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An American evangelist's pickup truck here in San Ignacio

An American evangelist’s pickup truck here in San Ignacio

Near the beach at Hopkins Village

Near the beach at Hopkins Village

It's called "Belize Time"

It’s called “Belize Time”

lil buddies

lil buddies

Buddies forever

Buddies forever

Your typical makeshift traffic sign.

Your typical makeshift traffic sign.

Another bush farmer ...

Another bush farmer …

This wild grass in BZ makes good feed for horses and other livestock. He's chopping the top seed stalks off to plant at his farm.

This wild grass in BZ makes good feed for horses and other livestock. He’s chopping the top seed stalks off to plant at his farm.

Town Council member Shary Medina, who teaches English at a high school, made her second run for mayor of San Ignacio/Santa Elena with a massive campaign--and lost to another veteran male council rep. The twin towns aren't ready for a feminist mayor.

Town Council member Shary Medina, who teaches English at a high school, made her second run for mayor of San Ignacio/Santa Elena with a massive campaign–and lost to another veteran male council rep. The twin towns aren’t ready for a feminist mayor.

Shary Medina's big campaign parade entering town at the "low bridge" entrance into town. He male opponent ran a low-key campaign and won largely because of his 17 years on the town council and his longtime record of buy votes. In Belize, if you need a new roof, some concrete and dirt to build a house on your property--whatever, your elected leaders are there for you at election time. I got a new paved street to replace one of the worst streets in town during an election last year, because people threatened to vote for the incumbent's opponent.

Shary Medina’s big campaign parade entering town at the “low bridge” entrance into town. He male opponent ran a low-key campaign and won largely because of his 17 years on the town council and his longtime record of buy votes. In Belize, if you need a new roof, some concrete and dirt to build a house on your property–whatever, your elected leaders are there for you at election time. I got a new paved street to replace one of the worst streets in town during an election last year, because people threatened to vote for the incumbent’s opponent.

Delicious torrtia they are.

Delicious torrtia they are.

Pupusas, a native El Salvador dish popular throughout Central America. It's corn meal pancakes stuffed with meat, cheese and beans or some combination thereof, then fried. I get some at market every Saturday and try to eat reasonably healthy meals the rest of the day to offset the damage.

Pupusas, a native El Salvador dish popular throughout Central America. It’s corn meal pancakes stuffed with meat, cheese and beans or some combination thereof, then fried. I get some at market every Saturday and try to eat reasonably healthy meals the rest of the day to offset the damage.

Ever see a kid that didn't like to blow bubbles? Bubbles are a huge seller at market.

Ever see a kid that didn’t like to blow bubbles? Bubbles are a huge seller at market.

Girls just wanna have fun.

Girls just wanna have fun.

Boys just wanna bang di drums all day.

Boys just wanna bang di drums all day.

Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in The Cost of Discipleship

Dietrich Bonhoeffer paid his own ultimate cost of discipleship in going against Hitler and the predominate culture in Germany: he was hanged by the Nazis for his Christian convictions days before liberators arrived at his prison camp.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer paid his own ultimate cost of discipleship in going against Hitler and the predominate culture in Germany: he was hanged by the Nazis for his Christian convictions days before liberators arrived at his prison camp.

I’ve been re-visiting the Sermon on the Mount in recent weeks, reading it over and over every day, getting to know it more intimately, to internalize it. I never get tired of reading it even though I struggle with it as mightily as Jacob struggled with God all night by the riverside.

In all this study and reflection on the great Sermon, I can’t help but wonder why so many American Christians want the Ten Commandments posted prominently on courthouse lawns and in judges’ courtrooms, and inside and outside of schools–as if ten amounted to the last word in the Bible.

That is to say that I wonder why nobody ever clamors for scriptures from the Sermon on the Mount to be posted on properties financed by secular tax dollars, or anywhere else for that matter.

Maybe because the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew (the Sermon on the Plain in Luke)–with all that blessing of the poor, the meek, the peacemakers and such misfits as that–is really nonsense to an America that seems to prefer either cheap grace or a harsh God’s laws enforced by a fierce God with a flowing, Duck Dynasty beard.

It seems to me that the Jesus who calls us to the following path wasn’t dealing in either cheap grace or the theology of a guy who cashes in on celebrity and duck calling:

    ‘But I say to you … love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

    — Luke 6: 27-36

I’m talking about the Jesus who preached this absurd kind of thinking:

    ‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.’

    — Matthew 5: 38-42

We hear Christian fundamentalists all the time who say:

    “The Bible says it; I believe it; that settles it.”

But Jesus in that Bible of theirs and mine and yours says:

    ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?’

    — Matthew 5: 43-47

Tell me, when was the last time you heard somebody say, “Jesus said to love your enemies and to pray for them.

“I believe it.
I do it.

“That settles it.”

That won’t even fit on a bumper sticker for gosh sake, much less into most people’s prayers.

* * * *

I submit that all too many Christians want easy, breezy, bumper-sticker religion, not a Christian faith that requires struggle, sacrifice, time, and an enormous amount of study and devotion to never-ending spiritual growth.

I submit this because it’s clear and obvious that multitudes and masses of American Christians who yelp the loudest about there being no government-sanctioned school prayers in classrooms are too lazy to get up on Sunday morning and so much as drop their children off at Sunday school class, much less get up and go with them to church services, Christmas and Easter excepted.

(And once more for the record: there is no law, and never has been one, against your child or any child praying or reading the Bible, the Jewish Torah or any other holy book at school. By all means, encourage your children to pray at school for something other than a passing grade in algebra and to crack the Bible over lunch with other young Christians or anybody else. They won’t be arrested in this free country.)

* * * *

If we’re going to place one of the two significantly different sets of the Ten Commandments found in Exodus and Deuteronomy all over properties financed by taxpayers who may or may not believe in God, and who have the American right and freedom to believe or not, why don’t we post this from St. Paul alongside those commandments:

    “Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves … No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

    — See Romans 12: 17-21

Or ……….

We could go with a Paul scripture that could be condensed and squeezed into a bumper sticker:

    “Live in harmony … do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.”

    — Romans 12: 16

Who in this American culture wants to encourage their kids to associate with the lowly?

Lord, if anything, our school children need to be protected from a book so dangerous. It’s a wonder that fundamentalist Christians don’t call for banning it from school libraries so that they can keep it under their greater control.

* * * *

Yes, our beloved Christian saint Paul teaches us to associate with the lowly. He and Jesus teach us to love the poor . . . To turn the other cheek to an aggressor (as a show of non-violent strength defiance to the aggressor, not as a show of weakness).

But how many American Christians know anything the Bible teaches or says aside from John 3: 16 or a maybe a few shreds of Psalm 23 and maybe four or five of the Ten Commandments such as the one about “thou shall not commit adultery.”

Which American Christians commit in staggering numbers even in the so-called “Bible Belt.”

Lord knows that Texans and Southerners need some exposure to the Ten Commandments, considering ho much they casually break the Ten Commandments.

* * * *

By America’s Christian culture standards, Jesus and the Apostles come across as flakes and naive dreamers. These guys didn’t live in “the real world” where we have to live, and never mind that they were crucified for their words and actions in a really ugly “real world.”

Look, Jesus and the Apostles weren’t 1960s-type love swamis who spoke sweet swami words holed up in hidden caves detached from “the real world.” But they weren’t risking life and limb in the real world by carrying around replicas of The Ten Commandments and shouting out those ten commands everywhere they went. Jesus in fact re-conceptualized the Ten Commandments and the laws of God without abolishing them.

Why do so many people want to simplify Christianity with replicas of the Ten Commandment tablets, at the exclusion of a million other Biblical verses, or simplify it with happy, sentimental bumper stickers (Honk if you love Jesus, yaw’ll!), and now, increasingly with museums charging fees for tours of the mythical Ark of Noah.

It’s all the kind of stuff that cheapens Christianity rather than advancing the kingdom of heaven on earth, which Jesus paid a heavy price in initiating and the Apostles paid in suffering and blood in pushing it too.

Cheap grace is easy and breezy and marketable to-boot; costly grace, as articulated by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the following opening to his Christian masterpiece on the Sermon on the Mount– The Cost of Discipleship,
–is costly indeed.

    Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace. Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or
    fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing….

    Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian ‘conception’ of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins…. In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God.

    Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. ‘All for sin could not atone.’ Well, then, let the Christian live like the rest of the world, let him model himself on the world’s standards in every sphere of life, and not presumptuously aspire to live a different life under grace from his old life under sin….

    Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

    Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man’ will gladly go and self all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

    Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.

    Costly grace is the sanctuary of God; it has to be protected from the world, and not thrown to the dogs. It is therefore the living word, the Word of God, which he speaks as it pleases him. Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus. It comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. Grace is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

In this New York Times photo by Steve Payne: Palestinian Dr.Izzeldin Abuelaish, with his son Abdallah, looking at a photo of Bessan, one of the doctor's three daughters killed by an Israeli bomb in 2009. His story of faith and forgiveness is remarkable.

In this New York Times photo by Steve Payne: Palestinian Dr.Izzeldin Abuelaish, with his son Abdallah, looking at a photo of Bessan, one of the doctor’s three daughters killed by an Israeli bomb in 2009. His story of faith and forgiveness is remarkable.

Palestinian physician Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish has every reason to hate the Israelis.

    “On January 16, 2009,” he writes in the article from Plough below, “just four months after the loss of my wife, an Israeli tank bombed my home in Gaza, killing three of my daughters and one niece. There was no reason to kill them. They were girls armed only with love, education, and plans. I raised them to serve humanity. They were drowning in their blood in their bedroom, their bodies spread everywhere.”

Dr. Abuelaish is the author of I Shall Not Hate.

If only Christians everywhere were to make that their mantra. . . .

“I shall not hate . . . I shall not hate . . . “

The only thing God hates is hate itself.

Here’s his article from the fine and serious Plough Magazine:

—————————————–

“Better Than Hatred”

A Bereaved Father’s Call for Peace

Izzeldin Abuelaish

Posted Thursday, July 24, 2014, Plough Magazine

I was born and raised in a Palestinian refugee camp. As a child I never tasted childhood. I was born to face misery, suffering, abject poverty, and deprivation. However, the suffering in this world is man-made; it’s not from God. God wants every good thing for us and he created us for the good. But just because suffering is man-made, there is hope. It’s the hope that we can challenge this man-made suffering by not accepting it, and by taking responsibility. I can’t challenge God, but I can challenge someone on earth. And you can do the same.

    People can deprive you, imprison you, or kill you, but no one can prevent any of us from dreaming. As a child, I dreamed of being a medical doctor. Through hard work I achieved my dream. Now I fight on a daily basis to give life to others. There are others who live to fight. Is this the purpose of our existence: to fight and to end others’ lives? A human life is the most precious thing in the universe. I know from my practice as a gynecologist how hard we work to save one life. Someone else can put an end to a life in seconds with a bullet. Each human being is a representative of God on earth, God’s most holy creation. We must value human life and be strong advocates of saving human life.

This world is endemic with violence, fear, and injustice. We often mention that one hundred, one thousand, or ten thousand people have been killed here or there. But people are not numbers or statistics: we need to zoom in to think of each of them as a beloved one. Each person who is killed has a name, a face, a family, a story.

    I was the first Palestinian doctor to practice medicine in an Israeli hospital. Many Israelis see Palestinians only as workers and servants. I wanted them to see that Palestinians are human and that we are not so different. Medicine has one culture and one value: the value of saving humanity. Within the walls of a hospital we treat patients equally, with respect and privacy, wishing them to be healed. We don’t design treatment according to their name, religion, ethnicity, or background, but according to their disease and their suffering.

Why don’t we practice this equality outside of these institutions? Inside them we are angels and we remember that we are equal. We need to practice it outside. The happiest moment in my life is when I hand a baby to its mother; the cry of a newborn is the cry of hope that a new life has come to this world. There is no difference between the cry of a newborn baby of Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Druze, or Bedouin parents. They are the same.

The most difficult time in my life was one four month period while I was working at this Israeli hospital. On September 16, 2008, I lost my wife, Nadia, to acute leukemia. It was sudden, taking only two weeks. I felt it was the end of the world. I believe that a mother is everything in life. The mother is the main pillar of the house; she is the one who gives, sacrifices, and builds without limits. In the loss of a mother, we lost her big heart, kindness, mercy, and love. But I couldn’t change it; I had to move with it. I was blessed to have six beautiful, bright daughters and two sons. I continued my work.

Then the unexpected happened. On January 16, 2009, just four months after the loss of my wife, an Israeli tank bombed my home in Gaza, killing three of my daughters and one niece. There was no reason to kill them. They were girls armed only with love, education, and plans. I raised them to serve humanity. They were drowning in their blood in their bedroom, their bodies spread everywhere. I wanted to see them. Where was Bessan, whom I saw a few seconds before? Where were Mayar, Aya, and Noor? Mayar was number one in math in Palestine and planned to follow my path and become a medical doctor. She was decapitated. I couldn’t recognize her. Where was Aya, 13, who planned to be a lawyer, the voice of the voiceless, to speak out and break the silence? Where was Noor, 17, who planned to be a teacher?

At that moment I said that God sees this tragedy, and it will be invested for the good. I asked myself why I had been saved; if I had stayed a few more seconds with them, I would have been gone. It was God’s mercy and plan that I was scheduled to be interviewed live on Israeli TV. My cries were heard through the world.

Even when the whole world seems dormant and paralyzed, God is awake. God is alive. At that moment I directed my face to God, the one who is alive, awake, and strong. I didn’t feel angry. I only felt that I couldn’t accept what was happening and asked what I could do. At that moment I swore to God and to my daughters: I will never rest

Even when the whole world seems dormant and paralyzed, God is awake. God is alive. At that moment I directed my face to God, the one who is alive, awake, and strong. I didn’t feel angry. I only felt that I couldn’t accept what was happening and asked what I could do. At that moment I swore to God and to my daughters: I will never rest

. I will never relax. I will never give up or forget you. How can I forget them? They are my beloved ones and I miss them.

I believe I will meet my daughters again, and they will ask me, “What did you do for us?” Until then they are alive in me, and I will meet them with a big gift, and that gift is justice for them and for others. I must prove that their lives and noble blood were not wasted. That they made a difference in others’ lives. That they saved others. But to do that, we can’t use bullets and bombs like the one which killed them.

    The bullet is the weapon of the weak: it kills once. You have the strongest weapon. It’s your wisdom and your kind, courageous words. Words are stronger than bullets. We need to say the right word in time. What is the value of saying it afterward? What is the value of treating patients after they have died?

The first message of support came from my fourteen-year-old son, Mohammed. While I was crying he looked at me and said, “Why are you crying? Why are you screaming? You must be happy.” I said that he didn’t know his sisters had been killed. How can he tell me to be happy? He said, “No, I know my sisters are killed, but I know that they are happy there. They are with their mom. She asked for them.” That fourteen-year-old Palestinian child could teach world leaders to be patient. I thought that if he said that, I don’t need to worry about him. He knows his way. And I too have to move forward. As Einstein said, life is like riding a bicycle. To keep balanced we must keep moving. I kept moving faster, stronger, more determined. Not looking backward, only forward.

I wrote my book I Shall not Hate because people expected me to hate. Maybe I have the right to hate. But we are blessed to be human, to have choices in life between the dark and the light, between what is right and what is wrong. If I want to bring my daughters justice, is it with hatred? Is it with darkness, with blindness?

    Hatred is a disease that eats the one who carries it. It is poison. It is a fire which burns the one who started it. It is cancer, a self-destructive disease. It’s a heavy burden with which you can’t move forward. It makes you sink deeper. Don’t allow this disease. Build a shield around you. Don’t allow hatred. I said that I shall not hate, meaning that I’m not going to be sick. I will never be broken or defeated by this disease. I will challenge it and take responsibility. Don’t blame others, but take responsibility and move forward. Be angry, but in a positive way. When you see something wrong, don’t accept it. Ask, “What can I do to change it?” Don’t feel so angry that you lose control and then regret it. We need a constructive, positive anger that energizes us.

Whatever you do makes a difference. Don’t say it won’t impact others. The patient needs action, a prescription. They don’t need words. Everything starts with words, but these words have no meaning if they are not translated into action. It starts with small actions. First make a difference in your local community. Speak out. Evil flourishes in this world when good people do nothing and think they are far from risk. What do you hear? What do you see? Does it harm human beings? This world is becoming smaller and smaller. We live in one boat. We must not allow anyone to do harm to this boat or we will all sink.

Your freedom depends on mine. No one is free as long as others are not. We must stand for the freedom of all. We must speak out about the freedom of all – freedom from need, ignorance, poverty, sickness, and fear. In memory of Bessan, Mayar, Aya, and Noor, I established the Daughters for Life Foundation for the education of girls and women from the Middle East. Social and economic challenges should not be a barrier to girls’ education. In these girls I see my daughters’ dreams and plans being fulfilled. I see these girls as my daughters. God took three daughters and one niece from me, but has given me hundreds more.

Me and Lil Pete: just a couple of wild and crazy bush boys that got together

Me and Lil Pete: just a couple of wild and crazy bush boys that got together

No Paparazzi! No Paparazzi!

No Paparazzi! No Paparazzi!

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Your sermonette of the day as posted on my Facebook page this morn:

    Tom Wolfe, the writer and social critic who so brilliantly captured the moods and attitudes of whole decades beginning in the early sixties, was quick to dub the eighties as “The Me Decade.” It was a time when everything became all about Me, Me, Me. But really, we’ve never come out of that decade. We’ve been stuck ever since in what the Canadian preacher and Wesleyan scholar Victor Shepherd describes as “Selfism.” Even the church and church people, at least in Western culture, haven’t been spared the infection of Selfism, which, as Shepherd says, measures everything under the sun by what it does for me. Selfism according to Shepherd is about “how it affects me, how it amplifies my sense of self-importance, how it caters to my being recognized and congratulated.” The bad thing about Selfism is that it feels like personal freedom, and Lord knows Americans above all worship their freedom and their right to pursue (my) happiness. But freedom according to the God, Christ, the Bible and the Christian tradition isn’t about the freedom to be ME in terms of my right to be free, but the freedom to be all about God and service to others. Christian freedom is freedom from every kind of bondage to sin and sin–or separation from God–more often than not boils down to Selfism, to being all about ME and what I WANT rather than God’s will for universal love, grace, mercy, justice, and peace on earth, good will to ALL. Freedom in the world is all too often just another word for license, the license to be what I want, do what I want, take what I need. It’s about Me first and then God and then others. Worldly freedom is about my right to be me and about MY happiness; Christian freedom is the gift that keeps on giving the utter Joy that comes with being liberated from the chains of Selfism itself.

    My friend and colleague in ministry David Weber posted this in response on Facebook:

    “I used a term yesterday in describing much the same phenomenon–in AA it is called ‘terminal uniquism.’ It leads to death or tragedy, always.”

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Stories that make you go “Wow!”–in a most sickening way from the Texas Freedom Network:

    Dave Welch, head of the far-right Houston Area Pastor Council and one of the leading voices of anti-gay hate in Texas, is calling for “imprecatory prayers” as Houston officials review petition signatures from supporters of overturning the city’s new anti-discrimination ordinance.

    Imprecatory prayers are those that ask God to burden, curse or even destroy wicked individuals and institutions. They typically are tied to the Bible’s imprecatory Psalms, such as Psalm 109:9 (“May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.”) and Psalm 137:9 (“How blessed will be the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.”).

    In an article emailed to supporters over the weekend, Welch writes that city officials are nearly done determining whether there are enough valid petition signatures to put repeal of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance on the November ballot. He calls on repeal supporters to pray while city officials finish that work:

    “PRAY – imprecatory prayers for the Lord to oversee every detail and every person involved, to expose any impropriety, to bind spiritual forces of darkness in the city and to send confusion into the enemy camp.”

    We’ve seen more and more prominent religious-righters call for imprecatory prayer in recent years. In 2009, for example, California pastor Wiley Drake issued a call for imprecatory prayers for the death for President Obama. That same year, former Navy chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt, a religious-right hero, urged followers to offer imprecatory prayers calling for the death of the Rev. Barry Lynn, the head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Two years ago, far-right evangelical leader Scott Lively celebrated the destruction of a strip club in Springfield, Massachusetts, as an answer to his calls for imprecatory prayers to “re-Christianize” that city.

    We’re not sure what in the world Welch means with his calls for imprecatory prayers regarding the HERO repeal effort. But whether or not he really wants the destruction of anyone (or any institution) in Houston, his call is chilling and dark. History is full of disturbed people who have done horrible things in the twisted belief that they were carrying out God’s will.

The Houston City Council passed HERO in May. HERO bars discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on sexual orientation, gender and gender identity, race, religion, military status and other characteristics. City officials have until early next week to announce whether Welch and his allies gathered enough valid petition signatures to send HERO’s repeal to voters.

    Another sermonette: As long as there is a living God--and there is and always will be a living, loving God--peace in a place even as violent as the Middle East will never be impossible. But peace on earth, even in places as seemingly hopeless as the Middle East, requires our working for it even if we don't live to see it. It begins with visualizing peace and then doing everything from praying to petitioning to advocating or activism or whatever means available.

    Another sermonette: As long as there is a living God–and there is and always will be a living, loving God–peace in a place even as violent as the Middle East will never be impossible. But peace on earth, even in places as seemingly hopeless as the Middle East, requires our working for it even if we don’t live to see it. It begins with visualizing peace and then doing everything from praying to petitioning to advocating or activism or whatever means available.

    ON A HAPPIER, MORE INSPIRATIONAL OR LIGHTER NOTE OR TWO:

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    Until next time from here in Bush country ....

    Until next time from here in Bush country ….

    Peace & Pineapples be with you.

    Peace & Pineapples be with you.

The French Christian Jean Vanier is considered by many of his admirers--count me among them-- to be a living saint for his creation of a global movement called L’Arche. A half century ago, people with Down’s Syndrome and other mental and intellectual disabilities were still shut away in institutions, but Jean Vanier envisioned a model of religious community with them at its heart. Today, disabled core members share daily life and spiritual community with non-disabled “assistants” at 137 L’Arche communities in 40 countries. These have become places of pilgrimage, transformative for those involved - and for the world around them.

The French Christian Jean Vanier is considered by many of his admirers–count me among them– to be a living saint for his creation of a global movement called L’Arche. A half century ago, people with Down’s Syndrome and other mental and intellectual disabilities were still shut away in institutions, but Jean Vanier envisioned a model of religious community with them at its heart. Today, disabled core members share daily life and spiritual community with non-disabled “assistants” at 137 L’Arche communities in 40 countries. These have become places of pilgrimage, transformative for those involved – and for the world around them.

Jean Vanier may be the greatest man you never heard of.

His kind don’t get heard near enough in this callous world.

So check him out in this in-depth, 2013 interview with Kristin Tippett.

Or at least read and mull on these excerpts from the interview–and mind you, the excerpts are from the transcript of an unedited, free-wheeling radio interview . . .

Jean Vanier, a former military officer who became a Christian philosopher devoted to living with and serving people with disabilities. His L'Arche communities for the disabled are located in places around the world.

Jean Vanier, a former military officer who became a Christian philosopher devoted to living with and serving people with disabilities. His L’Arche communities for the disabled are located in places around the world.

On hiding our pain and weakness:

    “We don’t know what to do with our own pain, so what to do with the pain of others? We don’t know what to do with our own weakness except hide it or pretend it doesn’t exist. So how can we welcome fully the weakness of another if we haven’t welcomed our own weakness? There are very strong words of Martin Luther King. His question was always, how is it that one group — the white group — can despise another group, which is the black group? And will it always be like this? Will we always be having an elite condemning or pushing down others that they consider not worthy? And he says something, which is quite, what I find extremely beautiful and strong, is that we will continue to despise people until we have recognized, loved, and accepted what is despicable in ourselves. So that, then we go down, what is it that is despicable in ourselves? And there are some elements despicable in ourselves, which we don’t want to look at, but which are part of our natures, that we are mortal.”

Just as his friend Mother Theresa dedicated her life to the poor, the Christian philosopher Vanier dedicates his life to the disabled.

Just as his friend Mother Theresa dedicated her life to the poor, the Christian philosopher Vanier dedicates his life to the disabled.


On our fear of people with disabilities:

We are a frightened people. And, of course, the big question is, why are we so frightened of people with disabilities? Like a woman who said to me just recently, asked me where I — what I was doing. And I said that I had the privilege of living with people with disabilities. And she said, ‘Oh, but I could never work with people.’ And I said, ‘Why not?’ And she said, ‘Well, I am frightened of them.’ It touches very — and I believe we’re in front of a mystery of the human reality and people who are very deeply disfigured in their face, in their body. And so — and it’s the fault of nobody. It’s a reality that is there. And maybe we can work things out and discover what gene it is and so on. But the history of humanity is a history of people being born extremely fragile because sickness and death is part of our — of our reality.

On children, power and our educational system:

The balance of our world frequently is seen as a question of power. That if I have more power and more knowledge, more capacity, then I can do more. But does this tension between the doing and the being — and when you have power, we can very quickly push people down. I’m the one that knows and you don’t know, and I’m strong and I’m powerful, I have the knowledge. And this is the history of humanity.

And that is all of what I’d call the whole educational system, is that we must educate people to become capable and to take their place in society. That has value, obviously. But it’s not quite the same thing as to educate people to relate, to listen, to help people to become themselves. So the equilibrium that people with disabilities could bring is precisely this equilibrium of the heart.

Children. You see, maybe a father is a very strong man and businessman, and when he comes home, if he gets down on his hands and knees and plays with the children, it’s the child that is teaching the father something about tenderness, about love, about the father looking at the needs of the child, the face of the child, the hands of the child, relating to the child. And the children, the incredible thing about children is they’re unified in their body and in — whereas we, we can be very disunified. We can say one thing and feel another.

And so as a child can teach us about unity and about fidelity and about love, so it is people with disabilities. It’s the same sort of beauty and purity in some of these people — it is extraordinary — and say, ‘Our world is not just a world of competition, the weakest and the strongest. Everybody have their place.’

We are frightened of people with disabilities, Vanier says, which says a lot about our brokenness and our yearning to be loved above else.

We are frightened of people with disabilities, Vanier says, which says a lot about our brokenness and our yearning to be loved above else.


On Jesus, John the Baptist, God and vulnerability:
My experience today is much more the discovery how vulnerable God is. You see, God is so respectful of our freedom. And if as the Epistle of John says that God is love, anyone who has loved in their life knows they’ve become vulnerable. Where are you and the other person and do you love me back? So if God is love, it means that God is terribly vulnerable. And God doesn’t want to enter into a relationship where he’s obliging or she is obliging us to do something.

The beautiful text in the Apocalypse, the Book of Revelation: “I stand at the door and I knock. If somebody hears me and opens the door, then I will enter.” What touches me there is God knocking at the door, not kicking the door down, but waiting. Do you, will you open? Do you hear me? Because we’re in a world where there’s so much going on in our heads and our hearts and anxiety and projects that we don’t hear God knocking at the door of our hearts. So I’d say that what touches me the deepest, maybe because I’m becoming myself more vulnerable, is the discovery of the vulnerability of God, who doesn’t oblige.

The other element, which is probably, again, linked to that, is that the only thing that’s, what I see important for myself is just to become a friend of Jesus and nothing else. And the whole I think of the mystery of Christianity is just living with Jesus the way Jesus lived in Nazareth with his, with Mary, his mother, and with Joseph. A relationship. John the Baptist was strong, he was powerful. He was prophetic.

[Jesus] ate with people who are caught up in prostitution, with tax collectors, with lepers and all that. I mean, there’s something so simple about Jesus that he is disarming. We don’t quite know what to do with it. Because frequently, we would want a powerful Jesus who will put everything straight, who will cure everybody, who will do everything that we tell him to do. And it’s not like that.

On his close relationship with Mother Theresa:
She had a lot of anguish, you see? And to bring anguish, which she had, and then to think that it doubted her faith, she never doubted her faith, but in her prayer that she lived anguish. This is what everybody lives. I mean it’s — this is human reality. And I think when Mother Teresa was writing and telling these — and I still feel upset because she said that should be destroyed. And we didn’t take seriously what she had said. But she was obviously a woman of great anguish.

And so when you’re a great anguished, your prayer will be anguished. I mean don’t be surprised and don’t make a big thing out of it. I mean this is the reality of everyone. And she’s telling us now stop thinking about this anguish. Just get on and start loving people. We must listen to what she said, which was we will be healed by the poor. So let’s get down to it.

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

— God

Slow down, be still and seek direction to the one place that matters--the presence of God.

Slow down, be still and seek direction to the one place that matters–the presence of God.


My friend Gerry Straub, who blogs at Gerry Straub’s Blog, says today:

    “We live in an age where modern transportation allows us to go anywhere we want; ironically, we live in an age where many have lost their sense of direction.

    “Our society gives priority to material progress over moral growth and to the efficiency of getting things done over social responsibility. While technology is important and can be good, what we really need is the wisdom that comes from God. Instead we get tweets that say nothing.”

I hate to quibble, Gerry, but the fact is that tweets often say way too much in the limited number of words allowed in a single tweet.

There’s now not a news cycle that goes by that we don’t get either an apology or a defiant stance following some quickie tweet circulated by some politician or political aid, some over-paid and over-spoiled jock, or some celebrity (who may be famous for nothing more than being famous), or some news and media figure or knee-jerk pundit, or some flash-in-the-pan who is currently basking in Andy Warhol’s prophetic prediction of everybody’s “fifteen minutes of fame.”

And then there’s Facebook and all the other social “connection” forums (social “disconnect” forums?) that have opened such golden opportunities for knee-jerk, reactionary responses to every event and pseudo-event happening every minute of every long day.

America has indeed lost her sense of direction, and lost the ground that nurtures wisdom, in no small part because of her loss of quiet time.

We’re now bombarded with so much 24 hour news and commentary–a huge portion of which, when broken down and analyzed, is not really news or news commentary at all–that it’s too much for us to begin to pause and think about, or seriously reflect on, current events, and the challenges they present.

And then there’s the constant entertainment we live for–a huge portion of which, when it too is broken down and analyzed, is not really entertaining us at all. It’s just the TV blaring in the empty family room while we stand at the bar in the kitchen scarfing down Big Macs and Fries and playing games on our magic phones.

Her Greatness the writer Annie Dillard famously wrote, in her infinite, spiritual wisdom, that “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

Those words don’t appear at first glance to be very profound words, and yet they speak volumes.

We now spend our days living in endless “news cycles” peddled by media that thrive on ratings to keep us jacked up, pissed off, worried sick, desensitized, demoralized, dehumanized, and living for the weekend so that we can escape to some ever bigger football stadium or a taller, shinier casino that promises us fortune enough to build ourselves more false security in a world where no amount of security can possibly be bought, sold or erected.

We spend our days as if the meaning of life were . . .

    “Here I am.

    “Entertainment me.

    “Now.”

Modern transportation, as my friend Gerry says, can get us anywhere, and fast, even as we keep losing our sense of direction in an ever louder world.

To paraphrase a musical prophet, we’re living our days like so many rolling stones, with no direction home to what might be interpreted as the presence and the wisdom of God.

Be still and know that God is God, and if you can’t stand the holiness of stillness, just know that in this day and age, stillness in the holy side of life takes practice.

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“I’m a lean, mean, hugging’ machine,” says Tim, a restauranteur, multiple Gold Medalist in the Special Olympics and hugger.

Check out the feel-good video:

Your Sermonette of the Day:

    How desperate, gloomy and doomy the world appears these days, as it appeared in biblical times, in medieval times, in the Depression and World War era, as now and forever. And yet 2,000 years ago, the light shone in the darkness and darkness could not overcome it. Radical love prevailed over evil on the cross; radical love will prevail in some of the gloomiest and doomiest places on earth today. Pray. Be the peace you wish to see in the world. Practice love, grace and tender mercies. Practice truth and courage, not fear. I am not being Pollyanna Paul when I say that everything is going to be all right whenever and wherever radical love is put into practice in this violent, broken world of violent, broken people (myself include) in need of God’s grace, love and tender mercies.

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Your Jitterbug Thought for the Day:

    “Compassion is not sympathy. Compassion is mercy.

    “It is a commitment to take responsibility for the suffering of others.”


    –Joan Chittister, OSB, in Seeing with Our Souls

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Your Jitterbug Photo of the Day:

Woman making tortillas at her hearth in a village near Melchor, Guatemala

Woman making tortillas by candlelight at her hearth in a village near Flores Island, Guatemala

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