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Archive for January, 2013

From my “Stories that make you go ‘Wow!'” file: This is from one of my must-read bloggers Dr. Emily in Washington state, a physician and wonderful, spiritual writer who worked with Jane Goodall back in the day.

Barnstorming

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Tonight I received a remarkable email from Bill Grueskin, Dean of Academic Affairs at the Columbia University School of Journalism.    He looked me up on the web to share a scan of an article he wrote as a intern reporter in May 1975 for the Palo Alto Times.  He had been assigned to interview me after I returned to Stanford University following the Gombe kidnapping of May 19.    He keeps his articles like any good journalist and was reminded about this interview after his wife heard my professor and mentor Dr. David Hamburg at a Grand Rounds presentation at a New York Hospital today refer to the Gombe kidnapping and subsequent rescue of the students.

I was the age that our daughter is now–twenty.  This does not feel like it happened only yesterday.  It feels like it happened in another life. Thank you to Bill for sharing his…

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LAST SEEN IN "TARZAN GOES TO BELIZE IN HIS GOLDEN YEARS"

LAST SEEN IN “TARZAN GOES TO BELIZE IN HIS GOLDEN YEARS”

B.B. King was there when they crucified our Lord. Listen to him sing ‘When Love Comes to Town” and you’ll believe him when he tells you that.

Here we find B.B. the King of the Blues humoring those four white boys from Ireland by letting them share a stage with him.

This will chase away your Belizean birthday blues.

More on that below. . . .

Another birthday marked and it’s been rather a bluesy one.

Belize has had an unseasonably full week of rain or the constant threat of rain, and in fact a lot of rain for several weeks now. So much for all that fun in the Belizean sun–in the “dry” season, no less.

And speaking of el sol. . . . I’ve been recovering from the surgical removal of a chunk of (benign and harmless) skin cancer from my throat a week ago.

Pain in the neck has taken on new meaning.

But I’ve seen too many cases of melanoma, the killer skin cancer, cut too many lives short to complain. (And yet I do. Complain. I’m a Westerner, American version. We complain. Belizeans complain precious little. I’ve noticed in my travels in Belize and elsewhere that Third-World people are too busy struggling to complain. They just know that life is hard and keep putting one foot in front of the other and living life, come what may. We Americans are babies and whiners by comparison.)

Dealing with skin cancer of any kind will get your attention but hey–I grew up in the brutality of the Texas sun. Who knew it could hurt us, much less cut our lives short. At any rate, I’ll be more diligent in protecting myself from the sun’s rays after this little wakeup call and reminder that yes, it could happen to me after all.

* * * * *

But back to my (somewhat) bluesy birthday.

Lucky for me I LIKE the blues.

I like it a lot.

And this seems a fitting bluesy number for one who just turned 63 who is siempre loco in la cabeza despues de todos estos anos.

Who’ll stop all this unseasonable rain in Belize.

Kids, don’t try this kind of dental flossing at home.

Mick was supposedly feeling some serious depression–yes, imagine Mick depressed; he gets real blues like everybody else–after the death of a good friend when he wrote this dark but compelling blues/rock number.

So on a happier note; at least I’m still shy of 64 and in scant danger of losing my hair; even though, my firstborn posted this on my Facebook page: “I was thinking you were 64 today until I did the math.”

Thanks for having the presence of mind to do the math in your busy life there, Ames.

Dad’s in no hurry to see 64.

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(photos of Mayan site at Caracol, Belize, by russell harrison; click here)

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Yes, it’s only been about a mere month since all the hype about the Mayan calendar marking the end of the world mercifully came to an end.

It was never about the end of the world anyway; the historic Mayan event marked a new beginning, not any kind of end including the end of the world, as Dr. Jaime Awe, Belize’s No. 1 archeologist points out, in the video below. (Yes, Dr. Awe stands in awe of the Mayan ruins of Belize, I’m sure. Click here for more on him and his passionate work in Belize.

The vid is Josh Berman’s report on that Dec. 21, 2012, night–a night he spent atop the Mayan “Sky Temple” at Caracol (click here) Caracol here in the rugged environs of Belize.

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He was denounced and vilified by the haters day after day, year after year, as a dangerous “communist,” “Marxist,” “socialist,” un-American and, worse than that–an anti-American radical.

The more things change . . . .

Martin Luther King Jr. was in fact a prophetic Baptist preacher with an unwavering vision of a far better America, and one of the most courageous and genuinely patriotic Christians and Americans in American history. It’s the genuine patriots who keep pushing us to fulfill the American vision to the max.

And they don’t do it out of fear and paranoia nor by arming themselves to the teeth with arms of potentially massive destruction.

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Click here for King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” which always bears re-reading and reflection.

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SAN PEDRO, CAYE AMERGRIS, BELIZE

SAN PEDRO, CAYE AMBERGRIS, BELIZE


Now that I’ve lived in Belize for six months-plus, here’s a few leftover pix I never got around to posting in 2012. . .

MOST EVERY BELIZEAN'S HOME WILL HAVE A HAMMOCK, OR TWO OR THREE INSIDE. AND ONE OR MORE OUTSIDE, TOO.

MOST EVERY BELIZEAN’S HOME WILL HAVE A HAMMOCK, OR TWO OR THREE INSIDE. AND ONE OR MORE OUTSIDE, TOO.

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PHOTO FROM THE ANNUAL FUNDRAISING BANQUET OF THE BELIZE CITY/HONDURAS DISTRICT, PART OF THE CARIBBEAN CONFERENCE OF THE METHODIST CHURCH, HELD IN BELIZE CITY ON THANKSGIVING WEEKEND 2012. AND BOY WAS THE CHOW EVER GOOD AT $50 BZ ($25 US) A PLATE.

CARIBBEAN/HONDURAS CONFERENCE, METHODIST CHURCH ANNUAL FUNDRAISING BANQUET, THANKSGIVING WEEKEND 2012. AND BOY WAS THE CHOW EVER GOOD AT $50 BZ ($25 US) A PLATE.

OFF THE SHORE AT SAN PEDRO, CHRISTMAS EVE, 2012.

OFF THE SHORE AT SAN PEDRO, CHRISTMAS EVE, 2012.

EBENEZER METHODIST CHURCH VAN, A THRIVING CHURCH IN  BELIZE CITY.

EBENEZER METHODIST CHURCH VAN, A THRIVING CHURCH IN BELIZE CITY.

AMONG THE DIGNITARIES AT THE METHODIST CHURCH FUNDRAISER BANQUET THANKSGIVING WEEKEND IN BELIZE CITY, THE REIGNING “QUEEN OF THE BAY.”

WELCOME CENTER, SAN IGNACIO, BZ

WELCOME CENTER, SAN IGNACIO, BZ

NAIR'S: BEST GREASY SPOON IN BELIZE CITY, FEATURED ON THE TRAVEL CHANNEL. AND FEATURED FOR GOOD REASON. TERRIFIC BELIZEAN DISHES.

NAIR’S: BEST GREASY SPOON IN BELIZE CITY, FEATURED ON THE TRAVEL CHANNEL. AND FEATURED FOR GOOD REASON. TERRIFIC BELIZEAN DISHES.

WALKWAY AT THE BRIDGE CONNECTING SAN INGACIO AND SANTA ELENA IN WESTERN BELIZE.

WALKWAY AT THE BRIDGE CONNECTING SAN INGACIO AND SANTA ELENA.

NEW HAND-CRANKED FERRY AT SUCCOTZ VILLAGE IN FAR WESTERN BELIZE--THE THIRD SUCH FERRY. LAST ONE GOT WORN OUT AFTER 20-SOMETHING YEARS; FIRST ONE GOT WIPED OUT BY HURRICANE HATTIE WHICH REACHED ALL THE WAY TO SUCCOTZ, 70-PLUS MILES INLAND.

NEW HAND-CRANKED FERRY AT SUCCOTZ VILLAGE IN FAR WESTERN BELIZE–THE THIRD SUCH FERRY. LAST ONE GOT WORN OUT AFTER SEVERAL DECADES; FIRST ONE GOT WIPED OUT BY HURRICANE, HATTIE, I THINK IT WAS, WHICH REACHED ALL THE WAY TO SUCCOTZ, 70-PLUS MILES INLAND. FERRY CROSSES MOPAN RIVER AND IT’S ONE MILE UP TO XUNANTUNICH MAYAN RUINS, ONE OF THE MOST SPECTACULAR OF MAYAN RUINS IN BELIZE. SUCCOTZ IS AN ANCIENT MAYAN VILLAGE, IN FACT, WITH MANY PURE-BLOOD MAYAN DESCENDENTS.

SWAMP AT SAN MATEO, VILLAGE, THE OTHER SIDE OF PARADISE, CAYE AMBERGRIS ISLAND, NEXT TO POPULAR RESORT BEACH TOWN SAN PEDRO, BZ.

SWAMP AT SAN MATEO, VILLAGE, THE OTHER SIDE OF PARADISE, CAYE AMBERGRIS ISLAND, NEXT TO POPULAR RESORT BEACH TOWN SAN PEDRO, BZ.

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AMY & AND BOYS

AMY & AND BOYS

Happy birthday to Amy Rodriguez, first-born blood of my blood and fully attentive mom of two boys who are “all boy,” devoted wife and longtime best friend of her man Jorgi, hard-working insurance agent, successful business owner and all-around justice-loving Christ follower.

And such great taste in music that she accompanies her Old Man to Dave Matthews Band gigs.

Rock on, daughter.

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"FORGIVE THEM, LORD, FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO."

“FORGIVE THEM, LORD, FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO.”

A public defender in the Chicago area defends the work she does in quite a compelling article in the storied old Christian mag “Christian Century.” Click here for CC’s home Web page.

And as the writer points out, Jesus was a criminal defendant, even if she neglects to mention that Jesus was an innocent defendant and political prisoner who was railroaded–a man persecuted rather than prosecuted as a defendant.

Still, Jesus was a criminal defendant in the broad sense, and Christ (i.e. God) can be seen in the face of the most evil criminal/prisoner, since he or she, like you and me, was created in the image of you-know-who–with a divine flame burning however dimly.

Here’s the CC article:

“Brush with evil”
The work of a public defender
Jan 09, 2013
by Jeanne Bishop
How can you defend those people?” That’s a question public defenders hear a lot. It was one I have pondered during my hardest assignment as a lawyer in the abuse and neglect division of juvenile court in Cook County, Illinois, one of the biggest and busiest court systems in the world.

Juvenile court is a vale of tears. My clients are people who have hurt or neglected their children. The cases can be horrifying: The dad who put out cigarettes on his children’s skin. The mom who drank 40 ounces of malt liquor every day while she was pregnant, bearing children with the flat faces and brain damage of fetal alcohol syndrome. The man who, in an effort to get his girlfriend’s son to learn his ABCs, whipped him so brutally with electrical cords that the boy was flayed.

Juvenile court is a long way from where I started my career, which was at a place that represented my original idea of success: a big corporate law firm. My work for banks and corporations wasn’t deeply meaningful, but it paid well.

In those days, when I met lawyers who worked in civil rights law or constitutional law, I was flooded with envy. These lawyers seemed heroic to me, and happy; they were passionate about their work in a way I was not. But fear kept me at the big firm. I had student loans and rent to pay.

Then the unthinkable happened: my sister, her husband and their unborn baby were shot to death by an intruder in their home. A teenager who lived nearby stole a gun, broke into the house, executed Richard with a single bullet to the back of his head, turned the gun on Nancy and fired into her pregnant stomach. He left them to die, no doubt thinking he had silenced them forever. He hadn’t. Before she died, Nancy wrote a message in her own blood beside her husband’s body: the shape of a heart and the letter U. Love you.

Nancy’s message stunned me. It was a love letter to her husband and to the baby she would never hold in her arms; it was her benediction on the world she loved. It was also a wake-up call: life is short. We have no time to waste on things or to be motivated by money or fear. Only what we do from love matters or will last.

I left corporate law and became a public defender. That job took me to juvenile court, where I represent people who have committed crimes as harrowing as the one that took my sister’s life.

One of my clients faced termination of his parental rights on a charge of depravity, and that term is apt. He had raped an 11-year-old girl. She told her mother; the mother went to the police, who arrested the man and charged him with sexual assault. From jail he ordered his family to stab the child and her mother to death—which his relatives did, dumping the bodies in an industrial area. The state sought the death penalty.

Whenever I met with him, sheriffs stood just outside the glass door to make sure I was safe. Looking into his eyes unnerved me: they seemed to be staring at me from deep within a cave.

In the end, he took my advice to do what may be the only honorable thing he’d done in his life: he voluntarily gave up his rights to his children. That result was good for him in that it offered a mitigation in his death penalty case. It was good for the children, freeing them for adoption into a happier, safer home. But for me the case was a brush with evil, and it took a toll.

I sought out a fellow public defender who seemed to have a certain serenity that I lacked. Mary Russley is a lawyer and a Catholic nun. She looks as if she’s been sent over from central casting: short-cropped gray hair, wire-rimmed glasses, kindly face, long skirts, sensible shoes. She had worked in juvenile court for 12 years, first representing parents and then defending children accused of serious crimes.

“Mary,” I implored, “how have you been able to do this work for so long?” She joked that long vacations helped get her through. Then she spoke about her clients, some of the most despised people on earth.

“My job is to be present with people at the worst moment in their lives, when they are being publicly confronted with their sin,” she said.

Mary took me into her office and showed me something: a tiny Christmas tree, lit up with white lights, perched on a windowsill. The nun pointed out the window toward the juvenile detention center across the way, where many of her clients were locked up. “I keep it on all the time, here in the window, so the kids can look over and know I am thinking about them.”

I imagined one of those children looking out on a dark night, from an abyss of loneliness and longing, and seeing that light, and knowing even before he looked that it would be there, a small, glowing beacon of light that says, you are not alone.

How can we defend these people? Mary’s humble tree answered that question for me: love. The kind of love that is God’s love. Love that loves not because someone is lovable, but because God is love. Love that recognizes this biblical truth: each of those prisoners, the despised, is Jesus (“I was in prison and you visited me,” Matt. 25:36).

Mark Osler argues in his book Jesus on Death Row that the fact that the only Son of God was a criminal defendant matters:

If God is the author of the story of Jesus on earth, and that story contains lessons for contemporary men and women, then it must mean something that so much of the heart of that story is about criminal law. If we treat our prisoners in the same way that Jesus was treated, then the Christians among us must ask if that comports with our faith, and struggle with the answer.

I can defend these people because not even the wrong they have done can alter this truth: what we do for the prisoner, we do for Christ.

I once heard James Forbes, former minister at New York’s Riverside Church, give this benediction: “God’s love is the hope of the world.” So it is. It is the hope of the prisoner, the hope of the victim—and the hope I carry with me when I walk into a courtroom, go to the podium, draw a deep breath and begin to speak.
© 2013 The Christian Century. All rights reserved.

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