Archive for February, 2010

Our cook's little nino at breakfast

One thing I’ve learned in life: Kids the world over love Mardi Gras beads][/caption]

Me passing out candy to kids in the neighborhood

This nino pitched in and helped us with construction of his new cinder-block house

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However bad you may think you have life today, it’s probably not as bad as what you see above. These are pix of the cardboard house that the family of six is living in here in Juarez.
I’m here on a mission trip with seven others from my home church, as most readers know, and we spent the last two days building a cinder block house in front of this old one for the mom, dad and five young kids.
Until I get back to you with more pictures and reporting, have a blessed day.
And count your blessings.

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We got you a vid featuring Stephen Stills on vocals when he was still the leader and the spiritual force behind Buffalo Springfield–a most underrated rocker Stills, probably because he’s always devoted about as much time to sailing as to writing and making music.

Anyway, “Bluebird” is a great sixties oldie that ends with some mighty fine banjo jangling and we got it — and also another vid with Stills leading vocals:

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At age 60, yours truly is not the oldest team member building a house in Juarez, Mexico, for a mother and her five children this weekend. Our oldest team member is 73, on her first ever church mission trip. She’s the mom of one of the members of my home church who’s also here. The mom, who came from her home in Florida to make this mission with us, plays organ at her United Methodist Church back in Florida.
Her daughter and son in law gave her this mission trip as a Christmas present, of all things. It’s what she wanted for Christmas.
What a great gift, and what great people these people of God are that I’m sharing this experience with.
In addition to helping an extremely poor family living in a cardboard shelter, we’re building relationships with that family, with families here in the barrio and with each other–and having a million laughs, BTW.

73 years young, doing God's work in Juarez

Bashful schoolgirl curious about the construction

Yer Jitterbugger with el perro outside the men's dorm at the Projecto Abrigo (Project Shelter) ministry compound in Juarez

Mission team member Lori passing out candy to kids in the barrio

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El nino helping us with construction of his new casa

What you see below is the cardboard house currently occupied by a young mother named Maria and her five beautiful children. I and the other seven members of a volunteer mission team from my home church, Suncreek United Methodist in Allen just north of Dallas, are bone tired from working on the cinder block house we’ll have completed by this time tomorrow.
Maria’s neighbors in the barrio, who also live in cinder block houses, drifted over all day and were very happy to see Maria getting a new casa!
Thanks for your prayers. We’ve been blessed today.

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For your Friday night, jitterbug special–being zipped to you tonight from Juarez where we had a gorgeous weather day at our construction site–here’s a video blast from the past featuring two of Jitterbugger’s faves of all time–and an extra fun George video for you too:

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As promised here Wednesday, we’re featuring His Greatness Mr. Cash for your Friday special.

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We made it to the Proyecto Abrigo (Project Shelter) compound and muchas gracias to all who prayed us up for traveling mercies. My last time here a couple years ago was in February and forgot how chilly the desert nights can get.
One most noticeable difference on arrival across the border tonight was the heavy presence of heavily and very heavily armed Mexican Army soldiers. The Mexican government flooded the city with 10,000 troops last year to restore some law and order. Juarez’s drug cartels are out of control, and violent, and one of the church members on this trip, Rita Thomas–who lived in Juarez as a missionary at the Proyecto Abrigo compound for a time–tells me the troops didn’t do much to stem the killing. But most of the shooting and killing is cartel outlaws fighting each other, and not generally random acts.
Still, it doesn’t make for entirely safe streets when bullets start flying around.
Our compound is actually far enough removed from such acts that we’re really not in any kind of harm’s way, and won’t be in the barrios where we’ll be most of the tome.
Juarez’ reputation for violence, though, has caused most churches to quit sending teams to do mission work for this ministry. Just so happens that my church, Suncreek Methodist, has such deep and longstanding roots with this Proyecto Abriga ministry that we’ve carried on here. Rita has been so involved that she actually felt called to move here a couple of years ago as a missionary. She had to move back to the Dallas area because so few teams, which used to swarm here year -ound from UM churches around the U.S. are not coming now.
But here we are, 3 male men and 5 women, about to have our nightly devotional.
So buenas noches, yaw. Till mañana.

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The article below, from relevantmagazine.com, has some interesting stuff about the spirituality of Martin Scorcese.
Remember how hugely controversial “The Last Temptation of Christ” was when it hit the theaters? Scores of Christians stood outside movie houses with signs pretty much condemning Scorcese to Helldom and generally doing a lot of hissing.
My general practice is to stay away from such hot-button movies and catch them years later on CD (used to be on videos), and judge for myself after all the hot hoopla had long since passed. And so it was with “The Last Temptation.” My reaction to it was that there was sure a lot of energy wasted by a lot of people over a movie that just stunk to the high heavens–it was that awful. Sure, it had its moments. Anything Martin Scorcese does is going to have some great moments–but the disciples speaking in Brooklyn accents were almost as revolting to me as the awful performances of the actors who simply acted like they didn’t have their hearts in it. It’s a wonder this movie didn’t stop Harvey Keitel’s acting career in its tracks. Willem Defoe as Jesus gave one of the better performances, but even he didn’t run any risk of nomination for anything like an Oscar.
Well, no further of that ol’ ado . . . . .

By David Roark
How one of the greatest filmmakers of all time exposes the divine.

There’s been something lurking under the waters of Martin Scorsese’s films since the start of his career. It’s more prominent in some works than in others, but it’s always present. It’s not just his obvious filmmaking prowess. It’s not violence, drugs, sex or profanity. It’s not Italian-American life in New York City. It’s something bigger.

Few people know Scorsese planned to become a priest before pursuing film. Raised in a religious home, he attended Catholic school and spent a year in seminary. His life was once solely dedicated to the gospel.
And though it’s uncertain where his beliefs are today, it is clear he is still working through his faith. Scorsese’s movies have been a lucid autobiography of his convictions and his struggles. He once stated, “My whole life has been movies and religion. That’s it. Nothing else.”

It all started with guilt. Nearly ten years after seminary and attending NYU, Scorsese made Who’s That Knocking at My Door (1968), his first feature film, which explores morality through an Italian-American man’s confusion amid religious convictions and a liberating sexual experience. It may be Scorsese’s most personal movie despite the lack of attention it received.

This would explain why he pursued a similar theme in his 1973 film, Mean Streets. It follows a gangster caught in the middle of two lives: promised prosperity in an obligation to work for his criminal uncle and a commitment to Catholicism, in which he can honestly love his friends and family.

In the opening scene, Charlie’s musings are heard in a voiceover by Scorsese: “You don’t make up for your sins in church. You do it on the streets. You do it at home.” Powerful words, as one can only imagine how real and close they were to Scorsese’s heart at the time.

Charlie’s character is different than the stone-faced men of typical crime movies, who care only about riches and power. Like Scorsese, he understands love. He wants to make the right decisions. But with life’s temptations in front of him, the battle is difficult to win.

Three years later, Scorsese continued on his spiritual film journey with Taxi Driver, a glimpse inside the mind of a lonely Vietnam vet. While its religious undertones are slightly ambiguous, this film is a unique character study of a psychopath deeply burdened by the corrupt streets of New York City yet motivated by rejection. The lunatic is very different than previous protagonists, yet there’s still a strong connection between him and Scorsese.

1980‘s Raging Bull is one of Scorsese’s most spiritually riveting movies. He moves away from a theme of guilt and explores the effects of pride. La Motta goes from Middleweight Champion and family man to broken and divorced, losing everything and ending up in prison for involvement with prostitution.

Nevertheless, when hope seems out of reach for the egotistical bombshell, La Motta eventually finds redemption through humility. The movie’s moving finale concludes with an excerpt from John 9: “All I know is that I was blind, and now I can see.” Even though La Motta was a real man, there seems to be no coincidence in Scorsese’s decision to probe his character.

Neither was his decision to make his most spiritual and controversial film, The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). The movie, an adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’ novel, is by no means historically or theologically accurate, but it’s not supposed to be. Scorsese warns audiences of this in a disclaimer. The message, however, is overwhelmingly biblical.

Contrasting other movies about the life of Christ, like Mel Gibson’s 2004 interpretation, Jesus is portrayed as the real man he truly was (fully man, fully God). He laughs, dances, shows emotion. And he’s faced with the same temptations all humans are forced to deal with, which makes the film effective. Rather than emphasizing Christ’s physical suffering, it highlights his emotional suffering.

While on the cross, Jesus imagines how satisfying and easy life could’ve been if he had married, raised a family and didn’t have to die. With so many movies centered on characters battling between grace and sin, it’s no surprise Scorsese choose to explore this human side of Christ. Seeing his humility not only expounds upon the necessity and weight of the sacrifice, it makes his final words all the more powerful: “It is accomplished.”

In 1990, Scorsese returned to his customary genre, while not abandoning spirituality, and made the gangster classic, Goodfellas. This popular film tells the story of real-life mobster Henry Hill. Unlike other Scorsese characters, the intermingling of sacred and sordid is less prominent with Hill. He doesn’t seem to care about anything but money and self. He cheats on his wife, neglects his children, and rats out his best friends.
And there’s no sense of transformation in him. Hill eventually finds safety in a witness protection program, yet he is left empty, not redeemed. Through the life of Hill, Scorsese makes no reservations in revealing the candid consequences of recklessness of power and greed. There’s an inevitable price involved with sin, and he shows that even the most untouchable gangsters in the world can’t escape from it.

Because of violent movies like Goodfellas, Scorsese surprised many people with the 1997 release of Kundun, a story about nonviolence and the life of the 14th Dalai Lama. For others, however, it made sense. Scorsese was dealing with the same spiritual themes prominent in his other films, but in a different way.

Scorsese doesn’t expose the harsh effects of violence through a bloody baptism; he does it through one man’s refusal to take part in it. The Dalai Lama’s life is devoted to love—loving everyone. And even though he is Buddhist, his convictions ring very true to the teachings of Christ. Scorsese’s admiration for the Dalai Lama is surely connected with a yearning for peace and self-control in his personal life.

Despite critical success, Scorsese’s works of the last decade have dealt less with spirituality than predecessors. Gangs of New York has a striking scene in which two enemies simultaneously pray to a god of strength. In The Departed, an undercover cop makes the sign of the cross before risking his life for a fellow officer. But the heavy religious themes of his earlier movies simply aren’t as apparent.

Nevertheless, Shutter Island (out now) is a strong shift back toward tradition. It has all the elements of a twisty psychological thriller with the added bonus of depth. Scorsese doesn’t merely dabble in spirituality, either. The entire movie is allegorical, and there are divine themes under every word, rock and person on the island.

Forgiveness and, inevitably, violence are the clearest, though. Marshall Daniels, the protagonist, is motivated by revenge and sins of the past. Not only that, it all consumes him and his actions to a point of no return. But nothing speaks louder than a question posed at the film’s en . . . “Which would be worse: to live as a monster, or die as a good man?”

Shutter Island will, undoubtedly, join the ranks of Scorcese’s most spiritual accomplishments. And his next film—an adaptation of Shusaku Endo’s novel, Silence—is about Jesuit missionaries to Japan; clearly the divine which lurks beneath Scorcese’s films is again making itself known. Despite abandoning his plans to enter the priesthood, Scorsese obviously hasn’t given up on faith or his calling to speak the truth.

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Just because we’re flying to Juarez on our church mission trip today—you didn’t think we were going to neglect to give you your regular Thursday band-de-drum therapy, did you?

His greatness Todd:

I don’t want to work
I want to bang on the drum all day
I don’t want to play
I just want to bang on the drum all day

Ever since I was a tiny boy
I don’t want no candy
I don’t need toy
I took a stick and an old coffee can
I bang on that thing ’til I got
Blisters on my hand

When I get older they think I’m a fool
The teacher told me I should stay after school
She caught me pounding on the desk with my hands
But my licks were so hot
I made the teacher want to dance
And that’s why…

Listen to this
Every day when I get home from work
I feel so frustrated
the boss is a jerk
And I get my sticks and go out to the shed
And i pound on that drum like it was the boss’s head

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