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Archive for April, 2013

Yes, this would be you-know-who, floating in the healing waters at the natural Rio Pools way up in the rugged Mountain Pine Ridge frontiers of Belize before he headed to the beach at Placencia and spent a few nights camping on the white sands of the Caribbean before finally retreating to the comfort of a shower, toilet and great bed at a little bungalow at Barnacle Bill’s, from whence your intrepid reporter he is sending this dispatch this morning.

Click here for more on the Taylors, you friendly hosts at Barnacle Bill’s–they’ve got some pretty great postcards at the Barnacle Bill’s web page.

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Francis Ford Coppola's fabulous eco resort at Pine Mountain Ridge where I dropped in before heading to the beach. You don't have to be a guest to wander around the 70 acres or have a drink at the bar or eat at one of the two eateries. Checking out his place at Placencia this week. The man does nothing less than first class.

Francis Ford Coppola’s fabulous eco resort at Pine Mountain Ridge where I dropped in before heading to the beach. You don’t have to be a guest to wander around the 70 acres or have a drink at the bar or eat at one of the two eateries. Checking out his place at Placencia this week. The man does nothing less than first class.

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Pool at Coppola's way up in the rugged mountains of Pine Ridge--still a frontier area and a lot of guests fly in or are flown in at the airstrip down the way.

Pool at Coppola’s way up in the rugged mountains of Pine Ridge–still a frontier area and a lot of guests fly in or are flown in at the airstrip down the way.

Coppola doesn't come here much anymore, the resort folks tell me, except Christmas and special occasions--not every month like before. Mostly stays at his California winery.

Coppola doesn’t come here much anymore, the resort folks tell me, except Christmas and special occasions–not every month like before. Mostly stays at his California winery.

Meanwhile, down on the Placencia Peninsula in southern Belize, the view from my hammock at Barnacle Bills.

Meanwhile, down on the Placencia Peninsula in southern Belize, the view from my hammock at Barnacle Bills.

That should be enough to generate the sin of envy in enough of you this morning so until next time, Jitterbuggers, happy beach bumming wherever you may be.

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Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”

— Revelation 22: 1-2

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Somehow this Jackson Browne classic of a rock spiritual keeps coming to mind down here on the beach at Placencia.

(Click here for more on Placencia, site of the best beaches in Belize . . . )

But scriptures about water–and how water is one of the greatest of vital gifts from God keep coming to mind as well. A few thoughts on the precious gift of water down below.

Grace & peace from Palencia . . .

“Rock me on the water,

“Sister will you soothe my fevered brow?

“Rock me on the water,

“I’ll get down to the sea,

“I’ll get down that sea

“Somehow.”

— His Greatness Jackson Browne
one of the best and most spiritual
of rock/folk lyricists in the biz

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"Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and want what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant . . . " God calling the Israelites in exile to return to him and give up their fascinations with Babylonian power, their drive to succeed that always ended with their being dissatisfied and feeling empty. From Isaiah 55.

“Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and want what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant . . . ” God calling the Israelites in exile to return to him and give up their fascinations with Babylonian power, their drive to succeed that always ended with their being dissatisfied and feeling empty. From Isaiah 55.

Water is not just our source of life.

It is our life.

Our very bodies are mostly water.

We need water for our thirst, but we need clean seas and waterways in order for God in God’s providence to provide us the resources we need for life.

We’re always partners with God, having to respond to God and working with God rather than against God. In polluting the earth and waters we’re working against Him/Her.

We are called, as United Methodist theologian Randy Maddox at Duke Divinity School says, to “responsible” grace--being responsible for all manner of things including the preservation of the purity of God’s green earth which is also our earth.

So how are we doing?

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The top of the so-called "Thousand Foot Waterfall"--actually 1,600 feet--in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve..

The top of the so-called “Thousand Foot Waterfall”–actually 1,600 feet–in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve..

In this photo: What Belizeans call “The Thousand Foot Waterfall” is actually a fall that measures 1,600 feet in Mountain Pine Ridge, where I’ve done some exploring and thrill seeking lately. It falls over a steep cliff and down into depths of the tropical forest. You can hike down the mountainside and reward yourself with a cool swimming in the pool at the bottom, but it can be a little dangerous hiking down. Then again, my daughter’s back yard in Texas turned out to be dangerous–I fell down there a month today and bruised some ribs and twisted my back. I haven’t had a pain-free night of sleep since–it hurts to the high heavens to lie down. But so goes life–it’s always a trifle dangerous.

And anyway, people like the Rev. Justin and a lady named Carole and, btw, Roger Ebert–whose stories you’ll find in links below–never allowed sometimes painful disabilities to stop them from living their lives.

That’s sort of the theme of today’s posting, I suppose–making big dreams as opposed to small dreams come true despite the crap life throws in your paths or the internal voice of fear that tells you that you can’t do this or do that; not to mention other people telling you that you can’t do this and can’t do that, as if it’s their life and not yours to live.

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I’m on the road like I’m Jack Kerouac in Belize this week through next Wednesday when I return the SUV I rented. I’m traveling about somewhat aimlessly, seeing gorgeous Belizean places, meeting amazing Belizean people and expats too, and thrill seeking right through the sometimes screaming pain of the ribs I bruised and the back muscles I twisted when I took a fall more than a month ago.

This misfortune happened right outside of my daughter’s home in Texas–not in climbing up some rugged Belizean mountain or Mayan ruin where one expects to have an occasional injury.

No. I just flat fell down in Texas, for the simple reason that I’m so disoriented by the intense pace of life in the U.S. when I go back to visit now that my head spins for the first 24 to 48 hours that I’m in the homeland.

How to do rehab from bruised ribs and back pain.

How to do rehab from bruised ribs and back pain.

In Belize, I live like Belizeans do, moving about more often than not at a snail’s pace and living fully in the present moment, never rushing about to get somewhere. This pacing is how you survive the occasionally oppressive tropical heat or the rainy season downpours that you patiently sit and wait to pass over.

In the two trips I’ve made back to the homeland since I moved to Belize on July 15, I really was overwhelmed from the moment I stepped out of the airport until I could get adjusted to the go-go pace of life.

Next time I’m home I think I’ll have my daughter and son in law guide me around by the arm till my mind and body can readjust from living in a place so different that it’s like returning to Texas from the moon.

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So I’ve also been on the road to checking out places for the dream farm and ranch I’ll have here someday with a dog and pretty horses (note to self: I probably should buy a four-wheel vehicle first) to produce enough food to keep me fat and happy and feed others in the process.

I keep falling in love with villages like the one I traveled through yesterday where I almost collided on the highway with a beautiful sow who had decided to stroll down the road. I guided her back to her pen and her grateful owner gave me a cold Coke for the trouble.

People always ask if it’s safe in Belize and I say I, for one, always feel safe for two reasons: Because I stay away from south Belize City every chance I get because it is, admittedly, one of the most violent places on earth because of the usual guns and drugs (and Americans keep buying their illegal drugs despite the cost of so much blood it takes to get to them); and because I always slow down and assume there will be a goat, a cow, a bull, a horse, a sheep or a pig, or a drunk driver, just over the next hill or just around the next curve.

Practice those two policies and you’ll be perfectly safe in Belize.

One of the great swimming holes at the Rio Pools on Mountain Pine Ridge--not far from the first of the 5-star eco resorts that Francis Ford Coppola opened here in 1983 when he, like so many other adventurists rich and poor, famous and infamous, fell in love with Belize. His other resort is around Placencia beach, where you know who is lazing around today. Madonna wrote a song about Placencia and stars like Charlize Theron hang in the Placencia parts. And then there's your favorite blawger living on a shoestring Belikin budget.

One of the great swimming holes at the Rio Pools on Mountain Pine Ridge–not far from the first of the 5-star eco resorts that Francis Ford Coppola opened here in 1983 when he, like so many other adventurists rich and poor, famous and infamous, fell in love with Belize. His other resort is around Placencia beach, where you know who is lazing around today. Madonna wrote a song about Placencia and stars like Charlize Theron hang in the Placencia parts. And then there’s your favorite blawger living on a shoestring Belikin budget.

So far I’ve put 500-plus miles on the rental, looking around this ever odd but fascinating little Caribbean/Central American country. A country that is both Caribbean and Central American in equal measure is just odd from the get-go.

And then when you have nine very distinct ethnicities who bring the full measure of their cultures and languages and quirky attitudes and ways of life together and somehow live peacefully–a mere 300,000 of them–under the one Belizean flag that they live under with great pride, you’re talking about a country like no other.

Don’t tell me that diversity and tolerance are unrealistic in “the real world.”

In Belize blacks, Hispanics, Mayans, Middle Easterners, Chinese, German and Dutch Mennonites and increasing numbers of Americans and Canadians Australians and a few types–they all live next door to one another, work together, break bread together, drink together, dance together and get along together. There seems to be no such thing as racial prejudice here–which isn’t to say, of course, that there’s none in Belize.

But it’s nothing–not even close–to the racial prejudice in the “Christian” country north of the Mexican border.

An acquaintance of mine in the enlightened city of Dallas asked me last time I was there, “I would think those people and their homes really stink down there in all that heat.”

This was an opportunity to enlighten this ugly American about realities outside his American bubble world, the sort of session with that guy that a FBI friend of mine years ago used to describe as “a nonviolent prayer session with perhaps a dash of apocalyptic language involved.”

And then there was the short answer to his question. What you think the answer is tells me how much you’ve actually traveled the world rather than toured as a tourist.

In the village, the peaceful village, the great Belizean cougar sleeps tonight.

In the village, the peaceful village, the great Belizean cougar sleeps tonight.

I’ve always dreamed big and all my big dreams have come true; I am, after all, living my dream just living in Belize after deciding about three years ago I would move to some beautiful part of the world, preferably on or near lots of beaches, rivers and swimming holes, within three years.

The dream came true in Belize, right on target.

You can dream big and then make it come true, unless you want to sit in front of the wasteland that is TV and watch other dreamers living dream lives on travel and sports channels and such, or watch fictitious characters living fictitious lives.

We’re all dreamers and why dream small when you can make big dreams come true simply by getting off the hindquarters and making it happen?

It seems to me to be a little sad that so many people don’t even have anything like a genuine philosophy of life that they live by with any real clarity–except to make more money and sit around complaining about taxes and their aches and pains.

And making more and more money and hating taxes and complaining about every ache and pain under the sun is not a philosophy of life.

Making more moola is not the right kind of big dream because you always think you’ll need more moola to make the next big dream come true. And then some day you look back and wish you had stopped working so hard to make more of the legal tender and just picked up and lived your real dream in life, even if it had required a little downsizing and simplifying life. You always felt a simpler life would be better anyway and sort of dreamed about it.

But then the opportunity for simplifying life and living a dream came too late and you’re flattened out and looking back on life with regrets and “things I wished I’d gone ahead and done while I still had my health.”

Trust me on this.

I’ve been a hospice chaplain.

You don't have to downsize and simplify all the way to the point of starting life from scratch in Belize and starting your dream life, but you can stop making excuses, stop having fears and insecurities hampering you from living your own dreams or preparing to make them happen sooner rather than later.

You don’t have to downsize and simplify all the way to the point of starting life from scratch in Belize and starting your dream life, but you can stop making excuses, stop having fears and insecurities hampering you from living your own dreams or preparing to make them happen sooner rather than later.

And now in the category of stories that really make you go “Wow!”–they didn’t let even major disabilities hamper their dreams . . .

This being National Mobility Awareness Month, check out the inspiring story of the Rev. Justin Hancock, a United Methodist clergy brother and grad of SMU’s Perkins School of Theology.

And then consider a vote for him.

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And then there’s this story of a remarkable woman I had the pleasure of knowing if only a little bit and for a little while–enough to have always marveled at her presence in a room at a dinner party, in the sanctuary of the church she served so faithfully, any place she happened to be moving about.

This is a nice tribute from my good friend and terrific UM pastor Eric Folkerth at his blog.

Another Belizean jungle stream with the famously cool--never cold and never too hot water.

Another Belizean jungle stream with the famously cool–never cold and never too hot water.

And then there was Roger Ebert, who refused to hole up and get out of the public realm even after cancer battles took a hard toll on his body and his very famous face.

He could socialize, which he did, and still write with his trademark incisiveness, grace, humor, Chicago brand of tough-mindedness, curiosity and an intellect that wouldn’t quit, always keeping his primary readers in mind with every word he ever wrote.

Ebert’s primary reader was always those of us who all of our lives have loved the experience of sitting in a dark movie theater with a large bag of popcorn and a belly washer and watching the silver screen come alive with films that entertain us and somehow move us and stay with us–sometimes for the rest of our lives.

I wrote a blurb here recently about the filmmaking giant Francis Ford Coppola and his love for Belize where he has a couple of 5-star resorts. (I passed by one of those on Mountain Pine Ridge the other day in my travels but there wasn’t time to see if the master Mr. Coppola was in the country; he needs to give me an interview sometime when he’s in my neck of the woods.)

When Coppola–who was credited with writing the script for Patton and went on to make a handful of the greatest movies ever made–started losing his moviemaking mojo, Ebert was merciless in forcing Coppola to pretty much give it up and devote his time to all his many others interests–building resorts and wineries, for example.

But you can bet that nobody respected Ebert anymore than the giants of film like Coppola, who knew that his thumbs up or down meant that they were only as great as the newest film–that Ebert’s review would be the one that mattered most because even if it was tough it would be fair–and probably absolutely right.

Take your rest, Ebert. You wowed us with your writing skills, your high-minded morality in the art of movie storytelling, and insistence on high film standards every day. And then made us go “Wow!” with your grace and courage in the face of the hardest knocks life can dish out.

Snack time for the youngbloods in a backyard at Placencia the beach town.

Snack time for the youngbloods in a backyard at Placencia the beach town.

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Down below you’ll find a prayer of Thanksgiving, one normally used as a communal or intercessory prayer in church worship.

I’ve modified it to the first person as a sort of prayer guide for you to name out loud, or to write down the names of people, who have helped, supported, loved and blessed you in your life journey–and those who continue to boost you.

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And you can do this because prayer is simple, really; even a child can do it; so just do it.

We’ve all been helped and supported along the way by a lot of other people, and some are special to us because of their extra boosterism on our behalf. There’s no such thing as “a self-made” man or woman. No man or woman can possibly be “an island,” isolated from the rest of the world without any need for others.

So name the names of those you wish to pray for and bless. For in blessing and praying for others, you pray for and bless yourself as well–and you bless God Himself/Herself.

And God feels your love.

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Almighty and ever-living God, I bring you thanks for your love manifested and shared in my life . . . .

For those who have been a good example to me,

and in their life showed me what life ought to be.

[Say or write names here . . . taking time to really bless them in your thoughts.]

* * * *

For those who have been an inspiration to me,

and have filled me with the desire to make of life a nobler thing.

[Name the persons who believed in you and spurred you on; think about how they did that and how you might be an inspiration to someone to a “nobler” life.]

* * * *

For those who have been a comfort to me,

especially when I experienced hurt, pain and anxiety.

[Name names . . . wrapping them in the greatest measure of your love and appreciation.]

* * * *

For those who have been a strength to me,

in whose company I am enabled to undertake great tasks.

[Names here . . . those who may see strength and abilities within yourself that you didn’t even know you had.]

* * * *

For those who have influenced me for good by their works, writings and words.

[Who are those who you carry within your heart and mind and soul as a result of the wonderful influence they’ve had on you? Say their name or write it and lift that person up to God in this prayer and blessing.]

* * * *

For those whose love, care, service and understanding I have taken for granted, receive now my thanks, O Lord.

[We all take the love and care of others for granted–a lot of people we take for granted. Who might those be in your life?]

* * * *

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer,

Amen.

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