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"Worry doesn't repair anything," my wise Belizean friend pictured here told me as he was chilling at the roundabout downtown. No wiser words were ever spoken. And of course it brings to mind the wisdom of Jesus in a scripture from Matthew you'll find below.

“Worry doesn’t repair anything,” my wise Belizean friend pictured here told me as he was chilling at the roundabout downtown. No wiser words were ever spoken. And of course it brings to mind the wisdom of Jesus in a scripture from Matthew you’ll find below.

From the Gospel of Matthew 6: 25-34, concerning the futility of worry and anxiety as opposed to peace in the present moment–the holiness of the here and now–where God keeps us embraced like a warm blanket on a cold, dark night:

    “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

    “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

    “And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?

    “And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.

    “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?”

    “For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But strive first for the kingdom of God* and his* righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

    “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

These things I remember,    as I pour out my soul: how I went with the throng,*    and led them in procession to the house of God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving,    a multitude keeping festival.  Why are you cast down, O my soul,    and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,    my help and my God. -- from Psalm 42

These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I went with the throng,*
and led them in procession to the house of God,
with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving,
a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God. — from Psalm 42

The media often depict the traditional Christian faith (and those who practice it) as backwards, hypocritical, unsophisticated, and unenlightened. . . . When they use a charlatan to advance that kind of perspective and the truth comes to light, it deserves to be pointed out broadly.”

— (Legitimate) Ordained Methodist Minister and Wesleyan scholar Andrew C. Thompson on the story of the atheist Teresa MacBain. Click here for the whole story in which Rev. Thompson sets the record straight about Teresa MacBain.

Photo from a New York Times profile of Teresa MacBain when she was spearheading America's Atheist Movement from a prestigious position at Harvard University. Much to the embarrassment of Harvard and the Atheist Movement, her story about being a United Methodist preacher with a divinity degree from the Methodist-affiliated Duke University was a Fabrication from her Imagination.  She needs counseling and if we have any grace in us, our prayers for God's grace on her.

Photo from a New York Times profile of Teresa MacBain when she was spearheading America’s Atheist Movement from a prestigious position at Harvard University. Much to the embarrassment of Harvard and the Atheist Movement, her story about being a United Methodist preacher with a divinity degree from the Methodist-affiliated Duke University was a Fabrication from her Imagination. She needs counseling and if we have any grace in us, our prayers for God’s grace on her.

How we love to see people–politicians, celebrities, athletes, clergy, academics and anyone else with a high media profile–fall.

And the harder and farther they fall the deeper our delight.

And then we rap the news media for giving us what we want–building people up and tearing people down.

Especially the tearing down. Especially if we’re a Christian and it’s an atheist who has fallen and fallen hard, who probably can’t be torn down enough, now that the truth is trickling out, to suit us.

If you’re a Christian and take some guilty pleasure in the story of Teresa MacBain–who needs counseling as well as prayer–you’re being honest-to-God human.

But you might want to join me in meditating on this word that came to me as I was delighting in MacBain’s fall.

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

The photo that is knocking everyone's socks off. And speaking of socks: I want to know where the former Prez got those--I want a pair for my youngest-born's wedding next month.

The photo that is knocking everyone’s socks off. And speaking of socks: I want to know where the former Prez got those–I want a pair for my youngest-born’s wedding next month.


So this picture and the story of the first President Bush–who was all about his vision of a “New World Order” and “a kinder, gentler nation,” falls in the category of “Stories that make you go “Wow!”

From where I sit, it makes me go “Wow” in a good way and I salute this former President for his public touch of grace shown here.

* * * *

I won’t even repeat in detail why I’ve been on board with the full inclusion of gays, including in the church–based on biblical and theological arguments I could make once again–as well as being on board in accord with the U.S. Constitution and secular marriage laws.

I’ll only say to those who inevitably get upset about my liberal position on this issue that this is 2013–not the first couple of centuries in which men (and men only) gave us the bible and early church law.

New times do call for new Christian duties–and sometimes it’s dutiful to wake up and realize that, God who is a living and dynamic God, is doing a new and dynamic thing, calling us and leading us to some new duty befitting the never-ending march of earthly time and times–and doing so based on the endless, Godly Love-and-Grace that are, at bottom, the core message of the bible.

We can get so stuck on pointing to the bible and looking at the bible that we miss God and the ever-blowing Holy Spirit–God’s change agent–that the bible points to.

God bless you, Mr. Bush. Nice touch.

From ABC News:

Former President George H.W. Bush was an official witness at the same-sex wedding of two longtime friends, his spokesman said Wednesday.

Bush and his wife, Barbara Bush, attended the ceremony joining Bonnie Clement and Helen Thorgalsen as private citizens and friends on Saturday, spokesman Jim McGrath said.

Thorgalsen posted a photo on her Facebook page showing Bush signing the marriage license as a witness. She captioned the photo: “Getting our marriage license witnessed!”

In the photo, Bush is seated in a wheelchair, a stack of papers on his lap and his left hand poised with a pen. One bright red sock and one bright blue one peek out below the cuffs of his blue slacks.

The 41st president has deep ties to the area and owns a compound in Kennebunkport, a small coastal town. Thorgalsen and Clement own a general store in neighboring Kennebunk. They were honeymooning overseas and didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment Wednesday.

Gay marriage became legal in Maine in December.

Calling for solidarity with the neediest in society, the pope concluded his homily by urging his listeners to “see our brothers and sisters with the gaze of the Madonna, she who invites us to be true brothers.”
“May our childlike heart defend it from so many windbags who promise illusions, from those who avidly look for an easy life, from promises that cannot be fulfilled.”

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

— Isaiah 43: 19

* * *

“We don’t want this globalized economic system that does us so much harm. At its center there should be man and woman, as God wants, and not money.”

— Pope Francis

So I started an ongoing series of “Noon Wine” reflections on what the bible says about poverty and the poor some time ago–before Pope Francis started prophetically calling attention to the poor–and longtime readers here know that my calling to ordained ministry has always been primarily about ministry with the poor.

It’s one reason I moved to Belize last year–to live a simple life among very simple people in a country where unemployment runs about 50 percent and the minimum wage for the scarce number of real jobs is $3.10 U.S. an hour.

It’s a country where–on the other side of its paradise of landscapes and seascapes that attract the rich and famous–only 35 percent of the children who start primary school graduate from high school. Most families simply cannot afford to send their children on to high school, which is not mandatory.

That 35 percent figure figures, since about a third of the country’s people are professionals and business owners and privileged people who do well in life and can get their kids through school and on to college or work in the family business. But the vast majority of Belizeans can’t afford the high cost of required tuition, fees, books, supplies and uniforms to send their kids on to high school, much less to college or trade school.

It’s a country where the ministers in charge of government live in luxurious castles–one powerful politico here patterned his house on a mountaintop after America’s White House. A former Prime Minister robbed the treasury, literally by the hundreds of millions, without prosecution, and is still the voice of the party that’s on the outs in the two-party system here..

The rich and the powerful get theirs, and enough for their families and supporters, first. There’s not much “trickle-down” to the masses.

Of course, that’s such an old, old story–the rich and powerful get richer and more powerful; the poor get the cake. And we’re seeing that old story played out around the world like never before as the gap between rich and poor, even in the U.S., widens every day.

* * * *

All this is to say that Pope Francis is a man after my own Wesleyan Methodist heart. God is doing a new thing under this servant-leader, who, I’m now convinced, genuinely lives by the gospel and answers only to God–and never mind the critics who don’t understand that the gospel is so largely about sharing power with, not wielding power over, the poor.

Pope Francis is in no way concerned about what’s politically correct; only about what is “gospelly correct.”

It seems to me that God, who always seems to send prophets and saints just when the world needs them, has sent him to speak to the greedy world just in time. We can only hope and pray that the rich and powerful and all of us in an age of Global, I-Me-Mine Economics will pay heed.

Pope, in Sardinia, denounces globalization and unemployment
By Francis X. Rocca
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Visiting an Italian region especially hard hit by the European economic crisis, Pope Francis blamed high unemployment on globalization driven by greed and said those who give charitable aid to the poor must treat their beneficiaries with dignity.

“We want a just system, a system that lets all of us get ahead,” the pope said Sept. 22, in his first address during a full day on the Italian island of Sardinia. “We don’t want this globalized economic system that does us so much harm. At its center there should be man and woman, as God wants, and not money.”

Sardinia has an overall unemployment rate of nearly 20 percent, rising to nearly 50 percent among young adults.

Before speaking to a crowd of about 20,000 near the Cagliari city port, Pope Francis heard a series of speeches in greeting, including one from an unemployed father of three, who spoke of how joblessness “wears you out to the depths of your soul.”

In response, the pope discarded his prepared remarks and told his audience what he said “comes to me in my heart seeing you in this moment.”

Pope Francis recalled the struggles of his immigrant Italian father in 1930s Argentina.

“They lost everything. There was no work,” he said. “I was not born yet, but I heard them speak about this suffering at home. I know this well. But I must tell you: courage.”

    The pope emphasized the need for “dignified work,” lamenting that crisis had led to an increase in “inhumane work, slave labor, work without fitting security or without respect for creation.”

The pope said he knew that his preaching alone would mean little to those in difficulty.

“I must do everything I can so that this word ‘courage’ is not a pretty fleeting word, not only the smile of (a) cordial church employee,” he said. “I want this courage to come out from inside and push me to do all I can as a pastor, as a man. We must all face this historic challenge with solidarity and intelligence.”

The pope said that the current economic crisis was the “consequence of a global choice, of an economic system that led to this tragedy, an economic system centered on an idol, which is called money.”

In his undelivered remarks, which the pope said should be considered “as if they had been spoken,” he thanked those entrepreneurs who, “in spite of everything, have not ceased to commit themselves, to invest and take risks to guarantee employment.”

The pope emphasized the need for “dignified work,” lamenting that that crisis had led to an increase in “inhumane work, slave labor, work without fitting security or without respect for creation.”

Pope Francis said that a commitment to the natural environment could actually stimulate job creation in fields such as energy, environmental protection and forestry.

The pope celebrated Sunday Mass in a square outside the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Bonaria, the namesake of his native city of Buenos Aires. Pope Francis originally announced his trip to Sardinia to venerate the statue of Mary there.

Calling for solidarity with the neediest in society, the pope concluded his homily by urging his listeners to “see our brothers and sisters with the gaze of the Madonna, she who invites us to be true brothers.”

He prayed to Mary to “give us your gaze, may no one hide it from us. May our childlike heart defend it from so many windbags who promise illusions, from those who avidly look for an easy life, from promises that cannot be fulfilled.”

    “Charity is not simply welfare, much less welfare to soothe one’s conscience,” he said. “That’s not love, right? It’s business, a transaction. Love is free.

    “Sometimes one finds arrogance, too, in those who serve the poor,” the pope said.

At an afternoon gathering with poor people and prisoners who had been taken to the Cagliari cathedral, Pope Francis had strong words for those who practice charity in the wrong spirit.

“Charity is not simply welfare, much less welfare to soothe one’s conscience,” he said. “That’s not love, right? It’s business, a transaction. Love is free.

“Sometimes one finds arrogance, too, in those who serve the poor,” the pope said. “Some make themselves pretty, they fill their mouths with the poor; some exploit the poor in their own interests or those of their group.

“This is a grave sin, because it means using the needy, those in need, who are the flesh of Jesus, for my vanity,” the pope said. “It would be better for these people to stay home.”

In this image from July, Pope Francis embraces a patient at St. Francis of Assisi Hospital in Rio De Janeiro. The pontiff addressed a group of recovering drug addicts, offering them a message of compassion and hope. (photo:CNS/L’Osservatore Romano).

In this image from July, Pope Francis embraces a patient at St. Francis of Assisi Hospital in Rio De Janeiro. The pontiff addressed a group of recovering drug addicts, offering them a message of compassion and hope. (photo:CNS/L’Osservatore Romano).

Eich-1979-st-francis

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Expats Lacy (born in Uvalde, Tx but most of life in Belize) and Catherine (right), a local music teacher, at the Bamboo Club. All the American bloods were out and about were out and about for a large time at Belize's birthday part in San Ignacio.

Expats Lacy (born in Uvalde, Tx but most of life in Belize) and Catherine (right), a local music teacher, at the Bamboo Club. All the American bloods were out and about for a large time at Belize’s birthday party in San Ignacio.

I always say that Independence Day weekend in Belize–a country that for most of its history was known as “British Honduras” under British rule–is more like Independence Month.

But it all builds up to Independence Day, which was celebrated big-time here in San Ignacio/Santa Elena all weekend. And I always say that Independence Month here is like Mardi Gras, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, July 4th and your 21rst birthday party, all rolled into one.

Belize turned 32 Saturday and a lot of intermittent rain didn’t dampen spirits one bit.

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Time for some great night salsa beat.

Time for some great night salsa beat.

She seems to think it's Halloween. Such an odd little country.

She seems to think it’s Halloween. Such an odd little country.

Are we having fun yet?

Are we having fun yet?

The Republican Party is destroying America.

Harsh words, yes. But inescapably true. It’s a bit of a murder-suicide. House Republicans’ willingness to lay waste to the country to satisfy their fringiest faction will ultimately guarantee the GOP irrelevancy as a national party, unless they change their ways. In the meantime, they seem determined to take us all down with them.

— Kristen Powers (click here for more)

Kristen: A powerful way with words and an independent streak.

Kristen: A powerful way with words and an independent streak.

Those are harsh words indeed from Kristen Powers. But, as usual, I happen to believe she’s right, even if she’s a product of the Left.

Powers worked in the Clinton Administration and other high-profile Democratic Party jobs back in the day. But she’s now my favorite political commentator because she seems genuinely more concerned about the common good–and common sense–than she is about any political party or party official. She’s fiercely independent and articulate and as non-partisan a commentator as you’ll find on Fox News.

Powers, for example, is the powerful writer who recently took down the new Texas liberal hero Wendy Davis for the Texas state senator’s woeful ignorance on the very issue that Sen. Davis champions. (Click here for that blistering take-down.)

Powers’ hard-hitting take on the current Republican fringe’s attempt at government-by-blackmail got me thinking about the fundamentals of Democracy as I understand it and as I was raised by my parents and village and school teachers to understand it.

    In what has become a recurring nightmare, House Republicans are using budget negotiations to play chicken with the stability of the American economy.This time, they want President Obama to agree to defund his signature achievement. . . If he refuses to strangle his own baby in the crib, Republicans are happy to retaliate. They’ll shut down the government. These are not people with whom one can work.”

    — Kristen Powers

Back in public school a hunnerd years ago–when I was a schoolboy in Navasota, Texas–the state’s education curriculum had this required course called “Civics.”

It was in this class that we learned, in exquisite detail, about government, from local levels to the federal levels, and how government works in a Democracy.

It was assumed from day one that America was just that–a Democracy: with government of, by, and for the people.

We learned about the voting process, and it was assumed from day one that come election time, there would be winners and losers–and the losers would have to live with how the winners lead and governed.

We learned about checks and balances, of course, and it was assumed that the losers, who fought hard at election time, would be no less passionate in fighting the winners based on their beliefs, convictions and principles.

Democracy, we learned, is messy. But it was assumed that while everyone had a voice and a kazillion voices were bound to disagree and argue, politics was an art as well as political science. There is such a thing, we learned in the classroom back when Civics was taught, that politics was about the art of compromise in order to make government work in order to serve the common good, for the most people possible, as best as possible.

But the biggest assumption from day one in Civics class was this: that when the voters have spoken, the voters have spoken. If you lost, you got over it and moved on to work with the winners and take what you could get from them.

Which brings us to President Obama, who, like it or not, was elected, by the voters, to the White House. Twice.

He won.

Republicans lost.

It’s way time for some of the losers–a lot of people, who are childishly sore losers in D.C.–to get over it.

Obama has certainly had his failures–and certainly over-promised in the first election by stupidly promising he would wipe out unemployment in no time. He failed with that bold promise bit-time.

But it didn’t help that the opposing party was right up-front in saying they would work around the clock to make sure that this President, elected by the people (twice!) fails.

And BTW–name a President in history who didn’t over-promise, or lie, or distort the truth to get elected, and severely so, in the passion and fury of a presidential election.

Quick–name one presidential candidate who got elected and managed to score on all his major promises, the ones that count, and if you can think of one, be my guest and reply down below. Just be ready to back it up with some facts and legitimate sources for us, for me, to check out.

All of which brings me to the cry-baby ultraconservative radicals–who want to blame all of America’s money problems on food stamps for the needy while corporations and fat cats feather their nests with our taxpayer dollars at every turn, radicals who seem hell-bent on bringing down the first black President even if it means bringing down the country.

From what I learned in Civics I assume that this kind of government by blackmail is morally reprehensible. It’s not even Christian, unless you’re a self-righteous Christian in Congress, who is so convinced of his or her correctness that–or so corrupted with your power and wealth you’ve attained in Congress–that you’re as spiritually blind as a bat.

Bats, by the way, are creepy. They’re “batty.”

    We want a Republican Party that returns to problem-solving mode,” he said. “We are suggesting that what works in American politics and our system is when parties focus on how you can solve the big problems and how you can have some give and take. There is one party that has lost its way and is being dominated by people who by historical standards are on the fringe.”

Look, dear reader. I’m by no means in love with President Obama or any other ex-President alive, including the Almighty Mr. Bill and the Mrs. There’s not a politician alive that I trust anymore, which some people may see as a cynical attitude. I see it as a healthy one, considering that these people are elected to work for me.

That’s Civics 101: They work for us, but work for all, not for their parties, not for corporations and whichever special interest group or lobby has the most coins to contribute.

May the good Lord deliver us from political zealots who are now clearly more concerned with their power and righteousness than with the common good of this good and great Democracy.

And meanwhile, may calmer and more conservative voices in Congress and the once-Grand Old Party prevail in the latest round of government by attempted blackmail in setting up another potential government shutdown.

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." Psalm 119: 105

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119: 105

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;

the courage to change the things I can;

and the wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;

That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next
.
Amen.

–Reinhold Niebuhr

"He leadeth me beside still waters." Psalm 23

“He leadeth me beside still waters.” Psalm 23

"Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!" Isaiah 55: 1

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!” Isaiah 55: 1

"Come to me, you who are weary and heavy-burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11: 28

“Come to me, you who are weary and heavy-burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11: 28

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