For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

— Romans 15: 4

“for our instruction that we might have hope”

As a ravenous, lifelong reader, I live for the quiet excitement of starting a new book and being captured by it.

But to borrow a quote from a Paul Simon song, “I seem to lean on old familiar ways.”

I’m constantly pulling down old, familiar spiritual books that I treasure, re-visiting the words from the dog-eared pages that I’ve underlined or highlighted.

So I’m constantly re-visiting quotes from Henri Nouwen, the Catholic priest and prolific spiritual writer who authored so many books that are loved by common lay people while also being read and studied to this day in Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant seminaries around the world.

So this morning over coffee the spirit led me to re-visit Nouwen’s Finding My Way Home, where I came upon this:

    “I have found it very important in my own life to try to let go of my wishes and instead to live in hope. I am finding that when I choose to let go of my sometimes petty and superficial wishes and trust that my life is precious and meaningful in the eyes of God something really new, something beyond my own expectations begins to happen for me.”

Indeed, the excitement of “new life in Christ” begins every day–even on these Mondays that we so dread–and dread only because of our own dreadful attitudes.

Call me “Pollyanna Paul”–and God knows I’ve been called worse things–but I’m telling you (from personal experience): when we let go of all our “stuff”–our fears, our superficial “wants” and wishes, our dread of “Mondays” or “dreads” of anything else–and stay spiritually anchored in hope (and faith and charity), new and exciting things happen.

Have a happy Monday.

The daily news is filled with accounts of politicians or business owners who are on trial after ‘magically’ getting rich. And we have to tell the truth: Corruption is precisely the sin that is at your fingertips. We are all tempted by corruption. It is a sin that is close at hand and easy to succumb to, because when one has authority, one feels powerful, one feels almost like God.

“The corrupt live a life enveloped in a sense of security, with a sense of well-being, money, and then power, vanity and pride.

“And who pays the price? The poor pay it.”

— Pope Francis in his June 16, 2014 homily
“Do you not know that God entrusted you with that money (all above what buys necessities for your families) to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to help the stranger, the widow, the fatherless; and, indeed, as far as it will go, to relieve the wants of all mankind?

“How can you, how dare you, defraud the Lord, by applying it to any other purpose?”
― John Wesley

Whenever my beloved mother, God rest her soul, was feeling weary or put out by something she would give this shout-out to God:

“Lord have mercy on my soul.”

Lord have mercy on my soul, I’ve tried to quit following the news, and following the money in politics, but I’m a hopeless news and political junkie. I can fast from it for a day or a few days or even a week, but I always go back to see what’s happening in a world where most days it just seems there just ain’t no justice.

Or, as they used to say when I was growing up in Texas, “There oughta be a law.”

I’ve been monitoring FOX news lately, which I don’t recommend for cultivating peace of mind, but somebody’s gotta do it.

While Sean Hannity and the other G.O.P. propagandists at FOX won’t let us forget for a minute that the clearly ethically challenged Hillary Clinton once parlayed a $1,000 investment into a $100,000 payday, the Foxers guarding the hen house are conspicuously silent in denouncing the common kind of corruption practiced every day in Congress in the form of insider trading.

And the poor–even the working poor–continue to get hammered and scapegoated and “martyred.”

Look, do able-bodied poor people “play the system” in order to get government handouts?

A lot of them do–of course! And always will!

Are they all a bunch of shiftless drug users? That’s a reckless generalization.

Of course not!

Are all those in politics–which is fueled by cocktail parties and two-martini lunches and dinners–are they all alcoholics?

Uh, I’m not so sure anymore.

Seriously, do rich and powerful people–the Clintons and Pelosis and Reids as well as the Boehners and McConnells and the Hatfields and McCoys in Congress and the entire political arena–are they “gaming the system” in order to get richer and more powerful?

Some politicians have and always will play the system and we know this because history, if it shows anything, shows that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

But I submit that never in my lifetime have our leaders gamed us so blatantly as they do now. And they are really skilled at misdirection–pointing us in the direction of the poor and homeless and marginalized with accusatory fingers.

As long as they leave our right to own weapons that were made for war alone, and as long as they give the poor and homeless among us the kicks in the pants that they (allegedly) deserve, we’ll let them take us all the way to the brink of another Depression as sure as they took us there in 2008.

Politics is the gateway drug to more power and riches for those who lust for the “high” of power and riches–and like any other addict a politician (and the lobbyists for the real powers that control America now)–will lie, cheat and steal to keep the power and money coming.

Click here for the interesting links included in the original on-line story, re-printed below, by the superb young investigative reporter Lee Fang. It brought to mind that old saying from my Texas youth:

“There oughta be a law!”

    In a little-noticed brief filed last summer, lawyers for the House of Representatives claimed that an SEC investigation of congressional insider trading should be blocked on principle, because lawmakers and their staff are constitutionally protected from such inquiries given the nature of their work.

    The legal team led by Kerry W. Kircher, who was appointed House General Counsel by Speaker John Boehner in 2011, claimed that the insider trading probe violated the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branch.

    In 2012, members of Congress patted themselves on the back for passing the STOCK Act, a bill meant to curb insider trading for lawmakers and their staff. “We all know that Washington is broken and today members of both parties took a big step forward to fix it,” said Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, upon passage of the law.

    But as the Securities and Exchange Commission made news with the first major investigation of political insider trading, Congress moved to block the inquiry.

    The SEC investigation focused on how Brian Sutter, then a staffer for the House Ways and Means Committee, allegedly passed along information about an upcoming Medicare decision to a lobbyist, who then shared the tip with other firms. Leading hedge funds used the insider tip to trade on health insurance stocks that were affected by the soon-to-be announced Medicare decision.

    Calling the SEC’s inquiry a “remarkable fishing expedition for congressional records,” Kircher and his team claimed that the SEC had no business issuing a subpoena to Sutter. “Communications with lobbyists, of course, are a normal and routine part of Committee information-gathering,” the brief continued, arguing that there “is no room for the SEC to inquire into the Committee’s or Mr. Sutter’s purpose or motives.”

    Wall Street investors routinely hire specialized “political intelligence” lobbyists in Washington to get insider knowledge of major government decisions so that they may make trades using the information. But little is known about the mechanics of political intelligence lobbying, which falls outside the scope of traditional lobbying law, and therefore does not show up in mandatory lobbying disclosure reports.

    There are occasional hints, though.

    Personal finance forms reveal that from July of 2011 through May of 2013, David Berteau served as a consultant to Height Analytics, the political intelligence firm at the center of the SEC’s current probe. At the time of his work for Height Analytics, Berteau simultaneously worked as a vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a prominent think tank in Washington. Berteau is now the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Logistics and Materiel Readiness.

    Congressional travel forms show that on December 12, 2012, Emily Porter, at the time an employee of Boehner’s office, traveled to New York on a sponsored trip to meet with JNK Securities for a group lunch with business clients. According to the Wall Street Journal, JNK “has emerged as one of the most aggressive” political intelligence firms on Capitol Hill.

    This is hardly the first time Congress has moved to undermine its own ethics rules. In 2011, congressional Republicans quickly abandoned their promise to post the text of bills online “for at least three days” before voting on them.


A tip of the cowboy hat to my friend Michael Mason for reminding me of the legendary Texas songwriter Guy Clark’s ode to the home-growed tah-mater (see his web site here) and more on him (as he would say) “ri-cheer,” which is Texacanese for “right here.”

Mike said of yesterday’s post:

“That’s nice — but I prefer this from (what should be) the poet laureate of Texas, Guy Clark” (and how I forgot this song I’ll never know as I sang along to it many a time back in the day):

“Homegrown Tomatoes”

Ain’t nothin’ in the world that I like better
Than bacon & lettuce & homegrown tomatoes
Up in the mornin’ out in the garden
Get you a ripe one don’t get a hard one
Plant ’em in the spring eat ’em in the summer
All winter with out ’em’s a culinary bummer
I forget all about the sweatin’ & diggin’
Everytime I go out & pick me a big one

Homegrown tomatoes homegrown tomatoes
What’d life be without homegrown tomatoes
Only two things that money can’t buy
That’s true love & homegrown tomatoes

You can go out to eat & that’s for sure
But it’s nothin’ a homegrown tomato won’t cure
Put ’em in a salad, put ’em in a stew
You can make your very own tomato juice
Eat ’em with egss, eat ’em with gravy
Eat ’em with beans, pinto or navy
Put ’em on the site put ’em in the middle
Put a homegrown tomato on a hotcake griddle

If I’s to change this life I lead
I’d be Johnny Tomato Seed
‘Cause I know what this country needs
Homegrown tomatoes in every yard you see
When I die don’t bury me
In a box in a cemetary
Out in the garden would be much better
I could be pushin’ up homegrown tomatoes

In which the late, great Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda* celebrates the “benign majesty” of — the tomato, and it “with no pit, no husk, no leaves or thorns.”

“Cool completeness”

“Ode To Tomatoes”
by Pablo Neruda
The street
filled with tomatoes,
light is
its juice
through the streets.
In December,
the tomato
the kitchen,
it enters at lunchtime,
its ease
on countertops,
among glasses,
butter dishes,
blue saltcellars.
It sheds
its own light,
benign majesty.
Unfortunately, we must
murder it:
the knife
into living flesh,
a cool
populates the salads
of Chile,
happily, it is wed
to the clear onion,
and to celebrate the union
child of the olive,
onto its halved hemispheres,
its fragrance,
salt, its magnetism;
it is the wedding
of the day,
its flag,
bubble vigorously,
the aroma
of the roast
at the door,
it’s time!
come on!
and, on
the table, at the midpoint
of summer,
the tomato,
star of earth, recurrent
and fertile
its convolutions,
its canals,
its remarkable amplitude
and abundance,
no pit,
no husk,
no leaves or thorns,
the tomato offers
its gift
of fiery color
and cool completeness

*Click here for the bio and more on the Chilean Poet that appeared on his 1971 Nobel Prize documents.

A 2 y.o. sister being protected by her 4 y.o. brother in the Nepal earthquake in a picture that should put us on our knees.


    “But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

    “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
    his mercies never come to an end;

    “they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.”

    — Lamentations 3: 21-23

I’m gonna miss Dave–still the King (post-Carson)–and Paul and the band: they never had two bigger fans than my mother and me, two or your hipper insomniacs.

“They’re all animals anyway”

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

— Jeremiah 29:7

“Teach your children well”

I saw this reaction to the rioters on Facebook from a friend of a friend:

    “Their (sic) breaking the law and ought to be shot down. Their (sic) all animals anyway.”

Which wouldn’t be so heinous if it weren’t the reaction of so many Americans who aren’t a bit interested in hearing from all sides on how it came to this in a neighborhood and so many other neighborhoods where people have been “kept down” and brutalized (like animals?) for God knows how long.

Just remember that your children and grandchildren are seeing and hearing (and reading you on Facebook???) and internalizing how you react to events like the rioting in Baltimore.

If your response to the news is peppered with nastiness or bitterness or hatred or condemnation or fear and racism and a sense of moral superiority, your kids and grands are feeding on it, digesting it and growing in the image of something other than the God of true justice that Dr. King lifted up so well when he said:

    “Now I wanted to say something about the fact that we have lived over these last two or three summers with agony and we have seen our cities going up in flames. And I would be the first to say that I am still committed to militant, powerful, massive, non-violence as the most potent weapon in grappling with the problem from a direct action point of view. I’m absolutely convinced that a riot merely intensifies the fears of the white community while relieving the guilt. And I feel that we must always work with an effective, powerful weapon and method that brings about tangible results. But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”

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