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Archive for April, 2014

“Practice resurrection.”

— from poet Wendell Berry

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"Women at the Tomb"

“Women at the Tomb”

* Art by Sr. Mary Stephens CRSS at http://www.canonesses.co.uk/gallery/art/
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It’s one thing to confess Jesus as one’s Lord and personal savior.

It’s another thing to “practice resurrection.”

To practice resurrection is to practice love, joy, faith, hope and more hope, in spite of all the mud pies of cynicism (i.e., “sin-icism”) they’ll throw at you.

To practice resurrection is to love someone, forgive someone, show mercy to someone who doesn’t deserve it.

To practice resurrection is to be fearless in all the fear you can never quite escape.

To practice resurrection is to love God with all your heart, mind, body and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.

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“After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”

— From the Gospel of John 13

For Maundy Thursday (see here)

Belizeans walk miles and miles on rocky, dusty roads. The feet can get plenty dirty, as when Jesus walked.

Belizeans walk miles and miles on rocky, dusty roads. The feet can get plenty dirty, as when Jesus walked.

Back when Jesus walked, washing the feet of a guest in a home was far from being a glamorous job. But cleaning feet was an act of hospitality and a custom.

Somebody had to do it.

And it was usually the servants who had to do it.

Here in Belize, where most Belizeans struggle through life outside the purview of all those tourists covered in oil, relatively few people can afford to own or maintain cars and trucks. Those who do own them typically own prehistoric vehicles that come with odometers that have turned over multiple times since the 1980s.

Most car owners keep their driving to a minimum because Belize’s roads and streets are literally some of the worst in all of this great, big world. The ruts and rocks and potholes–Belize me, you can’t even imagine the sizes and number of potholes in the ultra-narrow streets of bustling Belize City–can do violence to a set of wheels in short order.

So Belizeans walk and walk a lot on roads and streets, which right now–in the peak of the six-month dry season–are as dusty as they are hot and dry. It’s not uncommon at all for the every-day Belizean to walk ten, fifteen and even more miles a day, in sandals or ragged shoes.

And the feet show it.

I’ve become aware of just how dry and cracked and callous and dirty the feet can get in an environment of the sort that Jesus and the people of his time walked in.

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Back when he walked with his disciples, Jesus was the man!

Jesus was the master!

So imagine the shock of the disciples when he took up a basin and towel and started washing their feet. Peter–that always peppy, child-like, pre-Resurrection Peter–was so taken aback that he told his Master Jesus that there was no way he’d be washing the Master’s dusty, dirty feet.

Of course Peter was bound to get his dirty, dusty feet washed by Jesus, who told him and the other disciples that he was setting an example of servitude for them, and disciples for all times, to follow.

In a way, we Christians are called to be cops of the Kingdom–the utterly good cops who advance the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.

We’re called in advancing the peaceable Kingdom that Christ ushered in to “Protect and Serve.”

That is, to protect and serve one another in fellowship and protect and serve the poorest and most vulnerable wherever they struggle through a day with tired, cracked, calloused feet.

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What a journey it was to Jerusalem for that strange mystic who had powers to make the broken whole again.

Along the way he’d demonstrated the power even to walk on water, revealing to us his ability to walk with us above all the turbulent waters of fear, anxiety, worry, illness.

palm-sunday

I can look out any window in my home and what I’ll see are the branches and leaves of palm and coconut trees all around. If I step outside and walk a few yards I can see the sturdy greenery of such trees nearby and miles away, too. Palm branches are strong and durable, able to withstand fierce wind and rain and blazing heat as well.

Jesus casually walked across the turbulent waters and triumphantly road across the “pavement” of palm branches and garments spread before him.

The whole of what happens in a lifetime is contained in the stories of Jesus walking across the stormy waters and his riding triumphantly into town on a humble donkey.

One day you’re on top of the world, riding high, honored, respected, feeling so good about yourself.

The next day somebody, if not life itself, is knocking you on your ass.

Jesus picks you up at the bottom of your slide and walks with you and, if necessary, carries you.

“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!”

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Still Life With Woman Reading Bible, San Jose Succotz Village.

Still Life With Woman Reading Bible, San Jose Succotz Village.

The sun is hot but the water's not.

The sun is hot but the water’s not.

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Belize is now in the peak dry season--won't be any rain until late May--but the dryness brings out big, colorful, gorgeous blooms.

Belize is now in the peak dry season–won’t be any rain until late May–but the dryness brings out big, colorful, gorgeous blooms.

Some places never get hot and dry though..

Some places never get hot and dry though..

Elmo is one of the sweetest of the town characters in San Ignacio. He lives with his mother, a retired principal, by one of the parks in town. He also ushers and takes up the tithe offerings every Sunday morning at St. Andrews Anglican Church.

Elmo is one of the sweetest of the town charactersin San Ignacio. He lives with his mother, a retired principal, by one of the parks in town. He also ushers and takes up the tithe offerings every Sunday morning at St. Andrews Anglican Church.

Sunday afternoons, attendance is high at the Mopan River.

Sunday afternoons, attendance is high at the Mopan River.

My friend Bubba from the States is a Vietnam vet who used to counsel vets suffering from post trauma. He has opened a vegetarian restaurant in San Ignacio.

My friend Bubba from the States is a Vietnam vet who used to counsel vets suffering from post trauma. He has opened a vegetarian restaurant in San Ignacio.

The tiny, tasty apple bananas are in season.

The tiny, tasty apple bananas are in season.

Until next time, may you find your own beat and march to it.

Until next time, may you find you own beat and march to it.

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SCRIPTURE: Psalm 13
KEY VERSES: (1, 2, 5, 6): How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 
How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? 
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

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“Broken cutters, broken saws,

broken buckles, broken laws,

broken bodies, broken bones,

broken voices on broken phones,

take a deep breathe,

feel like you’re chokin’,

everything is broken.”

— From “Everything is Broken,”
Written and recorded by Bob Dylan

When a poor person says, “I’m broke,” it’s not just a lack-of-money-thing. The poor person tends to be “broke” in countless ways.

One day while riding my motorbike on Belize’s Western Highway, I happened upon a Mayan friend of mine named Chanzy. His car was parked on the side of the road and he had his legs outstretched on the gravel, with his back leaning against a back tire.

He had his cap covering his face because he was crying like a baby, and crying hard.

Once he’d composed himself, Chanzy explained that he’d saved his hard-earned cash to buy the car for $600 U.S. while plopping down another $200 for repairs to get it running.

It ran for a couple of days before it broke down and reduced Chanzy to tears on the side of the road where I found him.

His Greatness Bob Dylan wrote and recorded a song called “Everything is Broken”—a song that, to my way of thinking, is all about the brokenness that comes with being poor.

In poverty, everything breaks down—everything from people’s hearts, minds, bodies and spirits to the cars they drive and the beds that they sleep in (assuming that a poor person has a car to drive or a bed for rest at all).

So it was with Chanzy. He actually said to me on the side of the road, before I drove him to a mechanic in town, “There’s no use trying to have anything; everything in Belize is broken.”

* * * *

Honestly, I can say from living in solidarity with the poor in Belize that many days I look around in the neighborhoods and villages and see so much brokenness that I wonder if anything in this country ever works or keeps working, other than operations at the high-dollar resorts and casinos. Even with the frequent blackouts where I live here in San Ignacio, the one place in town where the electricity never, ever stops working is at the casino at the luxurious San Ignacio Resort. Even the generator at the hospital has been known to fail when the power fails.

But the flashy, seductive lights at the casino are flashing all hours, non-stop, enticing the poor as well as the rich and well-to-do to come in and take a chance.

The only thing that never breaks down–not completely–in my friend Chanzy’s life is his faith. After I gave him a ride after his brief but intense breakdown and his lamenting of the brokenness of everything in Belize, I offered to pray with him. His face lit up as he removed his cap and reached out and gripped my hand.

Claro!” he said excitedly, which means “of course.”

When I finished praying and said my “amen,” he immediately started praying for me.

* * * *

Psalm 13 is one of the many “lament Psalms” in which a Psalmist feels so broken down that he feels he can’t go on. In his anger or frustration, the Psalmist cries out to a God who can feel as far away as a planet in a universe yet to be discovered. But always the Psalmist comes back around, at the end of his Psalm, to express trust in the goodness of the Lord, as Chanzy, God bless him, came back to his faith that day in our encounter.

The poor have precious little, and yet much to teach us about faith.

“But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalm 13: 5-6.)

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