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Archive for August, 2013

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For a large time with something completely different (with respect to Monty Python), click on the following link:

http://dogwork.com/buhr9

(Hat Tip: Annette “The Original Tyler Rose” Richey Gabbard, who has a thing for hilarious bunnies.)

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But let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. -- Amos 5: 24

But let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
— Amos 5: 24

WASHINGTON — More than one-third of the nation’s highest-paid CEOs from the past two decades led companies that were subsidized by American taxpayers, according to a report released Wednesday by the Institute for Policy Studies, a liberal think tank.

“Financial bailouts offer just one example of how a significant number of America’s CEO pay leaders owe much of their good fortune to America’s taxpayers,” reads the report. “Government contracts offer another.”

IPS has been publishing annual reports on executive compensation since 1993, tracking the 25 highest-paid CEOs each year and analyzing trends in payouts. Of the 500 total company listings, 103 were banks that received government bailouts under the Troubled Asset Relief Program, while another 62 were among the nation’s most prolific government contractors.

— From Huffington Post (Click here for more)

As a true conservative, I have a dream . . .

or actually several dreams . . .

(1) that someday Christians in America will make government welfare and government-funded programs for the poor obsolete by stepping up and being Christians, rather than talking about their faith, by:

    giving and sharing enough of their money, time and service to lift up the poor from the cycles of poverty, thereby giving the poor the hope that motivates and gives them incentive to better themselves and their characters;

    and, as Christians, by being prophetic and insisting, as Jesus and the prophets for social justice before him did, that all the capitalistic “playing fields” in America be leveled.

(2) a dream that someday Christians in America will take back their government of, by and for the people by raising their voices mightily against the government-funded corporate- and CEO-welfare system that enables the rich to write American laws and get richer–along with the Administrations and Congresses they’ve bought and owned for decades–while the ever-growing poor and “working poor” struggle from paycheck to paycheck, welfare check to welfare check–and being bashed at every turn while the government-subsidized super rich are respected as self-made successes no matter how unethical or even criminal they may be.

(3) that Christians will finally so “walk the walk” as well as “talk the talk” so that government will truly be limited and America’s people will all feel treated so justly and fairly that the Christian churches in America really will, finally, shine as the universal church like “a shining city on a hill.”

Like a cage full of birds,
their houses are full of treachery;
therefore they have become great and rich,
they have grown fat and sleek.
They know no limits in deeds of wickedness;
they do not judge with justice
the cause of the orphan, to make it prosper,
and they do not defend the rights of the needy.
Shall I not punish them for these things?

says the Lord,
and shall I not bring retribution
on a nation such as this?”

— Jeremiah 5: 27-29

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"I believe in the forest, and in the meadow, and in the night in which the corn grows." -- Thoreau in his essay on walking

“I believe in the forest, and in the meadow, and in the night in which the corn grows.” — Thoreau in his essay on walking

Another quietly interesting roadside attraction.

Another quietly interesting roadside attraction.

In one of his frequent New York Times essays, Pico Iyer wrote:

    “The divine oneness of life is within and all around us. Sometimes walking alone in nature we can feel its heartbeat and its wonder, and our steps become steps of remembrance. The simple practice of “walking in a sacred manner”—-in which with every step we take we feel the connection with the sacred Earth—-is one way to reconnect with the living spirit of the Earth.”

That’s my kind of walking.

I take long, meditative walks that can be taken anywhere you are. Such walks are prayers in themselves.

But of course sometimes in spiritual walks to nowhere in particular down the kazillions of rocky, white roads and trails of western Belize I pause to snap a postcard.

Walked a couple of miles down a bush road Monday evening and heard and saw lots of interesting birds without seeing another human until finally coming upon a nice little farm where this farmer was in his fields with a Central American Power Tool (machete).

Walked a couple of miles down a bush road Monday evening and heard and saw lots of interesting birds without seeing another human until finally coming upon a nice little farm where this farmer was in his fields with a Central American Power Tool (machete).

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School boys from Guatemala who had been in Belize for a school event stopped by the Mopan Riverside on the way home.

School boys from Guatemala who had been in Belize for a school event stopped by the Mopan Riverside on the way home.

Cooling down on a Sunday afternoon.

Cooling down on a Sunday afternoon.

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A night church--services every night.

A night church–services every night.

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Martin, who said he's "de-thatching" the old gazebo to build a bigger gazebo at his home in Cristo Rey Village.

Martin, who said he’s “de-thatching” the old gazebo to build a bigger gazebo at his home in Cristo Rey Village.

At the Cahal Pech Mayan ruins, some of the most ancient in Belize.

At the Cahal Pech Mayan ruins, some of the most ancient in Belize.

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A little bit of Texas in Belize--an orange grove farmer from Canada (or maybe England, the watchman who stopped me told me) bought a bunch of farm equipment in Waco that he had hauled to his place with this trailer he bought in Waco, years ago. You never know what you'll stumble upon walking in "The Wild West," as they call western Belize.

A little bit of Texas in Belize–an orange grove farmer from Canada (or maybe England, the watchman who stopped me told me) bought a bunch of farm equipment in Waco that he had hauled to his place with this trailer he bought in Waco, years ago. You never know what you’ll stumble upon walking in “The Wild West,” as they call western Belize.

Until next time, happy trails and adios from me and my friend who lives behind the post office where he raises turkeys for Christmas, in the Village of Black Man Eddy. And yes, there’s an actual village on the Western Highway named “Black Man Eddy,” for a black man named Eddy who died in legendary and not-so-good way. But that’s a story for another day.

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Longtime Jitterbug cultist the Mystic L.K. writes:

Hey Friend!

This paragraph is from a novel called Shatter Me, by Tahereh Mafi,

It’s heartbreakingly beautiful poetry disguised as prose.

I played around with it and put it in poetry form because I think it should be savored and read slowly, preferably aloud.

I’m going to order this book with the hope of finding more paragraphs like this one.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Pax,

L.K.

So with the full and beautiful “blue moon” we’ve had lately it seemed the right time to post this from the mystic and mysterious L.K., whoever she is:

The moon is a loyal companion. It never leaves. It’s always there, watching, steadfast, knowing us in our light and dark moments, changing forever just as we do. Every day it’s a different version of itself. Sometimes weak and wan, sometimes strong and full of light. The moon understands what it means to be human. Uncertain. Alone. Cratered by imperfections.”

— Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

And here’s the poetry version as created by L.

“THE MOON”
The moon
is a loyal companion.
It never leaves.

It’s always there,
watching,
steadfast,
knowing us
in our light
and dark moments,
changing forever
just as we do.

Every day
it’s a different version of itself.

Sometimes weak
and wan,
sometimes strong
and full of light.

The moon understands
what it means to be human.
Uncertain.
Alone.
Cratered by imperfections.”

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(This is another in the ongoing series of “Noon Wine” reflections in scriptures related to poverty and the poor.)

Undocumented Guatemalan immigrant Elvira Lopez, 22, stands on crutches at the Jesus el Buen Pastor shelter in Tapachula, Mexico, on July 31, 2013. She has been convalescing at the shelter for six months after falling under the wheels of a freight train and losing her right leg while en route to the United States. The shelter, which relies entirely on private donations, has helped countless immigrants recover from their wounds while helping arrange for prosthetics. Lopez said she fell asleep 5 days into her journey from Guatemala and was knocked off the train by a tree branch. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Undocumented Guatemalan immigrant Elvira Lopez, 22, stands on crutches at the Jesus el Buen Pastor shelter in Tapachula, Mexico, on July 31, 2013. She has been convalescing at the shelter for six months after falling under the wheels of a freight train and losing her right leg while en route to the United States. The shelter, which relies entirely on private donations, has helped countless immigrants recover from their wounds while helping arrange for prosthetics. Lopez said she fell asleep 5 days into her journey from Guatemala and was knocked off the train by a tree branch. (John Moore/Getty Images)

SCRIPTURE: Romans 12: 9-20

KEY VERSES: (16) “Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.” (My italics for emphasis.)

So we Christians are to associate with the lowly?

St. Paul instructs to do just that–to drop any conceits and haughtiness we harbor and get down and dirty with the poor, the powerless, the marginalized, the “lowly.”

That’s a humbling spiritual practice, but humility is always the point when it comes to the theologies of poverty and in reaching out to the poor and powerless. It seems that Paul, who once noted that Jesus humbled himself all the way to death the cross (Philippians 2: 8), was always and forever mindful that Jesus himself had said, “All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23: 12).

* * * *

But who might be the “lowly” that Paul urges us to hang out with?

Are they the unwashed masses who band together on the downtown streets waiting for soup kitchens to open? Or might they be the undocumented immigrants who risk life and limb to get to America to scrub our toilets and mop our floors and tend our gardens and pave our highways in blazing heat?

Would “the lowly” be the con artist and “low-life” who, in his or her despair, ended up in prison for dealing crack cocaine on the streets?

Is the lowly one the able-bodied poor person who, in his yielding to despair after a lifetime of being whipped down, literally or figuratively, is too lazy to work?

Is it the unskilled, “working poor” woman who–like a neighbor I had at a Dallas apartment–worked three jobs that netted her a total income under $20,000 year to support herself and two children?

She lost two of the jobs, by the way, when the transmission on her car broke and there was no money for repairs.

Immigrants arrive for a rest stop after a 15 hour ride atop a freight train headed north in Ixtepec, Mexico, on August 4, 2013. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Immigrants arrive for a rest stop after a 15 hour ride atop a freight train headed north in Ixtepec, Mexico, on August 4, 2013. (John Moore/Getty Images)

I wonder if perhaps the “lowly” one that the Apostle Paul–not to mention Jesus–would have me “associate” with is the one that I, with all my natural human prejudice, “look down on,” based on my life experience with people I don’t understand and perhaps don’t care to understand.

It does seem to me, in all honesty, that we all have some kind of superiority complex–that we all look down on somebody. Maybe that’s why humility is one of those threads that we see running through the Bible from start to finish. God in God’s power is constantly humbling somebody who is puffed up with pride and power and prejudice.

Paul himself, who was seemingly obsessed with instructing early Christians to humble themselves, had been humbled in a big way, after all, on that road to Damascus.

* * * *

Who, really, is “too lowly” for a Christian to associate with and witness to in the unbiased love and grace of Christ? For sure, the early generations of Christians for the better part of 300 years astounded people by associating with anyone and everyone, regardless of class or social status, gender, race or ethnicity, education or anything else.

They understood that Jesus himself had broken down all those barriers, and therefore believed that no one was “too lowly” to be included in the circle of God’s love and grace, mercy and forgiveness.

Is anyone “too lowly” for Christians to associate with–anyone too lacking in importance or social status, anyone too poor or, for that matter, too haughty and rich–for an invitation to the Association of Christian Hospitality?

We’re always looking to the Bible for answers to everything, as if God were the Answer Man who dropped the Book of Answers from the sky one day.

But the Bible always answers back with more challenging questions than pat answers, questions that challenge us to grow and break out of our comfort zones.

Who indeed is too lowly for us to talk with, to listen to and hear, to be seen with, to “associate” with, to witness to by simply caring enough to be there in love and grace, compassion and mercy?

*(The photos are from Getty Images photographer John Moore, who has spent years covering stories about immigration between Mexico and the United States. For more pictures and more on his enterprising photojournalism click here.)

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Heading home from the hills in the bush.

Heading home to the village from the hills.

It's not as if the horse wouldn't find his way back home without them though.

It’s not as if the horse wouldn’t find his way back home without them though.

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(This is another in the ongoing series of “Noon Wine” reflections on “the poor” and the multiple meanings of “poverty” as found in scripture.)

SCRIPTURE READING: Luke 12: 13-21 (Parable of the Rich Fool)

KEY VERSES: (15) “And he said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.'”

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The salt-of-the-earth old-timers in oil- and cattle-rich Texas used to say, “Some folks are so poor, they got nothin’ but money.”

St. Augustine knew what it was to have “nothin’ but money” in his pleasure-seeking youth–days that he looked back on as the poorest of his life. So the fully converted, spiritually mature Augustine knew of what he spoke when he said:

    “Poverty is the load of some and wealth is the load of others, perhaps the greater one of the two. . .

    “Bear the load of your neighbor’s poverty, and let him bear with you the load of your wealth. You lighten your load by lightening his.”

I’ve never had to “bear the load” of what I would consider financial wealth, since I’ve never been burdened with any too much money. Thank God I’ve never had to bear the load of poverty either.

But it’s obvious that rich and poor alike can suffer the spiritual emptiness that comes with separation from God. As I’ve said in this series and will say, being financially poor does not a saint or even decent person make, any more than being rich does.

But Augustine, who became one with the poor by “making myself a beggar with the beggars” (Sermon 66: 5), said repeatedly what the bible makes clear–that “the presence of the Lord is in the person of the poor.”

* * * *

Augustine acknowledged that wealth can do good, but warned repeatedly that money and valuables are simply dangerous for the arrogance and avarice they can spawn. Avarice, he warned, is the “worm of wealth,” noting how easy it is to become arrogant, greedy and corrupt in heart when you hold the gold.

Kneeling in humility before the power of God comes more naturally to the poor, because the poor already are laid low by poverty. The wealthy can be too burdened by pride–the sin that Augustine considered the sin of sins–to stoop down, as the divine Jesus stooped down to be in solidarity with us in all our poverties of the heart, the mind, the soul, the spirit.

* * * *

Two lessons are obvious but significant from the story of the rich fool:

1. Greed, contrary to the famous movie line, is not good; nothing good can come of it in relationship with God and our neighbors, or for the welfare of a community, a nation or the world. Reading today’s financial and criminal news goes right back to the reasons Jesus warned so emphatically to “be on guard against every kind of greed!”

2. One can, as the rich fool in the parable learned, build more and bigger barns for selfishly hoarding riches. But in the end, it’s the treasures you laid up yonder when, as the old hymn goes, the roll is called up yonder, that count.

“You fool!” God roared in the parable of the rich fool. “This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?”

That also reminds me of what the old folks in Texas used to say:

    “You can’t take it with you.”

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