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Archive for October, 2013


This rain gives one paws.

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The good news is: The heavy rain has stopped enough today for the river flooding to recede enough that you can see vestiges of the “low bridge” that leads into San Ignacio.

The bad news is: It just started raining. Again. While I was on my trusty red steed Rojo the red motorcycle. Rojo does not like rain.

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Washing veggies in the river, especially in a flood, is not something I’d do even when the river is clear. But some do.
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If it ever stops I’m going back to the beach at Placencia.

Those were the days.

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Or go back to Texas and bang de Mayan drums with my grandson Rhys all day

He’s a natural Jitterbug child.

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My youngest-born "baby" Megan and her big Texan husband Jake. A large time was had in Texas at daughter's wedding where I choked up only once in officiating but was able to quickly recover and get them married. The outdoor wedding was under a perfectly blue October sky.

My youngest-born “baby” Megan and her big Texan husband Jake. A large time was had in Texas at daughter’s wedding where I choked up only once in officiating but was able to quickly recover and get them married. The outdoor wedding was under a perfectly blue October sky.

Also got to spend some quality time back home with family, including grandson Rhys ……

.... and his big bro Trey "The Weasel," as his mother fondly refers to him.

…. and his big bro Trey “The Weasel,” as his mother fondly refers to him.

So I just spent two wonderful weeks back home in Te

xas that included a Saturday afternoon, under perfectly bright blue skies, in which I officiated at the marriage of my youngest-born daughter, Megan (5-feet) to her husband Jake “Too Tall” Bidelman (6-foot-6).

I just got back home to Belize Sunday evening to find the whole country fast sinking under water.

October in Texas is the best month. October in Belize is the cruelest.

A Belizean friend quipped today, “I’ve seen it rain 40 days and 40 nights in the 31 days of October.”

As they say in Belize, “I Belize it.”

Meanwhile, back in Belize--a nation under water tonight--it's wet and, in places, seriously muddy. And he went down THAT street without 4-Wheel Drive? (4-Wheel Drive not included on Belizean bicycles.)

Meanwhile, back in Belize–a nation under water tonight–it’s wet and, in places, seriously muddy. And he went down THAT street without 4-Wheel Drive? (4-Wheel Drive not included on Belizean bicycles.)

One of the muddier streets in Belize Monday--the one the car above got thoroughly stuck in.

One of the muddier streets in Belize Monday–the one the car above got thoroughly stuck in.

Deep beneath that swollen river water is the wood-plank, one-way bridge that leads into the city of San Ignacio, BZ. Fortunately, the old iron bridge leading out of San Ignacio is very high and dry. It's also a serious narrow, one-way bridge but is doing duty these days for comers and goers, which stacks up some serious lines of traffic and is wearing out the traffic cops.

Deep beneath that swollen river water is the wood-plank, one-way bridge that leads into the city of San Ignacio, BZ. Fortunately, the old iron bridge leading out of San Ignacio is very high and dry. It’s also a serious narrow, one-way bridge but is doing duty these days for comers and goers, which stacks up some serious lines of traffic and is wearing out the traffic cops.

The good thing about the flood down around the low bridge at the river is--the fishing was fantastic today.

The good thing about the flood down around the low bridge at the river is–the fishing was fantastic today.

The river bridge into San Ig on a normal day

The river bridge into San Ig on a normal day

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Catholic college president Nancy Blattner took a group of students to a "forgotten part of Belize" to  work and live a while with the poor in building a church. The group ended up building relationships and going back to New Jersey with "a promise to keep."

Catholic college president Nancy Blattner took a group of students to a “forgotten part of Belize” to work and live a while with the poor in building a church. The group ended up building relationships and going back to New Jersey with “a promise to keep.”

What I will always cherish is what profoundly touched each of us on this trip [to Belize]– not the building [of a church] but the relationships we built with the villagers and the glimpses they allowed us into their souls.”

— Nancy Blattner on her mission trip to Belize with college students

Seeing as I’m a stained-glassed Wesleyan from a long line of Methodist flesh and blood–but one with serious Catholic sensibilities–I’ve been an avid reader for years of the National Catholic Reporter. NCR is widely regarded as one of the best publications in the entire field of Christian journalism and not just the Catholic genre.

So the story you’ll find posted below from NCR about a college president’s mission trip to Belize naturally caught my attention.

Author Nancy Blattner, who is president of the Catholic Caldwell College in New Jersey, vividly describes the “third world” Belize that is always referred to at this blog as “the other side of Paradise.”

That other side is not the beautiful and romantic Belize of beachfront homes built by well-to-do American expats on the coastlines and cayes and the Eden-like streams and water caves.

It’s the third-world Belize of homes with earthen floors, mattresses made of corn shucks and ever-burning fire pits for the chicken soup and tortilla making.

For sure, that poverty side is a beautiful Belize as well, but beautiful in a holy different way. Jesus himself–never forget–found the deepest beauty in all the gut-wrenching poverty he walked in, with all the desperately needy people he walked alongside.

    This meal was an accomplishment in a house where there was no electricity or running water. The occupants slept in hammocks that they strung up on the rafters during the day. All of the clothing for the family members hung on pegs on one side of the building.

    — Excerpt from article in the Catholic NCR magazine

What jumped at me from this short-term Catholic missioner’s article was her saying that the memorable thing about the trip was the building of relationships.

Indeed, that’s what any church’s mission work with the poor is always about–building relationships. Whether it’s building homes or churches on a global mission trip, or serving soup at the soup kitchen nearest you every week, church mission and outreach is about building relationships with people.

It’s about rubbing elbows with others that you might otherwise ignore, or even look down on with judgment.

Once you come to know the poor up-close and personal–once you hear their stories and realize that their humanity was created in the same image of God as your own and that all of us are, at bottom, more alike than different–the wider your heart grows in compassion and understanding.

Doing mission and outreach with the poor, up-close and personal, for the first time, always requires that you step out of that proverbial “comfort zone” that most of us terribly blessed, well-to-do American Christians live in.

But doing a mission trip or committing to Christian outreach with the poor and marginalized closer to home inevitably changes the lives of people who never really stepped out of a comfort zone and into a poverty zone before.

* * * *

Building relationships requires listening to those people you serve, not going in and telling them what they need to do or not do, and certainly not telling them that they need to change their ways. You don’t go to somebody else’s house or turf and tell them they need to rearrange the furniture in a way that you think is better.

It’s not about telling them what they need or delivering things to them what you think they must need, as church mission teams for too long tended to do. It’s about building a rapport with them so that you can ask them what they need that you may be able to provide, without coming across as condescending or arrogant or even somehow superior.

We all have this thing called pride and don’t like to feel shamed or somehow inferior.

* * * *

A church’s mission and outreach is always about sharing power, not having power over the other nor acting as if you are below the other to build them up.

It’s about the sharing the love thing of Christ with others who may very well bless you way more than you will bless them by serving them.

Here’s the aforementioned feature story from the National Catholic Reporter that was headlined “There is a promise to keep in Belize::

    By Nancy Blattner
    Henry David Thoreau asked, “Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” That priceless perspective, a view of “the other’s world,” happened to me last spring when I led a group of Caldwell College students to Belize on a service project.

    Our mission was to assist three local carpenters in the building of a church in the village of Corazon Creek, a site 32 miles from our lodgings in Punta Gorda, a town of 6,000 in an area nicknamed “the Forgotten District” of Belize. The first morning, we saw that the concrete foundation of the church had been poured and some of the pillars set. Our task was to pour the remaining pillars, frame the structure and construct the roof — 11 handmade triangular support beams — before fastening the zinc sheeting to the trusses. Pentecost would be celebrated in this church at the end of the week, and we didn’t want to disappoint the eight Catholic families of the village or those who would come from much farther away, by walking or by bus.

    We were successful, finishing by midafternoon on Friday. What I will always cherish is what profoundly touched each of us on this trip — not the building but the relationships we built with the villagers and the glimpses they allowed us into their souls.

    On our first workday, we were invited to have lunch with Christina and Roberto, who lived adjacent to the building site. Their family hut had an earthen floor and a fire pit at one end, over which the village women were boiling rice and chicken and making tortillas. No discernible furniture was in sight. Villagers squatted on the floor to eat while the Caldwell group found sacks of rice and dried ears of corn on which to sit. The meal consisted of stacks of tortillas and a meager portion of rice with a small quantity of chicken that contained either bones, fat or both.

    This meal was an accomplishment in a house where there was no electricity or running water. The occupants slept in hammocks that they strung up on the rafters during the day. All of the clothing for the family members hung on pegs on one side of the building. The house was covered with a roof made from thatched palm fronds. Despite living amid what we would call abject poverty, the villagers graciously provided us shelter from the oppressive heat and shared their food with us. Throughout the week, they continued to share their lives.

      During the week we were in Belize, we helped the villagers of Corazon Creek build a Catholic church. They provided us with a broader perspective of life and helped the Caldwell College team more deeply learn the meaning of sacrifice and blessing.”

    The college students loved entertaining the village children whenever they weren’t busy on the construction site. Elizabeth, who repeatedly fell to the ground when “shot” by Marcus’ invisible gun, said she’d do anything to hear the children’s laughter. As soon as she got up from one such attack, the boys would yell, “Again, again!” and when she obliged, their laughter filled our hearts. Lindsay spent hours coloring and drawing with Margie and her little sister, using books and crayons we’d bought at the local gas station after our first day in the village. Adela and Selenia spent time holding babies Giovanni and Dylen, and took up a collection from the group to purchase a soccer ball for the community, as well as toy cars, dolls and whistles to give to each of the families in the village who had children. When we finished our work for the week, Margie asked us, “When are you coming back?” while Stephen pleaded with us to return soon.

    Christina asked me during a break whether my husband and I had come from far away to help them build the village church. I answered simply, “Yes.” She asked me where we lived. I debated before replying because I was uncertain whether she would have heard of New Jersey, so instead I said, “Near New York City.” She replied, “Is that in Punta Gorda?” I realized that she had never heard of the United States, and I wondered what we might share in common, since I had been fortunate enough to travel internationally, to receive a good education, to live with the conveniences found in a First World country. Yet through our conversations, I realized we share many similarities: We both value gratitude and family. We are both married and the mother of three children. We are both faithful Catholics and we both had responded to God’s call in our lives — in her case by opening her home to a group of visitors and in mine by taking a group of students on a service trip.

    During the week we were in Belize, we helped the villagers of Corazon Creek build a Catholic church. They provided us with a broader perspective of life and helped the Caldwell College team more deeply learn the meaning of sacrifice and blessing. I find myself praying daily for the villagers of Corazon Creek, as well as my students who traveled to Belize. I look forward to the coming academic year when we will return to Punta Gorda. There are more lessons to be learned, more relationships to build, more connections to be found — and a promise to be kept to the children who asked us to come back.

    [Nancy Blattner is president of Caldwell College in Caldwell, N.J.]

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When Ike was liked, and almost universally so (the John Birch Society notwithstanding).

Republican Ike Eisenhower's agenda that got him overwhelmingly re-elected. Such were the good old days of a kinder, gentler nation.

Republican Ike Eisenhower’s agenda that got him overwhelmingly re-elected. Such were the good old days of a kinder, gentler nation.

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My buddy Father David delivers another animated, very interactive sermon at St Hilda's Anglican Church in Georgeville, Belize. He's a superb priest and pastor, and a favorite buddy of mine. Fluent in Spanish, he served in South America before landing in western Belize. Indiana born and bred, but he also served in San Diego and studied a bit at Oxford across the pond, channeling C.S. Lewis. We been known to raise a glass to Lewis after hours. And to toast John Wesley the Anglican priest. And Bishop Tutu. We do a lot of toasting come to think of it.

My buddy Father David delivers another animated, very interactive sermon at St Hilda’s Anglican Church in Georgeville, Belize. He’s a superb priest and pastor, and a favorite buddy of mine. Fluent in Spanish, he served in South America before landing in western Belize. Indiana born and bred, but he also served in San Diego and studied a bit at Oxford across the pond, channeling C.S. Lewis. We been known to raise a glass to Lewis after hours.

Father David, who formerly assisted the rector at the St. Andrew’s Anglican in San Ignacio, is an impressive young priest, age 30, and very dynamic and animated preacher, as well as a caring pastor. He’s also one of my best buddies–always good company for serious conversation or just a good time and a lot of laughs.

In today’s announcements to his flock he talked about the rising attendance at the daily prayer services he’s started, which are held at 7:30 every morning, Monday through Friday.

“We had 17 people show up to start the day with prayer at that early hour one day last week,” he noted. “I was so happy my socks were rolling up and down.”

Postcards from church, mostly:

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A couple of the scripture readers at the St Hilda's Anglican service Sunday morn.

A couple of the scripture readers at the St Hilda’s Anglican service Sunday morn.

And today's Psalm reader. Father David wants the kids involved

And today’s Psalm reader. Father David wants the kids involved

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[caption id="attachment_29078" align="aligncenter" width="500"]St Hilda's school office St Hilda’s school office

There's BZ in blue on the Caribbean below Mexico's Yucatan and down the shore from Cancun, with neighboring Guatemala to the west and Honduras to the south, and  more of Central America

There’s BZ in blue on the Caribbean below Mexico’s Yucatan and down the shore from Cancun, with neighboring Guatemala to the west and Honduras to the south, and more of Central America

Until next time, be like the Belizean spider monkey and just hang in there

Until next time, be like the Belizean spider monkey and just hang in there

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Yes, only at the blawg that is saving the world will you get an aging rock star and an older icon of a Presbyterian writer featured in the same posting.

Scroll down and rock on, dear reader . . .

Sixty-five and been around the mountain a few times only to come out wiser and stronger.

Sixty-five and been around the mountain a few times only to come out wiser and stronger.

Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you

But time makes you bolder
Children get older . . .
I’m getting older too

— Stevie Nicks

Here’s some music therapy by that great Old Soul and Queen of Rockdom Stevie Nicks and her soul mate Lindsey Buckingham.

(For Ames and Mo and Meggles)

And here’s some words of wisdom on aging by His Greatness the Christian writer and Presbyterian minister, he who doesn’t attend church and yet is a “preacher’s preacher,” Frederick Buechner.

(More about, and from, His Greatness the Rev. Buechner here.)

His Greatness the preacher and writer Frederick Buechner, with words of wisdom about a "second childhood."

His Greatness the preacher and writer Frederick Buechner, with words of wisdom about a “second childhood.”

“It (old age), as the saying goes, is not for sissies. There are some lucky ones who little by little slow down to be sure but otherwise go on to the end pretty much as usual. For the majority, however, it’s like living in a house that’s in increasing need of repairs. The plumbing doesn’t work right any more. There are bats in the attic. Cracked and dusty, the windows are hard to see through, and there’s a lot of creaking and groaning in bad weather. The exterior could use a coat of paint. And so on. The odd thing is that the person living in the house may feel, humanly speaking, much as always. The eighty-year-old body can be in precarious shape yet the spirit within as full of beans as ever. If that leads senior citizens to think of all the things they’d still love to do but can’t anymore, it only makes things worse. But it needn’t work that way.

“Second childhood commonly means something to steer clear of, but it can also mean something else. It can mean that if your spirit is still more or less intact, one of the benefits of being an old crock is that you can enjoy again something of what it’s like being a young squirt.

“Eight-year-olds like eighty-year-olds have lots of things they’d love to do but can’t because their bodies aren’t up to it, so they learn to play instead. Eighty-year-olds might do well to take notice. They can play at being eighty-year-olds for instance. Stiff knees and hearing aids, memory loss and poor eyesight, are no fun, but there are those who marvelously survive them by somehow managing to see them as, among other things and in spite of all, a little funny. Another thing is that if part of the pleasure of being a child the first time round is that you don’t have to prove yourself yet, part of the pleasure of being a child the second time round is that you don’t have to prove yourself any longer. You can be who you are and say what you feel, and let the chips fall where they may. Very young children and very old children also have in common the advantage of being able to sit on the sideline of things. While everybody else is in there jockeying for position and sweating it out, they can lean back, put their feet up, and like the octogenarian King Lear “pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh at gilded butterflies.”

    “Very young children and very old children also have in common the advantage of being able to sit on the sideline of things. While everybody else is in there jockeying for position and sweating it out, they can lean back, put their feet up, and like the octogenarian King Lear “pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh at gilded butterflies.”

“Very young children and very old children also seem to be in touch with something that the rest of the pack has lost track of. There is something bright and still about them at their best, like the sun before breakfast. Both the old and the young get scared sometimes about what lies ahead of them, and with good reason, but you can’t help feeling that whatever inner goldenness they’re in touch with will see them through in the end.”

— From Whistling in the Dark

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"Worry doesn't repair anything," my wise Belizean friend pictured here told me as he was chilling at the roundabout downtown. No wiser words were ever spoken. And of course it brings to mind the wisdom of Jesus in a scripture from Matthew you'll find below.

“Worry doesn’t repair anything,” my wise Belizean friend pictured here told me as he was chilling at the roundabout downtown. No wiser words were ever spoken. And of course it brings to mind the wisdom of Jesus in a scripture from Matthew you’ll find below.

From the Gospel of Matthew 6: 25-34, concerning the futility of worry and anxiety as opposed to peace in the present moment–the holiness of the here and now–where God keeps us embraced like a warm blanket on a cold, dark night:

    “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

    “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

    “And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?

    “And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.

    “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?”

    “For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But strive first for the kingdom of God* and his* righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

    “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

These things I remember,    as I pour out my soul: how I went with the throng,*    and led them in procession to the house of God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving,    a multitude keeping festival.  Why are you cast down, O my soul,    and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,    my help and my God. -- from Psalm 42

These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I went with the throng,*
and led them in procession to the house of God,
with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving,
a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God. — from Psalm 42

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