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'Bon appetit, y'all': Oklahoma Food Cooperative links local farms and ranches with eaters in cities and towns

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The Oklahoma Food Cooperative is one of the many efforts around the country that links local farmers and other entrepreneurs with eaters who want tasty, nutritious food in cities and towns. The OK Food Co-op only sells Oklahoma-grown or value-added food and non-food products. It operates with an innovative online order system coupled with a mostly volunteer delivery system.

Organized in 2003 with 60 members and four pick-up sites at its first order in November of that year, the coop today has nearly 4,000 members and 45 pickup sites. Last year's sales totaled $850,000, a 20 percent increase in 2010 over 2009.

Nature's \"boundary breakers\"

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WEEDS: IN DEFENSE OF NATURE'S MOST UNLOVED PLANTS
By Richard Mabey
Published by Ecco, $25.99

The most straightforward definition of a weed is "a plant in the wrong place." British nature writer Richard Mabey says this definition works "tolerably well," taking in how the label is ever-shifting. But he's interested in exploring what makes a place "wrong" for a plant. When it comes to a weed, it invades somewhere because, as far as the plant's concerned, that place is exactly right. "Weeds always find their way back to places they like," Mabey writes.

'April has a genius for rain': A spring storm 155 years ago

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The following is an entry from the journals of Henry David Thoreau, America’s great nature poet who kept a careful, eloquent record of his daily forays into the natural world. A keen lover of the passing seasons and the wild places, he described his life occupation as "observer of snowstorms." In this entry, he chronicles a little excursion in a boat on one of the small rivers around his home, Concord, Mass. It’s an exquisitely observed portrait of one of April’s most common dramas.

A way to keep rural communities alive

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It wasn’t a barn raising but it shared the spirit of that timeless American enterprise where a community gathers on a Saturday morning to build together something new and mutually beneficial.

Titled “Making Connections, Sharing Hope,” the event displayed small businesses and family-operated services from six rural counties in northwest Missouri. It was held in the auditorium of St. Gregory Parish in Maryville, Mo., a few years ago and was sponsored by Sparks of Hope, a rural advocacy group.

The purpose of the exhibit/gathering, according to Sparks of Hope cofounder Franciscan Sr. Christine Martin, was “to showcase entrepreneurs who are making a difference in our rural area.”

“As people from surrounding counties gathered,” she said, “we hoped to make connections and share hope for our rural communities to hear and see how others have successfully turned their dreams of business ownership into a reality.”

A 34-page directory handed out at the door listed over 90 local businesses and family-operated services. Some of those businesses were on display in the gym.

The embrace of the Name: A new devotional book from Sr. Joyce Rupp

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FRAGMENTS OF YOUR ANCIENT NAME
365 GLIMPSES OF THE DIVINE FOR DAILY MEDITATION
By Joyce Rupp
Published by Sorin Books, $22.95

Sr. Joyce Rupp is well known for her work as a writer, spiritual director, international retreat leader, and conference speaker. A member of the Servite (Servants of Mary) community and co-director of the Institute of Compassionate Presence, she is author of many books including Open the Door and May I Have This Dance? She recently completed a year as our Spiritual Reflections guide on this Web site.

Her latest book is a compendium of meditations for every day of the year. It’s a collection for expanding our awareness of who God is. Our idea of God tells us more about ourselves than it does about the divine. The names we use are personal projections from our own humanness and our perceptions about life.

Repenting of our inhumane treatment of animals

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Humans versus animals. Humans superior to animals. Humans exploiting and killing animals. It’s not a pretty picture. What has gone wrong? Why are we at enmity with our closest kin in creation?And what is it doing to the health of the earth and of our souls?

The wellbeing of animals is rarely talked about in religious or environmental circles. Only a few animal rights groups seem to care, and they are often deemed radical and excessive in their concern. After all, people are hurting and our priorities clearly ought to reside there. What most fail to see is that the welfare of animals is tied to our own. We can’t mistreat them without harming ourselves in the process, both physically and spiritually.

St. Paul’s analogy of the body and its parts all needing to work together because they suffer together (1 Corinthians 12:12-26) fits beautifully here.

Don't sit on the bank of life, jump in the river

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Existence in God's creation is too astounding for you to be a bystander. Here is my modest proposal and challenge to you this spring and summer: Intensify your bond with creation and see what this does for your soul, your health, your happiness and more. I’m willing to bet if you take more walks, look at the moon more often, putter in the soil, sit by a lake, or some similar outdoor activity (or non-activity), it will serve you well.

Gifts of the spirit recast for the 21st century

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We Catholics have new sins for the 21st century. The old sins -- sloth, envy, gluttony, lust, pride -- have a “rather individualistic dimension,” said Vatican official, Msgr. Gianfranco Girotti, in March, 2009. “The sins of today have a social resonance as well as an individual one,” he said, naming new transgressions for a new age.

“You offend God not only by stealing, blaspheming or coveting your neighbor’s wife,” he said, “but also by ruining the environment, carrying out morally debatable scientific experiments.”

But what about virtues?

Values endure, but nevertheless each age probably brings its own understanding of what traditional virtues mean practically and how they help us to cope with new realities and challenges.

The church’s sacrament of Confirmation, for example, marks spiritual maturity, rooting us more deeply in our relationship with God. It’s seen too as increasing in us the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, piety, fortitude and fear of the Lord.
Here are the gifts of the Spirit recast for today, with a similar eye toward their social resonance.

'Up in the Sky and Down to Earth': A Catholic conversation on climate and creation care

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Dan Misleh, the executive director of the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, teams up with author and farmer Kyle Kramer for a thought-provoking webinar on Tuesday, April 12 from 3-4 (Eastern time).

Dan will discuss Catholic teaching as it relates to environmental stewardship and concern for the common good and the poor, especially in regard to the pressing problem of global climate change. Kyle will share reflections from a decade of trying to put the principles of good stewardship and simplicity into practice on a small-scale organic farm, surrounded by family members, rural neighbors, and the nearby community of Benedictine monks.

To register, visit this Web page.

British astrophysicist wins Templeton Prize

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By CHRIS HERLINGER
c. 2011 Religion News Service

A British theoretical astrophysicist who has achieved renown for
his study of the cosmos and for sounding warnings about the future of humanity has won the $1.6 million 2011 Templeton Prize.

Martin J. Rees of Cambridge University, a former president of
Britain's prestigious Royal Society, was announced the winner on
Wednesday (April 6) by the John Templeton Foundation.

The annual prize honors an individual who has made "exceptional
contributions to affirming life's spiritual dimension." Rees is a
somewhat unorthodox choice because he holds no formal religious beliefs.

Rees, 68, has long studied questions surrounding black holes, the
big bang and what some call the "dark age" of the early universe. Rees
has also speculated on the idea of infinite universes, sometimes called
"multiverses," and has pondered how large physical reality actually is.

Rees has helped reshape "crucial philosophical and theological
considerations that strike at the core of life, fostering the spiritual
progress that the Templeton Prize has long sought to recognize," the
Templeton Foundation said in announcing the prize.

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August 15-28, 2014

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