In Praise of Blossoming Trees

There are few things in Nature as beautiful as a tabebuia tree. The photo here is of one I tended, watered and pruned for nine years. Lovely tree; it was a gift from our next door neighbor.

The fact that a tabebuia only blooms for a few days each spring does not detract from its beauty. It’s a reminder for me that life is fleeting and we blossom for a brief season, then fall away and return to the earth. It is good to have your day in the sun!

Though these lovely trees are barren now, there are some beautiful trees, fairly-common in the Sunshine State, which display their gorgeous, bright-yellow blossoms in summer’s sultry heat! I refer to the yellow poinciana, better known to arborists as the peltophorum.

You might say that the tabebuia and the yellow poinciana are cousins.

I’ve seen more than a few of them around Central Florida in the last three or four summers; they’re quite a spectacle for those of us who crave a little color in the Florida landscape before autumn’s arrival. They seem to blossom from the top down and the blossoms last a good, long while. They can grow up to 50 ft tall; I’ve seen one nearly that size near the entrance to Disney’s Jambo House Resort.

Count me as one of those Floridians who stays indoors a lot more at this time of year. Day after day of temps in the mid-nineties gets old pretty quick. When I do motor about from place to place here in our subtropical paradise, it’s such a welcome pleasure to be greeted by those lovely yellow blossoms.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile

Turn, Turn, Turn

That brief posting entitled Words to Live By from last Sunday evening was based on a passage from the first Chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes.

When my friend first pointed me in the direction of that passage, it also made my mind go back to a ’60s folk song adapted from a well-known part of Chapter 3 from the same Book.

Turn, Turn, Turn is a song all boomers remember from 1965. Although it was written by Pete Seeger, it was the Byrds who had a huge hit with it. The words are taken from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 and had but one phrase added at the end: …a time for peace, I swear it’s not too late!

Here it is in its entirety:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

by Pete Seeger adapted from Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

The words offered me no small comfort back many, many years ago when I first heard them. (I was in the 5th grade, if you must know!) And they still do.

This is a most unusual and very precarious Chapter in the history of our Country.

And I assure you it’s a time to heal.

It’s a time to speak.

And it’s a time for Peace.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

They say “Prayer Changes Things”

I’m thinking that just about anyone who reads this has heard the aphorism

“Prayer Changes Things”

A few months ago, I drove by a Church in the downtown Orlando area and read this on the sign out front:

“Prayer doesn’t change things. Prayer changes people and people change things!”

I’m not at all trying to make a commentary on prayer or different ideas about prayer or about spirituality in general. I believe we all can and should create our own spiritual path.

But I found myself in agreement with the idea that brief message contained.

And that’s all the more reason to pray.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

It’s Time to Walk the Walk

It’s such an incredible and intensely sad development that Evangelicals in America have separated their belief and their behavior so thoroughly.

They can, and often do, go on and on about what a Christian should believe and say virtually nothing about what a Christian should do.

Their beliefs may be traditional or orthodox as far as that goes but their refusal to follow it up with authentic behavior and actions as modeled by and taught by the man they worship as God perfectly shows how bankrupt their spirituality is.

By the way, I’m am not “traditional” or “orthodox” as seen through the lens of traditional Christianity, but that’s a subject for another day.

This disconnect between what they teach their adherents to believe and what Jesus clearly taught that they should do is very easy to spot.

I think it’s safe to say that that disconnect has been there for anyone to see for quite a while. But today it’s not a separation that can be easily bridged; it’s a great, imposing chasm and the gap grows wider by the day.

When one looks at how so many members of Evangelical Churches go about their everyday lives, the failure to treat all  people with compassion and respect is right out there for anyone to see.

The tepid way that too many Evangelical Churches and their members go about exercising stewardship of the Earth and all of Earth’s inhabitants is also deeply regrettable. So much more can be and ought to be done.

There are many consequences to this failure to “walk the walk” and not just merely “talk the talk”. I think the most serious one is that folks who’ve been attending Evangelical Churches for years are leaving in droves.

This blog posting today is not covering any new ground on this subject. There is no shortage of books, articles and podcast episodes about it. And the exodus has been going on for quite a while.

This entry is part one of a two-part series and I meant it mostly just to set the stage.

But I do want to invite your attention to a recent interview that covers this subject of Evangelicals jumping ship pretty thoroughly. I think Mr McLaren’s insights into what is happening are spot-on. I recommend the piece if you’re trying to keep your eye on this situation.

It’s still true that you can’t put new wine in old vessels. One of the things driving the exodus is that you can’t scare people anymore into believing or walking a spiritual path by threatening them with burning in hell. That’s just not happening, and that’s a good thing.

That specific angle to this situation is also something I will cover in more detail soon.

Blessings to all. I will be checking in again soon.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis

The Environment: Good News and Bad News

It may sound like the lead-in to a joke, but that cliche does perfectly sum up where we are right now with the environment. Where we are as far as taking actions which are desperately needed today, to be more precise.

The situation is dire. That’s an understatement. There are thousands of studies and documents to substantiate just how bleak the situation is for our planet.

And here’s another study for good measure.

The good news is that the nascent Sunrise Movement has a huge potential, not only to change the conversation, but to prod us into taking some very, very necessary actions.

Or to slow down all the foot-dragging, at the very least.

The Guardian published an article yesterday to highlight the work being done by this largely youth-led movement; it’s well worth the next few minutes of your time.

The Earth is our common home. She is not dying. She is being killed! We cannot afford to go on with the status quo.

As you no doubt know, there are very committed, well-financed interests which are going all out to muzzle the voices calling for action and to stifle any change.

We’ll always have that to deal with.

But getting more and more committed friends of the Earth on-board for the fight–including the people who are being galvanized by the Sunrise Movement–may at least give the Earth a fighting chance.

Brother Ben

© 2019 Ben Lawrence Basile

Something we must do

It’s an ill wind that blows from Washington these days. If you believe it’s important to live in a compassionate way, or to care for and protect the Earth, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a good role model among our elected officials.

Sometimes it seems as though they’re trying to turn the natural order of things on its head. It seems as though someone in charge is giving a lot of thought to how one could live in a kind, sane and loving manner and then telling the whole team to do the exact opposite!

Do you ever get that feeling?

I do. A lot. Way more than I should.

So we must do all we can to model compassion and to practice compassion in everything we do while so many of our elected officials and decision makers are modeling anger, greed and indifference!

The actions of one individual can make a difference.

Acting compassionately is something we must do.

Brother Ben
© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Some Love for our four-legged Friends

A major emphasis for our movement is to show love and compassion for all the inhabitants of Earth. Not only for those who walk upright, wearing funny clothes and staring blankly into dimly-lit devices that keep getting bigger and bigger.

A big part of this commitment to animals is to support groups who are engaged full-time in the struggle to treat wildlife and pets with wisdom and compassion.

This is something I’m going to do regularly. For the first post, I want to highlight the excellent work that the Wildlife Conservation Society is doing.

The W.C.S. is active all over God’s Green Earth and focuses on policies and actions that help to save and nurture wildlife and wild places.

You can visit their excellent site on the world-wide web by following this link.

There are so many organizations doing this kind of work, that I’ll only be able to scratch the proverbial surface even by featuring an org each week.

But that’s not such a bad thing.

If you take the time to see what those folks are up to and want to get involved, the sites make it easy to do that.

If your objective is to learn and know more about what the organization is doing, following/liking on Facebook and/or Twitter is certainly a good way to go.

This will take you to the official Twitter page of the WCS.

Blessings on you today. Keep advocating for pets and wildlife. That’s what compassionate people do.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Words to Live By

Here’s a verse from the Book of Ecclesiastes that a friend of mine shared with me tonight. It’s a verse she has found to be a key part of her personal spiritual practice.

When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future.

Ecclesiastes 7:14 NIV

I think that this translation or interpretation makes more clear what the writer of Ecclesiastes was trying to say:

Enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realize that both come from God. Remember that nothing is certain in this life.

Ecclesiastes 7:14 NLT

These are indeed words to live by. It is so true that none of us knows what tomorrow may bring. We all have our share of the “good stuff” and it’s just as certain that the “bad stuff” comes around with regularity.

And time often has a way of helping us see the the “good times” may not have been as good as it seemed, and the “bad” not as bad, perhaps.

But while you’re in it, whether it seems good or bad at the time, remember that the wheel will turn; other experiences will come around. And that God, or the Universe or the Divine One brings them all to you.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis

What Our Movement is About

I am a man who strives to be compassionate and believes that the life and teachings of Jesus still show us how to live and how to treat others in the 21st Century.

I believe that the tide of ugliness coming from elected officials and so-called leaders of the evangelical churches is a tragedy and must be countered with a renewed emphasis on modeling the compassion, teaching and life of Jesus.

I also believe that we have failed miserably in our stewardship of the Earth, our common home, and that this is also a grave failure of our corporate will and must be urgently addressed.

These two horrible trends–the abrogation of the clear teachings of Jesus to follow in his footsteps and our failings to care for the Earth and all her inhabitants–must be resisted and must be countered with clear teachings and committed actions.

That is the mission, the driving force, behind our movement.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.