Cnaan Lipshiz, 6/18/19,

[7]  CNN, “New report shows spike in British anti-Semitism” by Ivana Kottasova, 8/1/19,

[8]  The Guardian, “Anti-Semitism rising sharply across Europe, figures show” by Jon Henley, 2/15/19,

Wishing you all a Happy New Year!


No Room at the Inn

“The Nativity” by Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale (Date Unknown), Author Bonhams, 3/19/08, Lot 420, Chester (PD-Art, PD-Old)

So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2: 6-7).

As this festive season reaches its climax, let us not forget that many still have no roof over their heads. The King of kings chose to be born in a stable to remind us of that.

Let us honor Him, by reaching out to those less fortunate.  That is the gift He desires.

Wishing you all a Blessed Christmas!


The Festival of Lights

A sterling silver Hanukkah menorah with 9 olive-oil based lights, Author Daniel Dimitrov (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

Hanukkah or the Jewish “Festival of Lights” celebrates the re-dedication of the Second Temple, at the time of the Maccabean revolt.

After Antiochus IV issued his infamous order forbidding Jewish religious practice, a priest by the name of Mattathias the Hasmonean prompted a revolt against the Seleucid Empire and the Hellenistic (Greek) influence on Jewish life.  This revolt lasted from 167-160 BC.

Following the Jewish victory, the Temple in Jerusalem was found ravaged:

There they saw the sanctuary desolate, the altar profaned, and the gates burned.  In the courts they saw bushes sprung up as in a thicket, or as on one of the mountains.  They saw also the chambers of the priests in ruins.  Then they tore their clothes and mourned with great lamentation…” (1 Macc. 4: 38-39).

Only a single jug of consecrated oil remained with which to purify the Temple.  Just sufficient to light the menorah for a day, the oil lasted miraculously for eight days by which time additional oil had been prepared. Read more…

Miners in the Earth

Image result for free downloadable images by artist josef herman

A Polish Jew who fled to Wales during WWII to escape persecution has much insight to offer on the plight of today’s American miners.

Ordinary Men

Josef Herman, a realist painter who lost his family to the Holocaust, embraced the coal mining community of Ystradgynlais (where he lived from 1944-1955) [1][2][3][4].  Herman’s works celebrate the miners – ordinary men who daily risked their lives to earn a meager living, in the process building a tight-knit community and a culture that is now lost.

A Connection to the Earth

Herman actually accompanied the miners down into the pit.  He spent hours in that dark, dirty, dank, and dangerous setting, sketching them by the light of a miner’s lamp.  Herman recorded the miners’ camaraderie and courage, their connection to the earth imbuing them with a kind of nobility.  His images are powerful and moving.

Dignity in Labor

What Herman observed and what he tells us is that there is dignity in labor, heroism in everyday life.  He tells us that we are stronger working together than standing alone.

Dismantling Communities

What he asks us to consider is whether we have the right to dismantle vibrant communities and destroy an entire industry, even for the sake of what we may think is a greater good. Read more…


Advent wreath with one rose candle and three purple candles, all lit, Author Jonathunder (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign:  Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7: 14).

Advent is a season of spiritual preparation in the Christian calendar.  It recalls the period of anticipation as the world awaited the coming of the Messiah.

The use of a wreath and candles during Advent is a longstanding tradition, dating as far back as the Middle Ages.  The circular shape of the wreath symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul, and the everlasting life believers have in Christ.

The individual evergreens comprising the wreath, also, have symbolic meaning.  Pine, holly, and yew are symbols of immortality.  Cedar is a symbol of strength and healing.  Laurel is a symbol of victory over trials and persecution.  The pine cones decorating the wreath symbolize life and resurrection.

The candles have special significance.  Four candles are lit in turn during the four weeks of Advent.  Three of these candles are purple because that liturgical color signals a time of prayer, repentance, and sacrifice.

  • The first Advent candle represents hope.  This is, also, called the Prophecy Candle – referring to the prophets, particularly Isaiah who foretold the birth of Christ.
  • The second candle represents faith.  It is called the Bethlehem Candle, as a reminder of the journey to Bethlehem.
  • The third candle (which is pink or rose) represents joy. This is called the Shepherd’s Candle.
  • The fourth candle represents peace.  It is called the Angel’s Candle, reminding us of the angelic message, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2: 14).

In recent times, use of a fifth, white, candle in the center of the Advent wreath has become popular.  This represents purity.  Called the Christ Candle, it is lit on Christmas Eve.


Room at the Table

Homeless man with sign, Author Enver Rahmanov (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported).

IRS statistics indicate that the gap between rich and poor in the United States is the largest in nearly a century. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that gap is widening. The average income of the wealthiest 5% is thirteen times more than that of the poorest 20%.

A few of the websites with figures relating to poverty can be found, below. But an onslaught of numbers is mind numbing to most of us. A snapshot may convey more.


Picture yourself a single or divorced mother. You are more likely to be white than black. You and your children live in rural poverty, on an army base, or in what is now politely known as the “inner city” (apparently a more acceptable term than the older “ghetto”).


You work outside the home, in a full or part-time job (sometimes two). Since you have no more than a high school diploma, you are limited to minimum wage, blue and pink collar jobs. Never mind that you grew up in poverty, yourself. Never mind that you somehow survived a drug addicted mother and absent father, without succumbing to drugs or alcohol, yourself.


Childcare is an ongoing challenge, sometimes costing you jobs. When a child is sick, you miss work. Child support is little more than a fantasy. Even if involved in their lives, the children’s father may be out of work, himself.

Health Issues

Poverty and all it entails is a recognized cause of chronic health problems. You may already be suffering from depression or heart disease. Your children still have their dreams. They, also, have asthma. Read more…

BOOK REVIEW – Uncommon Poems for the Common People

In Uncommon Poems for the Common People Charly Priest has penned a book of poetry for the rest of us.

Charly Priest, for those who do not know him, is a funny and irreverent blogger with a zest for life.  A Spanish veteran, a man of faith and courage, and a devoted son, Charly writes free verse on topics ranging from war to romance.

Like Mark Twain before him, Charly calls things as he sees them, deftly using irony to highlight the ridiculous.  This approach and occasional coarse language may offend some readers.  But Charly Priest’s purpose is not to offend.  It is to open minds to new ideas and different viewpoints.

While Charly enjoys playing with words and ideas, his most outstanding quality may be his honesty.  Charly fearlessly confronts difficult subjects, employing dark humor to deflate enlarged egos, pillory hypocrites, and undermine political correctness. Read more…