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The Gleaners (Des glaneuses) (1857)
Jean-François Millet. The French painter’s master work showing three stooped “Ruths” picking up leftovers from a wealthy farmer’s field will be the catalyst for some blog posts about providing for the needy in our own time.

I think it was Moses–or was it Benjamin Franklin–who said:

    “Waste not, want not.”

Probably Moses.

Here’s a startling fact that would no doubt appall him:

More than 40 percent of the food grown in the United States of America every year is left to rot in fields, or thrown in landfills.

This at a time when millions of men, women and children go to bed hungry every night in what is still far and away the wealthiest, greatest nation in the world.

It’s an especially startling fact in light of the divine but neglected principle of “gleaning” we find in the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament.

From my book The View From Down in Poordom: Reflections on Scriptures Addressing Poverty, available at the online bookstores at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and WestBow Press.

I’m quite busy these days with a couple of writing assignments. But I’ll be posting occasional “Noon Wine” posts in the days or weeks ahead on the topic of gleaning, the biblical principle on which the entire, wonderful book of Ruth turns.

With intense debates and discord going on about how to provide care for those laid low by everything from illness and injury to hunger and homelessness, I aim to unpack what the the Bible, especially the Torah, has to say about providing for the vulnerable folks including aliens and refugees.

The Torah shows that providing food for foreigners and other strangers among us–as well as those we know and live with, work with and worship with–is an expectation for Jews and Christians alike.

The Torah exhorts us in Leviticus 19:9-10:

    “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest… you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger.

    “You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather all the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien.

The poor and the alien. That is, your neighbor and the stranger who might be an undocumented immigrant or war refugee.

The Torah emphasizes that because I’m blessed with more than enough food, I have a social responsibility to share with anyone who has little or none.

I have that spiritual obligation whether it’s to the neighbor in my town whose spouse died and I greet with food so he or she won’t have to cook, or it’s the refugee from some ravaged country.

That very well may be a country that my own country is largely responsible for ravaging with its endless military adventures and ever-ballooning military-industrial complex.

(Never forget: it was an under-rated conservative Republican president and World War II hero who had the foresight to see and to warn us about the militarist nation we’ve become.)

* * *

The way I see it, you and I have a biblical and social responsibility to those who, as an example, might be a fearful family of undocumented workers taking sanctuary in a church basement out of fear that the family will be split up when aggressive ICE agents come around armed to the teeth.

Mind you, those undocumented aliens among us, who may have made a good and honest living toiling in American crop fields and contributed to our American economy by making our food so cheap, are likely to be from some country in the Southern Hemisphere where American and multi-national corporations displaced them from their own private land that they had happily and productively farmed for hundreds of years.

This still happens every day down here south of the U.S. border, where corporate behemoths seize huge amounts of land for mines or dams, making them the “gleaners” who risk life and limb to flee to the U.S.

They have little choice but to leave behind the violent drug cartels and corrupt, violent, U.S.-backed governments that fill the voids.

Political rhetoric that dehumanizes, demonizes and scapegoats the poor, the refugee and the immigrant is easy enough to spew out. It seems to give a lot of people a puffed-up sense of moral superiority to talk the poor, the homeless, the immigrants and the refugees.

Recently, shamefully, it’s come to this in the healthcare debate: We now have officeholders in D.C. and statehouses who scapegoat even the sick and disabled, wanting to deny them medical care because they haven’t lived the healthy lifestyles of monks who work the fields to consume small portions of the foods they toil to produce in solidarity with the poor gleaners of the world.

As if those political officeholders never indulge in unhealthy gluttony at $50,000 fund-raising events where they hobnob with the perennial “fat cats” who literally write U.S. legislation concerning health care and crop subsidies for U.S. farmers.

* * *

Drilling down to the root causes of crises involving the poor, the hungry and the aliens among us requires mature thought, civilized discussion and debate, a lot of foresight, hard work, compassion, and intelligent leadership in D.C. and the state capitols–as well as in churches and other houses of faith.

(Sadly, intelligent faith leadership that is not exactly a hallmark of perennial shysters like Jerry Falwell Jr. or Pat Robertson, who–amazingly–have places at the head of the table in the White House now.)

* * *

Nobody ever said that being a compassionate, merciful, faith-based or morally based nation that treats all the vulnerable people within its borders with equal protection and mercy is easy.

Then again, it’s not that complicated if we let the wisdom of Bible, starting with the Torah, be our guide.


Not since St. Francis hopped off his horse and kissed a leper on the lips has the world seen a man this weird.

Is this handsome, sensitive man some kind of weirdo? You be the judge.

Tom Herman, the new head coach at the Texas University football factory, has a long history as a coach of hugging and kissing his players on the cheeks before games.

Herman has said this a thousand times in a thousand interviews:

“I think it’s weird that people think it’s weird that I kiss my players.”

(Gad! Could he be GAY, ya think???!!!!”)

I happened to catch him saying it yet again in an interview on ESPN’s Sports Center just this morning.

Herman, whose father was a bad drinker and homeless at times, has also been caught a few times in his career crying with players about their troubled personal lives and hardships growing up.

I mean, what kind of macho, swaggering, big-time football coach is this?

Actually he’s my kind of coach: a man so secure in his manhood, so comfortable in his own manly skin, that he’s plenty willing to come across as more sensitive than swaggering.

Also, I’m pretty much a fan of any sensitive jock who’s also so smart as to be a member of Mensa, the high-IQ society. Herman’s a member.

If he wants to run for president next time I’m willing to vote for him in spite of any lack of business, government or political experience if you know what I mean and I think you do.

* * *

The Dallas Morning News‘s online SportsDay.com had a fine and mighty fine profile of Tom Herman back in February, which they published again on Father’s Day this year. (Link to the story is below.)

Herman explained in the interview once again why he thinks it’s weird that people think his affection for players is weird.

    “I take these young men and I tell their moms and dads and them themselves, ‘Hey, I’m going to treat you like my sons.’ Well, guess what? Newsflash: I kiss my sons.

    “And if a player is about to go put a pair of shoulder pads and helmet on and go run into a bunch of people — get into 80 car accidents, basically — for three hours for me and the team, I’m going to kiss ’em and tell ’em I love ’em and tell ’em I’m proud of them and ‘Thank you.'”

Herman estimated in his ESPN interview this morning that about 50 percent of his players have told him that his kiss was the first one they’d ever been given by another man in their lives.

He explained that in today’s world a lot of athletes come from tough backgrounds where there were no fathers, or certainly no affectionate fathers, to show them what love from a loving and supportive father looks like.

Herman himself was an only child, raised by his mother. He’s often noted that even though his father was an alcoholic who was in and out of his life, he grew up kissing his uncles and other male family members.

Tom Herman is a most interesting man and a class act, as so many football coaches are.

And speaking as a failed sports writer who mostly embarrassed himself covering college athletics for a little more than a year, I can tell you that I know a lot of coaches genuinely love their players, and some even show some amount of affection for them.

Yet Herman, who obviously got where he is with toughness and grit and being nobody’s floor mat, strikes me as a little different. I find his security about his manhood interesting in a time when America can’t seem to get enough of the macho swag, “don’t-take-no-shit-off-nobody” notion of what a “real man” is.

It remains to be seen if he can survive the pressure cooker at the University of Texas, where many a fine and decent man–like Herman’s own predecessor, in fact–has been celebrated for his decency and discipline, only to be disposed of by the dumbhood of insecure alums with money to burn on what is, when it comes right down to it, a child’s game.

If this Texas gig doesn’t work out for Coach Herman, maybe he could run for president and if he does damn his lack of experience in politics, government of business.

He’ll do.

Go here to read the aforementioned profile of Coach Herman.


Terapia de la música para mí, para ti.

Levántese y conseguirán las piernas de Jitterbug, y’all!!!

Music Therapy for me, for you.

Get up and get your Jitterbug legs moving, y’all!

(Con Los Lobos y Richie Valens)


Stephanie Garcia at St. Ignatius High School. On Monday she starts the second of two weeks of orientation and “academic review classes” at the school, where she is excited to be enrolled.

In case you missed it, or if you’re one of the many new subscribers to Jitterbugging For Jesus, I recently posted about my fund-raiser to help a Belizean girl who is special to me to advance to high school.

High school is not mandatory in Belize and there is no free public education here.

High School is expensive for a young lady like Stephanie who does not come from a well-to-do family.Go here to see that post I wrote at GoFundMe about her relationship to me and about her being accepted to St. Ignatius High School, along with an update.

Stephanie with Mr. Mo, who will be her math teacher in her first year of high school beginning August 28.

I’m trying to raise at least US$800 ($1600 Belize dollars) for Stephanie’s first year of school.

High school here is like high school in the USA in only one regard: it takes four years to get a diploma. So understand that the US$800 ($1,600 BZ) I’m trying to raise now is the amount I estimate will be needed for her FIRST year of school only.

That includes first-year tuition which is US$481.50. (I’ll use US dollars from here on in this post.)

The local mayor paid US$150 from a fund for needy families on registration day, and I made a payment from the GoFundMe money for the other $137.50 that was due at that time for a deposit.

The balance of $194 can be made in monthly payments of any amount, interest-free, until October, when the full amount for the year is due.

In addition to the $137 for a tuition payment, I’ve also spent almost $50 of the GoFund money to buy material for the five school uniforms she’ll need at the Catholic St. Ignatius High School. Her mom, who is getting to be quite a good seamstress after a couple of years of lessons, will make the uniforms.

When the time comes, I’ll be paying the fees and misc. costs that add up to what I am estimating is the $800 for the first full school year.

Those fees and costs include books and a number of workbooks, supplies, a new backpack, extra costs for field trips and a school shirt or two for field trips and school participation in parades and so forth.

It’s like sending a kid to college in the US: With an extra fee here and an extra cost there, pretty soon you’re talking real money for stuff other than tuition and books.

Any funds raised over the $800, or any of the $800 I don’t spend this year, will go to a credit union savings account her mom has opened to make interest on your donations.

I used US$135 of some of the GoFundMe money you folks donated to make a deposit that was due on registration day. This is the receipt for that BZ$275 amount.

This is the receipt for almost US$50 they gave me for material for the uniforms I bought for Steph’s uniforms. (Some of the businesses in BZ are, shall we say, informal about receipts. I noted on here that it’s for uniform fabric.)

Some of the terms of the St. Ignatius High School “contract” students sign with the Catholic school.

Note the person responsible for all payments. With or without donations, I’m determined to get Steph educated as much as possible, as well as her brother Felix and my daughter Paulita McKay.

Miss Belize, Paulita McKay, who moved in fast on a boy at her sister’s graduation from Standard VI, the equivalent of 8th grade. Paulita is as excited about going to preschool as Stephanie is about high school!

Again, any amounts over the $800 goal are welcomed and will be put in savings for future years.

Your donations for Stephanie are much appreciated by me and more so by her: I guarantee you she is going to take advantage of this opportunity for at least a high school diploma.

Go to this GoFundMe link to donate:
GoFundMe

On “Special Report” tonight, Charles Krauthammer said President Trump’s accusation that the Obama administration wrongly allowed Russian [government] lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya to enter the U.S. is a “red herring the size of a whale.”…

He added that the email chain released earlier this week by Trump Jr. also confirms that the Kremlin was supporting the Trump campaign.

“This was Keystone Cops Collusion.”

— Fox News pundit and former Trump Team defender Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer–one of the biggest of Fox News Channel’s big-time pundits–has forever and a day ragged on “the liberal mainstream news media” and Democrats for trying to sell America a “big, fat Nothing Burger” in regard to the Trump family’s collusion with the Russian government. The day came this past week when Krauthammer had to do a 180 turn and finally condemn the Trump family’s “Keystone Cops” collusion with Putin and the boys. That’s the kind of story that makes you go “Wow!”

Just last Saturday I wrote this in a post here at the blog:

    Every week in America seems to get more bizarre than the previous week.

    Which is to say that every week has more of the stories that make you go “Wow!”–and not in a good way.

This being a late afternoon on a Saturday it’s time again to review some of the felony stupidity and stories that made us go “Wow!” this week at such a pace as to make our heads spin.

Any “man” who thinks it’s cool to cut off an elephant’s tail in this day and age is not a guy you can trust. (Although, considering how shiny the blade is here, it’s doubtful that Donald Trump Jr. cut off the tail of the elephant he gunned down to show off his manly manliness in pictures.)

The series of stories about Donald Trump Jr. and the boys meeting with a Russian lawyer made even conservative columnist and Fox News pundit Charles Krauthammer go “Wow!” with utter disbelief.

Mind you, Krauthammer contended forever and a day that the possibility of Trump’s collusion with the Russian government to bring down Hillary Clinton was a big ol’ “Nothing Burger.”

He’s now looking like a man who’s gagging on the taste of a big fat ol’ Crow Burger.

This is from the online Fox News Channel’s “Insider”:

    Charles Krauthammer said the scandal surrounding Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton was “the first empirical evidence” of the campaign’s collusion with Russia.

    “The damage done by this story is enormous,” Krauthammer said, adding that he thinks more similar stories exist.

    During campaign season a year ago, publicist Rob Goldstone told Donald Jr. that the Russian government may have damaging information on his father’s opponent.

    The president’s son responded, “If it’s what you say I love it.”

    “‘I love it’ are deadly words,” Krauthammer said. “Attempted collusion is still collusion.”

    “Now you see the evidence loud and clear,” Krauthammer stated.

Down below I’ll link you to a video of Krauthhammer explaining why the Trump boys’ defense of the meeting doesn’t compare to meetings for “opposition research” with countries like Ukraine.

Being the blind Clinton hater he is, Krauthammer compares the Trump family’s “approximation to the truth” to Clinton’s.

But what is so intriguing about the whole lying Trump Quasi-Mafia is that they repeatedly do the very things–and terribly far worse things–than the very things they accused and still accuse “Lyin’ Hillary” of doing.

Recall that cheerful chanting back in the Happy Days: “Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!”

By the way, leave it to Fox’s Laura Ingraham, who runs to the political right of former Democrat Donald Trump himself, to try to defend the meeting with Putin’s spies.

Check out the aforementioned video at this link: http://insider.foxnews.com/2017/07/10/donald-trump-jr-russia-lawyer-meeting-krauthammer-says-bill-clinton the meeting with a Russian hoping to get “opposition research” ain’t the same.

Then check this out: one more of the four (count ’em four) hammers that Krauthammer dropped on the Trumps and their reckless clown car in as many days this week…

http://insider.foxnews.com/2017/07/13/krauthammer-donald-trump-jr-russian-lawyer-meeting-obama-admin-letting-her-us

That’s the kind of reaction from a die-hard conservative and Trump family defender that makes you go “Wow!”

It remains to be seen if Donald Trump Jr. did anything criminal in meeting with an enemy of the United States, and–at this point–the consensus by legal types is that there is no evidence of a crime.

But if changing your story multiple times with multiple lies were a crime, Don Jr. would be locked up.

An old district attorney friend of mine once said of a clueless, seriously unethical politician:

“He’s not guilty under the letter of the law, but he’s plenty guilty of felony stupidity.

He, his father and Jared Kushner–the son-in-law who no doubt is in deep criminal caca at this point for his severe amnesia when it comes to signing off on sworn government documents–are all plenty guilty of felony stupidity.

I mean, Wow.


Yep, he said it.

I saw an interesting post yesterday on the Christian community Facebook page called “Spiritus Abbey—A Monastery Without Walls.”*

I was struck by how wonderful this story from a priest was:

    “Of the twenty empty tables at this Las Vegas McDonald’s, two prostitutes chose the table directly in front of mine.

    The woman facing me smiled warmly and then took the hands of the woman whose back was toward me–a back covered in very amateur tattoos (the kind you get in jail), and, God as my witness, they proceeded to pray, aloud, for about 2-3 minutes.

    “The prayer was about 50% a blessing of others and the other 50% expressions of gratitude, ending with thanking God for their McChicken sandwiches!

    “Jesus was so right when he said this group would get to heaven before the Pharisees…”

    (Thanks to Father Chris Schuller)

Then, it so happened this morning that a friend of mine (Hat Tip to you, David Parker) posted on Facebook this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

    “It’s much easier for me to imagine a praying murderer, a praying prostitute, than a vain person praying. Nothing is so at odds with prayer as vanity.”

Amen.

This is why I break out in the Jim-jams every year when vain politicians (political prostitutes?) in D.C. and state capitals gather for national prayer days where they knock each other down getting in front of cameras for their newsletters and campaign ads.

Inevitably, Christian conservatives or liberals end up on these national, supposedly holy days bashing each other over something some Republican or Democrat said that goes viral in another political tit-for-tat that makes the 24-hour news cycle.

In my ministry over the years–especially in my time as a hospital or hospice caregiver but even today in Belize–I’ve known and spent deep and meaningful spiritual time with prostitutes, “exotic dancers,” drug addicts, alcoholics, con artists and self-starting sinners of all kinds who, as it so often turns out, are prayerful people.

It turns out such people actually love God and hope against hope that God loves them and cares about them in spite of ways they can’t seem to shake.

I have often assured them, and assure them still, that the Bible tells us that God’s mercies are new and tender every day.

I point out to them a significant number of scriptures that underscore just how merciful and forgiving God is.

I may even quote or point to scriptures, or write down scriptures for them to look up if a Bible isn’t available, like beautiful Psalm 130:1-6. It says (with my italics for emphasis):

    1 Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;

    2 Lord, hear my voice.
    Let your ears be attentive
    to my cry for mercy.

    3 If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
    Lord, who could stand?

    4 But with you there is forgiveness,
    so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

    5 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.

    6 I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Now, that’s not to say that I don’t underscore my hopes and prayers for them to somehow, some way, some day find a way out of prostitution or alcohol and drug abuse or whatever. There’s only so much I can do to help them.

But I try to leave them in a state of grace, not with a preachy, off-putting list of what I say they must and should do with their lives lest they burn in a lake of Hell fire that in reality doesn’t exist anyway.

I’ve always loved the wisdom in this proverb:

    “Religion is for people who believe in Hell…

    “Spirituality is for people who’ve been there.”

Hell is living in sin.

And who doesn’t live in sin to some extent, for the Bible tell us that if we condemn others for their sins while believing we have no sin, well…

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)
————-

    *The Spiritus Abbey Facebook site says this about itself:
    “The respective charisms of Benedictine and Celtic spirituality create for us both roots and wings for a balanced spiritual life.

    “We also drink at the well of other Christian ways of being and interact with respect and love with the religions of the world.”


Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

— Revelation 22:1-2

(TOOK THIS PHOTO of the Oldest Living Resident of Progresso, a quiet village on a lagoon in far north Belize, in December. Don’t remember his name, but he was 95 or so at the time. He worked in Syracuse, NY, during World War II. He was a very sweet man.)

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the starry crown
Good Lord, show me the way!

O sisters, let’s go down,
Let’s go down, come on down
O sisters, let’s go down
Down in the river to pray

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the robe and crown
Good Lord, show me the way!

O brothers, let’s go down
Let’s go down, come on down
Come on, brothers, let’s go down
Down in the river to pray

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the starry crown
Good Lord, show me the way!

O fathers, let’s go down
Let’s go down, come on down
O fathers, let’s go down
Down in the river to pray

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the robe and crown
Good Lord, show me the way!

O mothers, let’s go down
Let’s go down; don’t you want to go down?
Come on, mothers, let’s go down
Down in the river to pray

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the starry crown
Good Lord, show me the way!

O sinners, let’s go down
Let’s go down, come on down
O sinners, let’s go down
Down in the river to pray

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the robe and crown
Good Lord, show me the way!