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Just checking in here today with an update on spending for my beloved Stephanie Garcia’s education fund, which can be accessed for donations any time at ….. this GoFundMe link.

The first-year fundraising goal of $800 US was reached some time ago and I’ll just give you an update on expenses with pix of MOST of the receipts.

(And ongoing donations for future years are always welcome for deposit in an interest-bearing credit union account in my and her mother’s name.)

The only expense for the first year of school still outstanding is a balance of $213 BZ ($106.50 US), due at the end of October.

I wasn’t able to get receipts for a few miscellaneous expenses like an extra pair of shoes for recreation that cost $10 US, and a total of $20 US in fees for her to join an extracurricular dance group.

In fact, her group danced in the Independence Day parade yesterday in their flashy uniforms. Unfortunately, I was able to get a video that I can’t seem to upload and I didn’t get a picture.

Oh well. There was a time when Stephanie was so painfully shy that it frightened her to stand up and read in front of a class, much less to dance in a big parade!

She’s come a long way from being a bashful child who struggled to learn in school to a high school student who confidently steps up to a lectern to read scripture in a sizable Catholic Church!

I’m proud of her and thankful to those of you who are supporting her with your prayers and money.

And! I promise that at some point I’ll have an update here from Stephanie herself. She’s a very busy young lady these days!

Stephanie did the reading from the Book of Sirach at mass at her St. Ignatius High School sanctuary Sunday.

Home from school: Stephanie in her St. Ignatius High School uniform.

A $200 tuition payment leaves a balance of $213 ($106.50) for the school year, due the end of October.

$25 for a specific kind of study Bible required by the Catholic high school.

These items totaling $65 from a local store that’s like a mini-Walmart included a new backpack, workbooks, pads, pens and markers, etc.

This was for a pair of dress shoes to go with uniform.

Stef and a classmate after mass.

AND BY THE WAY, STEPHANIE’S LITTLE SISTER MISS BELIZE (PAULITA MCKAY, MY LITTLE ADOPTEE, HAS STARTED SCHOOL HERSELF!

I’m paying $25 US a month for her pre-school tuition and it is money well spent: she loves being a student like big sister!!!!

Miss Belize goes to school.

Loves her Dora backpack, that I can tell you.

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Independence Day here in Belize is like the Fourth of July, Mardi Gras and New Year’s Eve. A large time will be had by all here today.

Today is a time to be happy here in Belize, where today is like the USA’s Fourth of July.

It was on this day only 36 years ago that Belize — the former British Honduras — was freed from British rule. Independence Day here is like July 4th, Mardi Gras, New Year’s Eve and a Steely Dan Wing-Ding all rolled into one.

In fact, the entire month of September is an ongoing celebration with parades, street parties, and all varieties of cultural, educational and religious events. It’s all geared to boosting the fierce pride of this small nation (pop. 330,000 and growing).

Being the funky Caribbean nation that the Central American nation of Belize is, the country is always high on those lists of “Happiest Nations in the World.”*

So life here on what is a gorgeous, sunny day in Belize is happy and normal on this exceptionally happy holiday.

People in of many other parts of the world — especially right here in the Caribbean where Belize is so vulnerable to hurricanes — can only wish for such joy and normalcy. This nation has been fortunate to miss any major storms — at least thus far in this active hurricane season.

“Mexico Is Standing.” Here in Belize I get TV channels from all over the world (including India and China), including Azteca Trece — the biggest news station in Mexico City. I watched some of a relief-fund telethon the station had last night along with some fine on-the-ground reporting. The death and devastation from a second earthquake is heart-wrenching.

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God!”

So goes the cry of the prophet in Isaiah 40:1.

Contrary to what Christians with bizarre beliefs say about an angry, punishing God causing hurricanes and such, the good Lord doesn’t inflict suffering on anybody — not with natural disasters or anything else.

Humans inflict more than enough suffering and death on other humans without needing any help from God.

““Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you,” God says (Hebrews 13:5).

That said, it must feel to a lot of suffering believers in the world that God has abandoned them lately.

When one feels abandoned by God, when catastrophes don’t give us a sense of God’s loving, merciful presence and care, doubts will bubble up.

But doubting God in the sense of wrestling with God is still being engaged with God — which is what God desires above all.

Disaster and destruction, it seems, can build up one’s faith and devotion, or destroy it.

In the prophet Jeremiah’s case, the people abandoned God while God was perceived as having abandoned them. But still yearning for something to believe in, the chosen people of God shifted their commitments from God to the false gods and idols of other nations. They abandoned God and turned to the idolatry that God so strongly deplores.

It’s one thing to abandon God and something way different to question God. I’ve always said that God is a Big Boy/Girl, that God can take our anger and frustrations. God is fine with our moments of doubt.

What God can’t abide is apathy. That leads to total disengagement from God.

Children can and will get angry as hell with their parents — and not understand dreadful old mom and dad — but still love them and need them no less.

And vice-versa. We parents sometimes feel like whacking our defiant, rebellious young ones, but only because we love them and want what is best for their own holistic health and well being.

God’s children in biblical times wondered often where the LORD that brought them out of Egypt had gone. Moses and the prophets had their hands full trying to get God’s children to understand that God was always with them, as God had promised to be.

Elie Wiesel wrote this in Against Silence:

    I tell students, ‘If you are angry with G-d, I respect you. If you love G-d, I respect you. Indifference I do not respect.

    Lord in your mercy, be with those suffering from natural disasters in so many places today. Lift up and strength the rescuers and others demonstrating what love of neighbor and God looks like. Amen

From out of the rubble, acts of love and compassion as rescuers work night and day to save school children’s lives.

—————–
*I point out in my book, The View From Down in Poordom: Reflections on Scriptures Addressing Poverty, that Belizeans are indeed a fiercely proud and happy people, proud to be living in their little paradise. But I also delve into the other side of paradise here in what is a developing (i.e., very poor) country.


If there is such a thing as “America’s Poet,” Mary Oliver — who turns 82 on this, Sept. 11 — gets my vote.

This is from her memoir Long Life:

Mary Oliver, the poet who specializes in leading us to divine attentiveness.

    Men and women of faith who pray — that is, who come to a certain assigned place, at definite times, and are not ashamed to go down on their knees — will not tarry for the cup of coffee or the newsbreak or the end of the movie when the moment arrives. The habit, then, has become their life. What some might call the restrictions of the daily office they find to be an opportunity to foster the inner life. The hours are appointed and named; they are the Lord’s. Life’s fretfulness is transcended. The different and the novel are sweet, but regularity and repetition are also teachers. Divine attentiveness cannot be kept casually, or visited only in season, like Venice or Switzerland. Or, perhaps it can, but then how attentive is it? And if you have no ceremony, no habits, which may be opulent or may be simple but are exact and rigorous and familiar, how can you reach toward the actuality of faith, or even a moral life, except vaguely? The patterns of our lives reveal us. Our habits measure us.

Learn more about the Pulitzer-winning poet’s life and work here.

This poem is about one hurricane she lived through:

A THOUSAND MORNINGS
It didn’t behave
like anything you had
ever imagined. The wind
tore at the trees, the rain
fell for days slant and hard.
The back of the hand
to everything. I watched
the trees bow and their leaves fall
and crawl back into the earth.
As though, that was that.
This was one hurricane
I lived through, the other one
was of a different sort, and
lasted longer. Then
I felt my own leaves giving up and
falling. The back of the hand to
everything. But listen now to what happened
to the actual trees;
toward the end of that summer they
pushed new leaves from their stubbed limbs.
It was the wrong season, yes,
but they couldn’t stop. They
looked like telephone poles and didn’t
care. And after the leaves came
blossoms. For some things
there are no wrong seasons.
Which is what I dream of for me.

~ Mary Oliver

EVERY MORNING
I read the papers,
I unfold them and examine them in the sunlight.
The way the red mortars, in photographs,
arc down into the neighborhoods
like stars, the way death
combs everything into a gray rubble before
the camera moves on. What
dark part of my soul
shivers: you don’t want to know more
about this. And then: you don’t know anything
unless you do. How the sleepers
wake and run to the cellars,
how the children scream, their tongues
trying to swim away–
how the morning itself appears
like a slow white rose
while the figures climb over the bubbled thresholds,
move among the smashed cars, the streets
where the clanging ambulances won’t
stop all day–death and death, messy death–
death as history, death as a habit–
how sometimes the camera pauses while a family
counts itself, and all of them are alive,
their mouths dry caves of wordlessness
in the smudged moons of their faces,
a craziness we have so far no name for–
all this I read in the papers,
in the sunlight,
I read with my cold, sharp eyes.

~ Mary Oliver

And this seems to be her best known and best loved poem:

WILD GEESE
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

~ Mary Oliver


Indian Creek Island on Key Biscayne Bay has only 34 homes and is known as “billionaire bunker.” business tycoon Carl Icahn and supermodel Adriana Lima are neighbors of Julio Iglesias there. Julio also owns 4 lots.

So I went online this afternoon to read the latest about Irma pounding Florida when I happened to spot this click-bait headline from Global Mansion magazine.

    Julio Iglesias Selling Miami Land for $150 Million

Here are excerpts from the story, which was published back in late July–or you can see the photos and read the piece here:

    One of Miami’s most expensive listings isn’t a newly built mansion or an exclusive penthouse. It’s 7.3 acres of land on Biscayne Bay.

    Singer Julio Iglesias, one of the most commercially successful recording artists in the world… is selling four lots on Indian Creek Island for $150 million.

    The land is on the west side of the island, which is the most desirable, according to agent Jill Hertzberg of the Jills, a Miami Beach-based real estate firm.

    “On the west side, you get the sunset,” she said. “And the water is wider. If you were going to pick lots from the builder, you’d pick these.”

    Indian Creek Island is one of Miami’s most exclusive enclaves, with only 35 properties on the island and a host of notable residents. It has been dubbed the “billionaire bunker” by Forbes, which cites residents including hedge funder Edward Lampert, former Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula, businessman Carl Icahn and supermodel Adriana Lima.

    Mr. Iglesias, 73, will be keeping his home on the island, which he bought in 2012 for $15.2 million, according to the property’s agents.

Here’s the part I found most intriguing about this “billionaire bunker” in light of what’s happening in Miami today.

    Indian Creek Village is its own municipality, and one of the “most protected, most guarded communities in the U.S.,” said Jill Eber, the other Jill in the brokerage team. It has its own police force patrolling not only the streets, but also the water. The island is accessible by a small bridge, which has a guarded gatehouse.

I’m sure Julio and other homeowners in this “most protected, most guarded” little community of Indian Creek are somewhere safe and sound at this time.

And I’m sure that irregardless of what damage Irma may do to this Florida safe haven, Julio will still make a handsome return on his investment whenever he sells his four lots at the asking price of almost $38 million per lot.

Having more money than God can buy one a lot of security, even if it can’t divert a killer hurricane.

The poor will be more more–and many Americans will be joining the ranks of the poor and homeless in the wake of so many disasters in these humbling times.

But most Americans don’t get to live in communities that are luxury “bunkers” with beautiful views and 18-hole golf courses and famous neighbors.

Masses of poor Americans are being rendered more poor these days, and masses of Americans will be joining the ranks of the poor and homeless.

These are some terrifying days for sure.

And humbling.

Lord be with those on people who are fearful and suffering and especially those who are on fixed incomes and modest incomes and no incomes tonight in Florida and wherever nature is on a terrifying roll in the world.


Merciful God, whose Son was able to still the raging waters, hear now these prayers and petitions.

For those coping with fire and smoke in Montana and the American West: Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers.

For those coping with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey: Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers.

For those people in the nations being battered by Hurricane Irma and those bracing for the potential destruction in Florida and the U.S.: Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers.

For those in Bangladesh and the neighboring nations that have also been ravaged by rain and flooding: Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers.

For those coping with the destruction wrought by war and violence and fear in so many parts of the world today: Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers. Amen.

Almighty God, who hast promised to hear the petitions of
those who ask in thy Son’s Name: We beseech thee mercifully
to incline thine ear to us who have now made our prayers and
supplications unto thee; and grant that those things which we
have faithfully asked according to thy will, may effectually be
obtained, to the relief of our necessity, and to the setting forth
of thy glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (From the Book of Common Prayer.)


The needs for the millions of Texans rendered so needy by Hurricane Harvey are just mind-boggling.

A friend on FB posted this notice from one of their friend’s this morning:

    An easy way to help after Hurricane Harvey? Ship some mosquito spray (with DEET) to our former church in Victoria. They will be distributing it to people in need along the Texas coast.

    [We] are just going to order ours through Amazon Prime and have it sent directly there. Cash in those Amazon points and do a little good!

    Keep Zika at bay and help people rebuild their lives with one less difficulty. Texas mosquitoes are no joke and the combination of warm weather and standing water are causing a mosquito explosion.

    Shipping address:
    Trinity Episcopal Church
    1501 N Glass St.
    Victoria, TX 77901

Meanwhile, the spirit of Texas grit and American goodness continue to emerge every day.

If you click on this link you’ll see TV news footage of people in Lake Jackson, TX, sandbagging against the water with volunteers from all over.

The video leads with a Texan I happen to know named Ed DiGuardi.

Prayers for Joyce (mother of two of my children) and Ed, and all the victims, volunteers and professionals from around the country who are showing what the spirit of “Texas Tough-Texas Proud” looks like.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Ffox26houston%2Fvideos%2F10156158823795348%2F&show_text=0&width=560

A week that will go down in infamy in Texas and the nation.


Volunteer rescue workers help a woman from her home that was inundated with the flooding of Hurricane Harvey in Port Arthur.
Photo by Joe Raedle / Getty

I noted in my book The View From Down in Poordom that food banks in big urban centers have been unable to keep up with demands since the big crash of 2008.

The food banks in Houston and southeast Texas are about to be overwhelmed for a long time to come at a time when Congress wants more cuts to the SNAP program (food stamps).

I note in the book that SNAP benefits were cut sharply by Congress in the last major Farm Bill extension while farmers in Congress increased farm subsidies that dropped cash directly in their pockets.

Those cuts placed immediate pressure on food banks around the country to keep pace with demands from folks.

Now comes a Politico story out of Cleveland from whence comes this excerpt:

    Lawmakers are considering making $10 billion in mandatory cuts from agriculture programs over a decade, and anti-hunger groups expect most, if not all, of that could come from federal food stamp benefits, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Advocates fear it would only be the beginning. A separate — though far less likely — piece of the GOP budget calls for $150 billion in cuts to the program over the next decade.

    “We do a wonderful job, but SNAP feeds so many more people,” said Kristin Warzocha, CEO of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.

Now that we’ve entered what might be called the Harvey Era in my beloved Texas, one has to wonder how so many Texans who are suddenly poor and homeless through no fault of their own will fare as they claw back to the comfort and security so many of them knew before Harvey.

Not to mention those who were poor and clawing to survive every day pre-Harvey.

Go here for the Politico story about the pressures on the food bank in Cleveland.

Today’s prayer is for all the Texans — the rich, the poor, the many and very many loved ones of mine — who are suffering from so many losses and so many anxieties about their futures in the wake of such unprecedented destruction as this.

    1 The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty;
    the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength;
    indeed, the world is established, firm and secure.

    2 Your throne was established long ago;
    you are from all eternity.

    3 The seas have lifted up, Lord,
    the seas have lifted up their voice;
    the seas have lifted up their pounding waves.

    4 Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,
    mightier than the breakers of the sea—
    the Lord on high is mighty.

    5 Your statutes, Lord, stand firm;
    holiness adorns your house to pray for.
    — Psalm 93