What is truth?

— What Pontius Pilate said to Jesus

Truth? What does it matter?

Truth? What does it matter? (“What is truth?” painting by Nicholas Gai

I’m starting this regular series I’ll call “Today’s Truth Alert.”

I’ll begin with a “Truth Alert” concerning something the bald-faced lying President-elect claims about the election he won via the electoral college vote only.

Let me say first that the President-elect who lost by millions of popular votes and barely squeezed out an electoral championship in three key states is a lifelong, ethically challenged businessman who was obviously never a Rotarian.

Rotary Club International is the greatest of service clubs. Its purpose is to encourage and foster service and high ethical standards in the business and professional sectors around the world.

Rotary is everywhere. It does great service projects right here in San Ignacio Belize.

In addition to local service, Rotary advances international understanding, goodwill, and peace through global fellowship.

What I like most about Rotary is its 4-Way Test applied to every action Rotarians take.

1. Is it the truth?
2. Is it fair to all concerned?
3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

* * *

Now comes the powerful Speaker of the House Paul Ryan–who like so many people had his character assassinated by Trump as recently as October–who says Donald Trump’s lies don’t matter.

In an interview with the (allegedly dishonest) media that Trump (usually but not always ) abhors on “60 Minutes,” Speaker Ryan said it doesn’t matter that Trump claims via Twitter that he won the popular vote because “millions of people voted illegally.”

Let’s get one thing straight: this is a lie. If it was the truth, Trump would have bombarded us with evidence to back up his claim.

As it is, Hillary Clinton, whether Trump or anybody else likes it or not, won the popular vote by millions.

But Ryan and other defenders suggest it doesn’t matter that Trump pulls this kind of stinking load out of his hindquarters every day and presents it as some kind of fact-based truth.

Ryan, who suggested to “60 Minutes” that the truth of a matter doesn’t matter when Trump speaks, said this specifically about the veracity of the man who will soon be the most powerful leader in this big world:

    “The way I see the tweets you’re talking about, he’s basically giving voice to a lot of people who have felt that they were voiceless. He’s communicating with people in this country who’ve felt like they have not been listened to. He’s going to be an unconventional president.

OK great! He’s giving voice to Americans who need to be heard!

Although, a tremendous number of American voices still aren’t being heard by the likes of Ryan and Trump.

And great is this–he’s unconventional! That’s the Default Excuse for every god-awful thing Donald Trumps says or does.

It’s OK–he’s just unconventional.

So is a wrecking ball, which is an unconventional tool because it destroys things the way Trump destroys the truth when the truth will do.

I mean, the guy won the election.

We can only imagine the lies the whiny little juvenile of a man would have spread had he lost.

* * *

What is it about “Thou shalt not lie” that Paul Ryan, a devout Catholic, doesn’t understand?

What is it about all that God’s truth that Jesus Christ was so passionate about fostering?

For that matter, what is it about No. 1 on the Rotarian 4-Way Test (“Is it the truth?”) that Trump … and Ryan … and all those others who defend Trump’s lies, distortions, and misrepresentations day in and day out don’t seem to get?

Somebody famously suggested that God’s truth has the power to set us free from the bondage of sin.

You don’t have to be a Rotarian or Donald Trump supporter or Christian to know that words, which are used to spread truth or lies, matter.

May God and the Truth be with us the next four years.

I know what you’ve been thinking, you all of the Cult of Jitterbug.

You’ve been thinking, “Where have you our worthy leader the Jitterbugger gone at such a time as this, a time when we need your wit, wisdom, provocations and stimulations, which are capable of possibly (probably?) alienating whole towns, nations cities and states.”

I know, you must have been wallowing in angst with a hint of despair while I was away.

So would you believe I’ve been out in the jungle living off the land with nothing but my machete, my bandana, my palm-leaf Speedo and my pet howler monkey Trump?

That’s a typical day in my sexy life, of course.

However, the unfortunate fact is that my Mac laptop, which served me so well for seven years, is barely breathing now that its heart (i.e., the internal battery), is about one or two uses away from going deader than Elvis, who contrary to rumor is plenty dead.

He speaks to me and my crazy monkey from the grave some nights out in the bush.

* * *

Fortunately, I’ve been saving all my money this year for a new Mac and aim to buy one when I’m back home in Texas Our Texas (all hail the mighty state and no kneeling during the state song) later this month.

Yes, I’ll be home for Thanksgiving and then some, visiting friends and fam, working with an artiste friend who is illustrating my book (The View from Down in Poordom: Reflections on Scriptures Addressing Poverty), drinking heavily with friends bummed by the election of the Great American Howler Monkey and eating copious amounts of real, down-home Tex-Mex food made by real Mexicans.

Some of whom I assume are good people and not all rapists and drug dealers.

I’m writing to you on this sunny Belizean day from the dynamic Belizean city of Benque on the Guatamalen border, using a computer at a combination Internet Cafe, grocery store, nail salon, nail and cosmetics supply shop, and office-school supply. It’s owned and operated by an enterprising Chinese-Belizean family, who own and operate most of the supermarkets and specialty shops all over this incredibly diverse and odd little country.

Apparently the Chinese-Belizean kid operating the Internet section today likes Joan Jett music because she is blasting from a couple of big speakers. At least she sings in English. He does play some Chinese rock now and then.


* * *

Just wanted to let you know I’m alive and well and about to flee this place for lunch at a Chinese restaurant (no kidding) next door.

I’ll be back in full blog force sometime after Thanksgiving, prepared to get this President (gag) Elect’s mind and theology right. Apparently the only scripture he knows is “An eye for an eye.”

I will fix him, that I can tell you.

Until then, keep the faith and my Howler Monkey Trump and I bid you a good day.

From a United Methodist bishop.

From a United Methodist bishop.

This is from Chaplain Mike at a heavy-duty theology site I like called Internet Monk:

    “Just as Jesus’ ministry was small and obscure, localized in a way that few appreciated it, even so people today who become new in him by grace through faith begin gathering sparks little by little, finding the lost here and there, comforting that lonely one, protecting the weak who are off the radar, and advocating for those hungering and thirsting for justice, whose voices are rarely heard.”

Indeed, it’s the obscure ministers and lay Christians in local places–people who quietly but steadfastly witness to the power of God’s healing love, power and grace–who make this world a better place every day by advancing the kingdom of God.

They aren’t the kind of ministers who pray in public in booming voices that attract TV viewers by the millions.

They are common folks who don’t have time to follow and promote self-aggrandizing politicians who wear religion on their sleeves to make political points.

They are the Christians in the local communities whose faces shine, people who bear all the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.

They’re the Christians who, rather than complain about kids today, are busy mentoring troubled kids.

They’re the Christians who, rather than rail against abortion and nastily denounce pro-choice people as “killers,” are busy with foster children or raising kids they’ve adopted, or working with single parents to show them what self-responsibility is about.

You get the picture. You know the kind of Christians I’m talking about because you have them in your towns and neighborhoods and local.

They’re busy building up people rather than tearing people down.

They’re the salt of the earth.

They’re the smallest but the greatest.

They show all of us how this Christian thing was meant to work.

A partial look at the chapters in my book, The View from Down in Poordom: Reflecitons on Scriptures Addressing Poverty.

A partial look at the chapters in my book, The View from Down in Poordom: Reflections on Scriptures Addressing Poverty.

Thanks to the generosity of GoFundMe donors, I raised the $1,600 I sought to salvage the manuscript of a book I’ve written, The View from Down in Poordom: Reflections on Scriptures Addressing Poverty. It has two sections, one on material poverty and the other on spiritual poverty.

I’ve contracted with one of the best of the Christian self-publishing companies out there, WestBow, to publish and market the book in print and online editions. At the rate the new editing process and some slight revising on it is going, the book will be on the market by early to mid-January (but quite possibly December).

If you’re one of the new subscribers to this blog you can find details about the book, and how it was days short of being published before another publishing company went belly up, at this link: https://www.gofundme.com/gofund-me-2p7pu4c?ssid=778985831&pos=1

Donations are still welcome at the GoFundMe site, by the way, to defray the $400 I ponied up out of my limited personal budget–I live a simple, heavily downsized life with few frills–to sign on with WestBow.

* * *

As readers will recall, I was let down and disappointed when publication of this book I’d put so much thought and work into fell through. Because it contains some timely topics about poverty (“Poordom” as I call it) and the struggles people stuck in Poordom deal with daily, I decided to go for it through the WestBow publishing alternative.

But because self-publishing companies require hefty fees for their editing, printing and marketing services, the $2,000 out-of-pocket cost to me was out of my reach.

So, again, I can’t give thanks enough to every donor who’s enabled me to pump new life into this publishing venture.

* * *

And here’s the proverbial silver lining in this. I thin–or I like to think–the revived manuscript of “The View from Poordom” is much improved since I’ve had some time to go back and tweak it. Also, as good as my editor was at the publishing company that went out of business, I have good, new editors to give it a fresh read and offer suggestions.

Not only that, a retired clergy friend, who is a talented pen-and-ink artist, is providing 10 illustrations that will “dress up” the book. Photos or illustrations naturally enhance the readability and market value of any book.

So what was a couple a months ago a big disappointment and rejection has turned out to be a blessing from on-high in disguise.

Thanks be to God and thanks for a little help from my friends and readers.

Interesting that today’s gospel scripture in the Lectionary is about the puffed-up, righteous guy who thanks God he’s not like THOSE people, the REAL sinners.13620294_10154327674218607_1537746407940499995_n

The Apostle John reminded us that “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.”

I don’t claim to be without sin and I confess often of my sins, but of course I tend to go right back to the same old sin ruts, judging others by measures of the sort I would not want to be judged.

We can’t help but judge others and that’s not bad in and of itself. But matters of judging and justice are tightropes–it’s easy to lose our balance and fall into moral superiority. See here.)

We’re all guilty of thinking we’re morally superior to some other person or group of people. As guilty as I’ve been this week–in this intense political climate–of deeming other people as unrighteous without seeing the log in my own eye– I needed to reflect on this long and hard this morning:

    Luke 18:9-14
    [Jesus] also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt:

    “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

    The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.

    I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’

    But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

    I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

I’m blessed to live in a part of Belize that is home to some of the most fascinating species of animals in the world.

Creatures like the Basilisk lizard (Basiliscus vitiates).

It’s more commonly known as “the Jesus Christ Lizard.”

It’s called that because it can walk– actually run–across water without sinking.

I’ve seen a Jesus Christ Lizard or two but not seen one run on water.

Actually it was more like a glimpse. It’s not as if I were out looking to spot one, even though I knew they are quite common in the part of Chaa Creek Reserve where I was exploring with my binocs one day.

But I saw one so unexpectedly that I was caught off guard by it–and then another, or maybe the same one. And, unfortunately, it (or they) didn’t run across the water for me. They just sort of slinked away without going in the water at all.

Of course, in the times I’ve tried to find one again, I’ve never even seen one.

Isn’t that how life goes–the most wondrous moments happen when we aren’t striving after wondrous moments.

My life will be complete if and when I ever see a Jesus Christ Lizard run across the water. But I’ll go looking for butterflies and not the lizards.

See more here.

Photo by world-renowned photographer Tony Rath of the coastal city Dangriga, Belize.

Photo by world-renowned photographer Tony Rath of the little coastal city Dangriga, Belize.

Here’s a few thoughts, pix, memes, poems and such concerning God’s natural world for your consideration, starting with this wonderful word about the four seasons from Wumen Huikai, a 12th century Zen master:

    Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
    a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
    If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
    this is the best season of your life.

That’s the kind of stuff that makes me go “Wow!” in such a way I want to get outdoors and never go back indoors again.

And now for a poem–“Thirst”–from that great God-loving child of nature and poet Mary Oliver:

    Another morning and I wake with thirst
    for the goodness I do not have. I walk
    out to the pond and all the way God has
    given us such beautiful lessons. Oh Lord,
    I was never a quick scholar but sulked
    and hunched over my books past the hour
    and the bell; grant me, in your mercy,
    a little more time. Love for the earth
    and love for you are having such a long
    conversation in my heart. Who knows what
    will finally happen or where I will be sent,
    yet already I have given a great many things
    away, expecting to be told to pack nothing,
    except the prayers which, with this thirst,
    I am slowly learning.



Cast netting at sunrise in Dangriga, Belize, home of photographer Tony Rath.

Cast netting at sunrise in Dangriga, Belize, home of photographer Tony Rath.

Enlightenment comes from looking at the wilderness, the creation, with eyes of awe. It is a change in perspective. Wilderness is not an enemy to be conquered, but a gift to be loved.
— George Grinnell, “A Death on the Barrens”


Tony Rath photo, Ceibo Chico River in the #Chiquibul Forest, Belize

Tony Rath photo, Ceibo Chico River in the #Chiquibul Forest, Belize

    “What does it feel like to be alive?

    “Living, you stand under a waterfall. You leave the sleeping shore deliberately; you shed your dusty clothes, pick your barefoot way over the high, slippery rocks, hold your breath, choose your footing, and step into the waterfall. The hard water pelts your skull, bangs in bits on your shoulders and arms. The strong water dashes down beside you and you feel it along your calves and thighs rising roughly backup, up to the roiling surface, full of bubbles that slide up your skin or break on you at full speed. Can you breathe here? Here where the force is the greatest and only the strength of your neck holds the river out of your face. Yes, you can breathe even here. You could learn to live like this. And you can, if you concentrate, even look out at the peaceful far bank where you try to raise your arms. What a racket in your ears, what a scattershot pummeling!
    It is time pounding at you, time. Knowing you are alive is watching on every side your generation’s short time falling away as fast as rivers drop through air, and feeling it hit.”

    ― Annie Dillard, An American Childhood


In my storehouse file of old articles, essays, interviews with interesting people I came across this gem of a quote about birds from a “Parabola” interview with Peter Kinsley:

Superb Fairy Wrens (photo by Scott Contini at "Poor Man's Guide to Bird Photography" online site.

Superb Fairy Wrens (photo by Scott Contini at “Poor Man’s Guide to Bird Photography” online site).

    “The famous mystic Rudolph Steiner has said that for the agricultural process to happen, for seeds and plants, and trees to grow, birdsong is absolutely essential. This is a beautiful truth that very few people know.

    But we also need to take what he said one stage further, because birds call and sing not only to quicken plants: they also call to awaken the human seed that we are. They are actually singing for our sake as well.

    “If we can start to listen to them, really listen, they will draw us into this greater consciousness I have been talking about. They will be our teachers, because nature is able to point us to our inner nature. …

    “We are called to be there. When we can listen to what the birds have to say, to what nature has to say, and when we perceive the beauty of nature, then we are completing the circle and returning this physical world to its source through our own consciousness.”

    — Peter Kingsley, an excerpt from our interview with him entitled “Common Sense,” Parabola, Spring 2006: ‘Coming To Our Senses.”

Self-help advice from a tree.

Self-help advice from a tree.

Until next time, happy trails.

Until next time, happy trails.