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ADVENT defined

ad-vent

noun

the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.

synonyms: arrival, appearance, emergence, materialization, occurrence, dawn, birth, rise, development;

More
the first season of the Christian church year, leading up to Christmas and including the four preceding Sundays.

the coming or second coming of Christ.
noun: Advent

ON THIS THIRD DAY OF ADVENT, here’s a wonderful Advent poem from her greatness May Angelou…

everything-is-going-to-be-alright

“Amazing Peace”

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes and lightning rattles in the eaves of our houses.
Floodwaters await in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and gray and threatening.

We question ourselves. What have we done to so affront nature?
We interrogate and worry God.
Are you there? Are you there, really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Floodwaters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children.
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth, brightening all things,
Even hate, which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

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After years of constant, debilitating pain, I began feeling much better. Opioid medication not only did a good job of relieving [my] pain, but along with hormone supplements and anti-inflammatory drugs, they also improved my quality of life, allowing me to do things now that I could not do before.

It may sound trite, but this man “gave me my life back.”

From an article written by my friend Louis Ogden about Dr. Forest Tennant for the Web site Pain News Network.

I want to tell you a horror story concerning a dear friend of mine named Louis Ogden, who takes a seemingly alarming amount of pain drugs.

My friend Louis (Louie Louie) Ogden, and his bride of 45 years Kristen. Because of a genetic issue that makes treatment with typical drug regimens ineffective, Louis lived most of his 67 years with what is called “intractable pain” before he found the leading pain management doctor in the country.

Let me say right off, however, that my buddy Louis–whom I affectionally call “Louie Louie” because of our shared taste in classic as well as more contemporary rock and blues music–is not a junkie.

Contrary to what the overzealous federal government agents at the DEA and some political leaders seem to believe–Louis and a number of his fellow pain patients who also take huge amounts of opioids–are not drug abusers.

They aren’t pill seekers or thrill seekers or drug dealers using or selling hard drugs on the streets.

I want to share more about Louis and his beloved wife Kristen and those fellow patients who take opioids under the guidance of a California physician named Forest Tennant.

Dr. Tennant is distinguished for being on the cutting edge of researching and controlling debilitating pain for patients like Louis who can’t find pain relief from their local doctors.

Before I share more about Louis’s case, I want to share some background on our country’s endless “War on Drugs” and what it has come to.

* * *

That great American conservative and Republican hero Ronald Reagan famously said in a press conference, “I think you all know that I’ve always felt the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help.”

Of course, the Reagan Administration then proceeded to wage the government-run War on Drugs that has been failing miserably, and draining the national treasury and our tax dollars, for more than three decades.

To be fair, however, I have to say that every president since Reagan has thrown more tons of good money after bad trying to deal with drug abusers and the dealers who supply them. And it wasn’t a Republican who built the enduring Prison Industrial Complex that locked up almost exclusively black crack addicts from neighborhoods that the politicians and corporations keep forgetting to invest and create jobs in–except when election time rolls around.

Believe it or not, there was a time when President Bill Clinton was a hero to the military and to every law enforcement agency in the United States.

Anytime the military or police leaders asked for a dollar, Clinton was prone to say, “Here, take two dollars.”

Clinton and the Democrats didn’t want to be seen as soft on foreign enemies and criminals and Democrats still don’t.

And for sure, the “law and order” Republicans never want to be soft on crime when they can oversee the creation of jobs with evermore prisons, private and public.

The more reasonable option of decriminalization and treatment never get far: the profits and political contributions for that option aren’t worth it to the powers-that-be.

* * *

Fast forward to now, and the national opioid epidemic. I recently posted about the unbelievable toll that pain drugs have taken in the last 20 and more years. That post was written from my point of view as a Christian and a United Methodist pastor. You can read it here if you missed it.

Because of a genetic issue that makes treatment with typical drug regimens ineffective, my friend Louis lived most of his 67 years with what is called “intractable pain.”

Intractable pain is the kind that is unbearable–beyond control with anything like a normal drug regimen. It’s the sort of pain that can make a stable, well-adjusted person suicidal.

And Louis, who managed for some years to make a living as a master electrician and earned a college degree before the pain became too much, was a well-adjusted man who had just about lost any will to live when I came to know him through this blog.

Then in 2010, Louis’s dreadful life with pain started to take a sharp turn for the better. That’s when he and Kristen were fortunate enough to find Dr. Tennant, one of the country’s foremost experts on pain and the prescribing of opioids.

Dr. Tennant and his wife Miriam have operated a pain clinic in West Covina, CA since 1975. He is also the Editor Emeritus of Practical Pain Management, a monthly medical journal about pain. His current research interests are inflammatory markers and the role of hormones in pain care.

Other doctors had always told Louis there was little to nothing they could do to relieve his constant pain, short of making him a junkie. So Louis (and 150 other fellow patients who go to Dr. Tennant for pain treatments and research) credits the physician with giving him his life back.

Ceaseless pain obviously wears and tears down the entire mind and body, straining everything from the heart to the spirit. So every three months, Kristen and Louis travel across the country to the clinic outside L.A. from their home in Virginia to see Dr. Tennant for a checkup and refills on prescriptions.

That’s a long way to go to see a doctor, but the Ogdens are only too happy to do it. (And Kristen does volunteer work at the clinic during their stays in the suburb where the clinic is.)

But now comes the United States government, eagerly wanting to get drug dealers off the streets. That’s commendable. I and you and Louis and Kristen and, I’m sure, Dr. Tennant, don’t want drug dealers selling opioids on the streets and making a deadly epidemic worse than it is.

But the bad news for Louis and other pain patients who need opioids to have functional lives is that the DEA recently raided Dr. Tennant’s office. Louis informed me of this in an email in which he told me:

    “My doc has been raided! I’m scared s——-. The DEA has my medical records. The ‘expert advisor’ to the DEA is not a specialist in pain–he’s a family doc.

    “I’ve read the warrant and he SPECULATES that all out of state patients receiving high doses (THAT’S ME) must be selling their meds because no one person could survive these high doses.”

I’m hopeful, and actually confident, that the drug enforcement authorities with the federal government will come to understand that one person’s poison (heavy pain drugs) is another person’s healing medicine.

Maybe it’s the eternal optimist in me, but I believe that Dr. Tennant, who hasn’t been charged with any crime, is going to be vindicated as the good guy in this raid.

I’m confident that when the authorities read Louis’s case history, they will find that he is not a junkie or a pill or thrill seeker. Kristen, in fact, is a retired civil servant who served in the federal government for 36 years herself. She has a degree from William and Mary.

She and Louis met in 1968 when she was 15 and Louis was 18 and started dating 15 months later. They married in 1973 after dating for three years. Her dad served a year in Vietnam.

Louis got his college degree when he could no longer work as an electrian, and was accepted to Syracuse for a master’s degree that he was unable to obtain because of the pain.

My point is that this is not a couple dealing drugs for money.

Now, all that said, I urge you to read what Louis had to say in the article mentioned at the top of the post that he wrote for the Pain News Network. Read it here for yourself.

There’s also this piece Kristen wrote.

Factual information is always good. I hope the federal Drug Enforcement Administration will obtain the facts before it makes any more assumptions about why somebody travels across the country to obtain opioids every three months.

I’ll keep you updated on this matter in the weeks and months ahead.


Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
—The Book of Common Prayer

The gospel scripture in Mark 13:24-37 (see text below) inaugurates us into the Advent season with terribly misunderstand apocalyptic language.

This scripture is not a Nostradamus-like timetable, but a hopeful call to keep hope and faith alive in what was a time of great crisis for believers in the first century.

As the theologian Martha Simmons puts it, eschatology–which is all about the end times–“is where the sweet bye and bye meets the nasty here and now.”*

In our times and in all times through the ages, Jesus speaks in this scripture to a church and believers whose desire for justice and a bright future appears hopeless.

But the early-church believers heard from Jesus in this apocalyptic language the promises that allowed them keep on keeping on through all the injustice and nasty persecution that they, like Jesus himself, would bear on the cross.

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away,” he told them–and tells us in what appear to be bleak times. “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

“Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.”

Stay awake, he told his followers.

Stay fully awake.

Mark 13:24-37
13:24 But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light,

13:25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

13:26 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory.

13:27 Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

13:28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.

13:29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.

13:30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.

13:31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

13:32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

13:33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.

13:34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.

13:35 Therefore, keep awake–for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn,

13:36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.

13:37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.

———-
*Learn more about Martha Simmons here.


Lourdes Vasquez (r) made the traditional mestizo dress that daughter Stephanie wore at St. Ignatius High School last week. Stephanie and three of her classmates won first place in the dance/costume competition at the annual Culture Day Extravaganza.

Greetings and cheers again from Texas Our Texas.

I continue to have a large time in spite of being busy and very busy, running here and yonder doing stuff I have to do while on U.S. soil in what is a more limited-time trip home this time.

I fly back to BZ Dec. 1 and hope to make another trip back in the summer to see loved ones up in North Texas.

For now, however, I have two(!) great pieces of news to report, especially for those who have donated to Stephanie Garcia’s Education Fund, about Stephanie’s progress in high school.

If you’re a newcomer to the blog, I’ll provide a link with more info about a GoFundMe campaign below. The gist of the matter is that Stephanie, who struggled mightily to pass most subjects in her grade-school years, finally blossomed into a good student last year. So much so that she’s in her first year of high school where I and her and the rest of my adoptive family live in San Ignacio/Santa Elena, Belize.

The great news is, first, that Stephanie passed the mid-term of the first semester with a 3.0 GPA–a solid B. The only bad mark was a 57 in English A, with a 76 in English B.

Stephanie and her high-school principal Miss Yvette pictured together at mass on a recent Sunday at St. Ignatius

Her mother and I conferred with her teachers on report card day last week, though, and Stef is already bringing up the one failing grade and the C grade in English B. I have no doubt she’ll pass English in this her first year, as she’s a very determined girl.

In even more exciting news, the St. Ignatius Catholic High School Stephanie attends recently had its annual Culture Day extravaganza. This event truly is an extravagant production that the kids and their educators spend weeks preparing for. It involves the making and wearing of cultural and ethnic costumes; dance and skit contests; cultural and educational exhibits of all kinds with emphasis on history and archeology; a lot of plain fun, good-time dance music; and cultural cooking and taste testing and free meals from the various cooking camps.

To really appreciate any cultural events and holiday sin this coountr you should know that Belize is one of the most diverse countries in the world, with something like distinct cultures and ethnicities. (*See note below for more.)

Mestizos, who are of mixed Spanish and indigenous descent, account for about half of the 320,000 people in Belize.

It so happens that Stephanie and her family are mestizos. So the bonus great news about Stephanie is that the beautiful costume her mother sewed–and the traditional mestizo dance-and-costume competition that Stef and three female classmates participated in–won first plac.

You read that right. Stephanie’s group got first place out of a lot of elaborate dances, extremely creative skits, and musical acts.

She and her classmates made her family, teachers, and yours truly proud on what was a beautiful, festive day in Old San Ignacio/Santa Elena.

So keep Stephanie in mind, if you will, as she advances in her eduction. For those who want to donate to the whole four-year education fund, which I will grow with interest in a local credit union account, go here:

https://www.gofundme.com/stephanies-education-fund

Those who want to make direct donations to my bank account to avoid the GoFundMe fees that are deducted–and some folks do prefer that–contact me at my email: revpaulmckay@gmail.com and I will provide my check account info.

Many thanks for your generosity in helping Stephanie get ahead in life.

(Special thanks to Jered Cady.)

Stef and her classmate along with two other girls nailed it in the traditional mestizo dance-and-costume competition.


Cheers!

I’ve been back home for a few days now in my beloved Texas Our Texas.

I can’t tell you how warm and good it feels to be home and embrace old friends and family (with, for the record, totally appropriate hugging and kissing).

As a multi-generation native Texan, I’m not just a proud American; I’m a proud Texan-American.

Mind you, I love the unconventional life I’ve carved out for myself in that odd little country that is Belize.

But there is no place like the home country, especially on a chilly but gorgeous day in the Brazos River Valley of Texas where I grew up and left deep footprints.

The great American writer, humorist and cartoonist James Thurber* had a thing about old clocks–he loved them and wrote a lot about them. So it’s not surprising that Thurber, the famous New Yorker who grew up in Columbus, Ohio, never outgrew his love for his hometown. Thurber once said “all the clocks in my heart tick for Columbus, Ohio.”

I’m back where my internal clocks tick and grateful to be here.

Hope you have a great day, too.

Thanksgiving Square in downtown Dallas.

*More on his greatness James Thurber here.

“Grab em by the pussy!”

For a man who’s getting way up in the years, the pucker-face Mitch McConnell can still dodge hard questions with amazing agility.

Go to this link to see what I mean.

He and other Republicans desperate to keep Alabama’s notorious knuckle-dragger Roy Moore out of the Senate are saying–with completely straight faces–“I believe the women.”

Moore is like some really twisted little character out of some dark version of Loony Toons.

But then, Trump’s gag-o-ramas with women are a thousand percent better documented than anything we’ve seen from the Alabama Space Cowboy’s gag-o-rama.

Me, I’ve always believed all those women who came forward after the infamous “grab em by the pussy” tape and accused Donald Trump of brazen sexual assault, harassment, and sundry and sordid other acts.

Apparently McConnell, and his wife who is Trump’s loyal Secretary of Transportation, and most of the conservatives in Congress believe Donald Trump, not the women he clearly sexually abused (and many he tried to destroy).

You’ll recall, of course, that candidate Trump was going to sue at least seven of his female accusers for defamation as soon as he took office.

Which of course he never did for a good reason: he doesn’t want to go to court because he’s a guilty dog.

No offense to good dogs.

The Republican belief system is consistently inconsistent.

That I can tell you.
——–
UPDATE:
Several more women have come forward to accuse Roy Moore of aggressive sexual behavior while Trump remains to boxed in with his history of nasty sexual aggression to say a word.

Daughter Ivanka, however, has pronounced that there is “a special place in hell” for people like Moore who prey on children.

She said she believes the victims because they are credible and his stories are not.

Ivanka Trump–daughter of famous sexual predator Donald Trump–had the audacity to say that.

Let that sink it.


In God and Guns We Trust?

Our Christian political and church leaders in Texas, like so many around the country, have this awful habit of separating Jesus from the overarching message of nonviolence that Jesus the Prince of Peace embodied and taught.

I’m thinking of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who said in the wake of the sickening mass murder of people slaughtered while they were in church praying, “Arm your congregations.”

I don’t think Jesus approved that message.

As for me, I’m plenty willing to be killed in a church with an unarmed congregation than attend one where worshipers are armed to the teeth.

“How long, O Lord?”