Tonight I received a remarkable email from Bill Grueskin, Dean of Academic Affairs at the Columbia University School of Journalism. He looked me up on the web to share a scan of an article he wrote as a intern reporter in May 1975 for the Palo Alto Times. He had been assigned to interview me after I returned to Stanford University following the Gombe kidnapping of May 19.
Archive for January, 2013
B.B. King was there when they crucified our Lord. Listen to him sing ‘When Love Comes to Town” and you’ll believe him when he tells you that.
Here we find B.B. the King of the Blues humoring those four white boys from Ireland by letting them share a stage with him.
This will chase away your Belizean birthday blues.
More on that below. . . .
Another birthday marked and it’s been rather a bluesy one.
Belize has had an unseasonably full week of rain or the constant threat of rain, and in fact a lot of rain for several weeks now. So much for all that fun in the Belizean sun–in the “dry” season, no less.
And speaking of el sol. . . . I’ve been recovering from the surgical removal of a chunk of (benign and harmless) skin cancer from my throat a week ago.
Pain in the neck has taken on new meaning.
But I’ve seen too many cases of melanoma, the killer skin cancer, cut too many lives short to complain. (And yet I do. Complain. I’m a Westerner, American version. We complain. Belizeans complain precious little. I’ve noticed in my travels in Belize and elsewhere that Third-World people are too busy struggling to complain. They just know that life is hard and keep putting one foot in front of the other and living life, come what may. We Americans are babies and whiners by comparison.)
Dealing with skin cancer of any kind will get your attention but hey–I grew up in the brutality of the Texas sun. Who knew it could hurt us, much less cut our lives short. At any rate, I’ll be more diligent in protecting myself from the sun’s rays after this little wakeup call and reminder that yes, it could happen to me after all.
* * * * *
But back to my (somewhat) bluesy birthday.
Lucky for me I LIKE the blues.
I like it a lot.
And this seems a fitting bluesy number for one who just turned 63 who is siempre loco in la cabeza despues de todos estos anos.
Who’ll stop all this unseasonable rain in Belize.
Kids, don’t try this kind of dental flossing at home.
Mick was supposedly feeling some serious depression–yes, imagine Mick depressed; he gets real blues like everybody else–after the death of a good friend when he wrote this dark but compelling blues/rock number.
So on a happier note; at least I’m still shy of 64 and in scant danger of losing my hair; even though, my firstborn posted this on my Facebook page: “I was thinking you were 64 today until I did the math.”
Thanks for having the presence of mind to do the math in your busy life there, Ames.
Dad’s in no hurry to see 64.
(photos of Mayan site at Caracol, Belize, by russell harrison; click here)
Yes, it’s only been about a mere month since all the hype about the Mayan calendar marking the end of the world mercifully came to an end.
It was never about the end of the world anyway; the historic Mayan event marked a new beginning, not any kind of end including the end of the world, as Dr. Jaime Awe, Belize’s No. 1 archeologist points out, in the video below. (Yes, Dr. Awe stands in awe of the Mayan ruins of Belize, I’m sure. Click here for more on him and his passionate work in Belize.
The vid is Josh Berman’s report on that Dec. 21, 2012, night–a night he spent atop the Mayan “Sky Temple” at Caracol (click here) Caracol here in the rugged environs of Belize.
He was denounced and vilified by the haters day after day, year after year, as a dangerous “communist,” “Marxist,” “socialist,” un-American and, worse than that–an anti-American radical.
The more things change . . . .
Martin Luther King Jr. was in fact a prophetic Baptist preacher with an unwavering vision of a far better America, and one of the most courageous and genuinely patriotic Christians and Americans in American history. It’s the genuine patriots who keep pushing us to fulfill the American vision to the max.
And they don’t do it out of fear and paranoia nor by arming themselves to the teeth with arms of potentially massive destruction.
Click here for King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” which always bears re-reading and reflection.
Now that I’ve lived in Belize for six months-plus, here’s a few leftover pix I never got around to posting in 2012. . .
Happy birthday to Amy Rodriguez, first-born blood of my blood and fully attentive mom of two boys who are “all boy,” devoted wife and longtime best friend of her man Jorgi, hard-working insurance agent, successful business owner and all-around justice-loving Christ follower.
And such great taste in music that she accompanies her Old Man to Dave Matthews Band gigs.
Rock on, daughter.
A public defender in the Chicago area defends the work she does in quite a compelling article in the storied old Christian mag “Christian Century.” Click here for CC’s home Web page.
And as the writer points out, Jesus was a criminal defendant, even if she neglects to mention that Jesus was an innocent defendant and political prisoner who was railroaded–a man persecuted rather than prosecuted as a defendant.
Still, Jesus was a criminal defendant in the broad sense, and Christ (i.e. God) can be seen in the face of the most evil criminal/prisoner, since he or she, like you and me, was created in the image of you-know-who–with a divine flame burning however dimly.
Here’s the CC article:
“Brush with evil”
The work of a public defender
Jan 09, 2013
by Jeanne Bishop
How can you defend those people?” That’s a question public defenders hear a lot. It was one I have pondered during my hardest assignment as a lawyer in the abuse and neglect division of juvenile court in Cook County, Illinois, one of the biggest and busiest court systems in the world.
Juvenile court is a vale of tears. My clients are people who have hurt or neglected their children. The cases can be horrifying: The dad who put out cigarettes on his children’s skin. The mom who drank 40 ounces of malt liquor every day while she was pregnant, bearing children with the flat faces and brain damage of fetal alcohol syndrome. The man who, in an effort to get his girlfriend’s son to learn his ABCs, whipped him so brutally with electrical cords that the boy was flayed.
Juvenile court is a long way from where I started my career, which was at a place that represented my original idea of success: a big corporate law firm. My work for banks and corporations wasn’t deeply meaningful, but it paid well.
In those days, when I met lawyers who worked in civil rights law or constitutional law, I was flooded with envy. These lawyers seemed heroic to me, and happy; they were passionate about their work in a way I was not. But fear kept me at the big firm. I had student loans and rent to pay.
Then the unthinkable happened: my sister, her husband and their unborn baby were shot to death by an intruder in their home. A teenager who lived nearby stole a gun, broke into the house, executed Richard with a single bullet to the back of his head, turned the gun on Nancy and fired into her pregnant stomach. He left them to die, no doubt thinking he had silenced them forever. He hadn’t. Before she died, Nancy wrote a message in her own blood beside her husband’s body: the shape of a heart and the letter U. Love you.
Nancy’s message stunned me. It was a love letter to her husband and to the baby she would never hold in her arms; it was her benediction on the world she loved. It was also a wake-up call: life is short. We have no time to waste on things or to be motivated by money or fear. Only what we do from love matters or will last.
I left corporate law and became a public defender. That job took me to juvenile court, where I represent people who have committed crimes as harrowing as the one that took my sister’s life.
One of my clients faced termination of his parental rights on a charge of depravity, and that term is apt. He had raped an 11-year-old girl. She told her mother; the mother went to the police, who arrested the man and charged him with sexual assault. From jail he ordered his family to stab the child and her mother to death—which his relatives did, dumping the bodies in an industrial area. The state sought the death penalty.
Whenever I met with him, sheriffs stood just outside the glass door to make sure I was safe. Looking into his eyes unnerved me: they seemed to be staring at me from deep within a cave.
In the end, he took my advice to do what may be the only honorable thing he’d done in his life: he voluntarily gave up his rights to his children. That result was good for him in that it offered a mitigation in his death penalty case. It was good for the children, freeing them for adoption into a happier, safer home. But for me the case was a brush with evil, and it took a toll.
I sought out a fellow public defender who seemed to have a certain serenity that I lacked. Mary Russley is a lawyer and a Catholic nun. She looks as if she’s been sent over from central casting: short-cropped gray hair, wire-rimmed glasses, kindly face, long skirts, sensible shoes. She had worked in juvenile court for 12 years, first representing parents and then defending children accused of serious crimes.
“Mary,” I implored, “how have you been able to do this work for so long?” She joked that long vacations helped get her through. Then she spoke about her clients, some of the most despised people on earth.
“My job is to be present with people at the worst moment in their lives, when they are being publicly confronted with their sin,” she said.
Mary took me into her office and showed me something: a tiny Christmas tree, lit up with white lights, perched on a windowsill. The nun pointed out the window toward the juvenile detention center across the way, where many of her clients were locked up. “I keep it on all the time, here in the window, so the kids can look over and know I am thinking about them.”
I imagined one of those children looking out on a dark night, from an abyss of loneliness and longing, and seeing that light, and knowing even before he looked that it would be there, a small, glowing beacon of light that says, you are not alone.
How can we defend these people? Mary’s humble tree answered that question for me: love. The kind of love that is God’s love. Love that loves not because someone is lovable, but because God is love. Love that recognizes this biblical truth: each of those prisoners, the despised, is Jesus (“I was in prison and you visited me,” Matt. 25:36).
Mark Osler argues in his book Jesus on Death Row that the fact that the only Son of God was a criminal defendant matters:
If God is the author of the story of Jesus on earth, and that story contains lessons for contemporary men and women, then it must mean something that so much of the heart of that story is about criminal law. If we treat our prisoners in the same way that Jesus was treated, then the Christians among us must ask if that comports with our faith, and struggle with the answer.
I can defend these people because not even the wrong they have done can alter this truth: what we do for the prisoner, we do for Christ.
I once heard James Forbes, former minister at New York’s Riverside Church, give this benediction: “God’s love is the hope of the world.” So it is. It is the hope of the prisoner, the hope of the victim—and the hope I carry with me when I walk into a courtroom, go to the podium, draw a deep breath and begin to speak.
© 2013 The Christian Century. All rights reserved.
“I’ve got a good Christian raisin’
And an 8th-grade education
Ain’t no need in y’all a’ treatin’ me thisaway”
— From “Fast Train to Georgia,”
by Honky-tonk Poet Billy Joe Shaver
And now for some Billy Joe Shaver, who’s as popular as ever in Texas–maybe more popular.
Click on to his Web site here for more on him and his often pain-filled life, including the loss of his fine musician son Eddie who died of a heroin overdose in 2000.
Her grew up near Corsicana, Tx, where I spent a lot of weeks of childhood summer vacations with my Aunt Rainie and Uncle Ruff.
Perennial honky-tonk jukebox music: Most anything from Merle.
I do wish I could go home with the armadillo occasionally.
One of my all-time favorites of pure singers–the old guy still has some pretty good chops to this day.
And him with his fabolous band The Cherokee Cowboys–Willie was once one of them.
And his greatest hit after he decided to go all slick and symphonic and more sophisticated country route.
A friend and clergy colleague of mine posted this fascinating picture on his Facebook page, saying that it “captivated” him.
The picture and more like it can be found at the “Journeys With the Messiah” Website. Click here for more.
It is a most captivating illustration and one that could provoke a lot of theological conversation, debate or heated argument on the theology of war and peace, violence and non-violence.
To fully appreciate it read the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes in the Matthew’s gospel, then study on it and draw your own conclusions as to what Jesus might be saying (teaching? preaching?) to this Nazi soldier whose weapon and pack he carries.
And to stimulate some of your theological thought on it, here are a few of the comments posted by those who saw it on my friend’s Facebook.
“The disarming love of Jesus.”
* * *
[From my clergy friend who posted this picture]: “What makes this pic so powerful for me is that I can’t tell how the walk ends with this soldier. Is Jesus just helping him out, carrying his stuff for him, so that he can share the gospel with him… then in the end the soldier could turn away like the rich young ruler [Click here for story of rich, young ruler]. Or perhaps the soldier has giving his rifle away to Jesus. Having spent this week with my Grandfather who is a WWII vet with a Purple Heart, the picture was all the more captivating for me tonight.”
* * *
“If a soldier compels you to walk one mile with him walk with him two.”
* * *
“Maybe Jesus is carrying the “burden of guilt” for a remorseful soldier?”
* * *
“Having been an Army Chaplain, I can share that much of my ministry was simply a ministry of presence. I always pictured myself as simply coming alongside my soldiers as they did what they were required to do.”
* * *
“The enormity of God’s love vs. the worst thing we could have ever done. I think it shows us that no matter how ugly or how heavy is our burden of guilt or shame from the things we have done….we are loved, forgiven and have Jesus to bear that heavy load for us.”
* * *
“Just a gentle reminder that ‘Nazi’ and ‘German soldier’ are not at all synonymous. My best friend from . . . college days was a German soldier, but had nothing to do with the Nazi party. I expect he was representative of the vast majority of members of the German military services.”
ART: Wall hanging in the home of my friend Alfonso in San Mateo, Belize.
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the territory of Judea during the reign of King Herod, magi came from the east to Jerusalem. They asked, ‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him.’” (Matthew 2:1-2, Common English Bible)
Here’s a pretty good overview of Epiphany Sunday (or Monday) from Safiyah Fosua, at the United Methodist Board of Discipleship.
Many of us were introduced to Epiphany through the familiar silhouetted-image of Three Wise Men bearing gifts as they followed the Great Star by night.
In some cultures, Epiphany is known as the Day of the Kings (Dia de los Reyes). It is also known as Twelfth Day or Twelfth Night, reflecting an old custom of giving a gift for each of the days from December 25 to January 6 for the 12 days of Christmas. The day has special meaning for a number of reasons. Several branches of Christianity celebrate the birth of the Christ Child on January 6 or January 7.
The word epiphany means appearance or manifestation. Popular usage likens epiphany to words such as eureka or aha! Use of this word by some English speakers conjures images of having a light bulb turned on, or of being able to see something that was once hidden from view. The texts for the Sundays after the Epiphany dramatize the many ways that we people came to understand who Jesus was, through his baptism, the miracle at the wedding, or through that bodacious declaration in his hometown synagogue! But, this ever-widening circle of revelation began ‘outside the circle’ of Judaism, so to speak, with the Magi.
Who were the Magi?
Many versions of the Bible refer to them as the Wise Men. We often forget that these Magi or Wise Men were non-Jews. Older sources suggest that they were priestly descendants of one of the tribes of the Medes known for their knowledge of the stars (astronomy) and their ability to interpret dreams.
What can we learn from the Wise Men?
First, the Wise Men began their journey because of their beliefs.
It was a common belief that when a world leader like a king was born that a special stellar phenomenon would appear in the sky. The Magi saw something that convinced them that they had seen the long-awaited sign. Historians tell us that the Jews, the Romans, and the Persians were all watching the skies about that time, looking for signs of the birth of an extraordinary king. A few years before, around 11 BC, Halley’s Comet had been seen. There were other stellar phenomena, including a bright star, Sirius, which appeared brightly in the daytime instead of at night. The Wise Men saw the star and began their journey.
May God give us all inspiration for this year’s journey.
Second, the Wise Men were willing to follow what they had seen into unknown territory.
Their journey took them outside their country and their comfort zone. The Wise Men risked the consequences of disobeying Herod, who was known to behave as a madman when provoked and returned to their country by another way.
The Christian journey is often an off-road excursion.
Third, the Wise Men were committed to the journey — wherever the star might lead.
The Wise Men set out to find a newborn King by following a star and ended up in finding a baby born to young, relatively poor parents! Not exactly what they expected and not exactly what befit their dignity as priests.
In this coming year, may we look to heaven for guidance and comfort and may we accept God’s blessings in whatever forms we find them, just as the Wise Men accepted that their long, expensive journey led them to a baby born to young, inexperienced parents who lived on the poor side of town.
Finally, the Wise Men brought gifts.
They did the thing that people in the East or in Africa or in India would do when visiting royalty. They brought gifts.
Gold was the kind of gift that you brought to a king.
Frankincense was the kind of gift that you would bring to a priest.
Myrrh was given to someone who was about to die.
On This Twelfth Day, or Three Kings Day, otherwise known as Epiphany, think of the gift that you will offer to God in the coming year. The gift of time? The gift of your talents? Your service in the community? Your witness and testimony? The gift of undying love and devotion?
Their greatest gift comes to us in the form of a realization. The Wise Men were the first Gentiles to recognize that Jesus belongs to everyone. Good news is for everyone, not just a select few.
Star of wonder
Star of light
Star with royal beauty bright
Guide us to thy perfect light.