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Archive for May, 2014

SCRIPTURE: John 5: 1-15

KEY VERSES (6-9): “When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’ The sick man answered him, ‘Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Stand up, take your mat and walk.’ At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.”

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The so-called “Misery Index” is a statistic economists use to measure a nation’s “misery,” simply by adding the unemployment rate to the inflation rate. The higher the two statistics, the greater a nation’s misery.

Samuel (Mark Twain) Clemens was none to impressed with stats. “There’s lies, damn lies and statistics,” he quipped.

Master manipulators can toy with stats the way manipulators can toy with scriptures cherry-picked from the bible. But stats aren’t all bad, contrary to the satirical Mr. Clemens’ claim. Stats can and do serve us well in analyzing all kinds of things, and in charting plans for the future.

My problem with stats pertaining to poverty is that they’re empty of flesh and blood. As helpful as they may be in determining the severity of hunger and homelessness and yes, unemployment and inflation, too—stats are dead numbers on a page or computer screen.

To comprehend the misery of people who are statistics in “The Misery Index,” you have to get a real taste of their misery by getting up-close and personal with them.

Consider the thermometer. It’s is a great tool in the doctor’s bag for obtaining a cold, diagnostic number of a patient with a hot fever. But to see and sense and determine the real misery of the patient, the doctor has to be up-close and personal. The doctor needs to know or get to know the patient. The doctor has to hear the patient speak and see the patient’s pain in order to bring healing and relief.

Sometimes, a doctor can be just the friend you need to lift you out of your physical poverty and the mental poverty that comes with illness.

Sometimes you can be a doctor to some poor soul stuck in the poverty of a slum, a street corner or shantytown. The “physician of souls” needs all the assistance he can get.

* * * * * * * *

Julia Demaree is the director of the Emmaus House, an Orthodox Christian ministry in Harlem that, according to its website, “extends healing, hope and hospitality to an average of 3,200 women, children and families every month.” Part of an article that Demaree wrote for the Orthodox Peace Foundation’s “In Communion” (www.incommunion.org) website caught my eye:

“My heart always skips a beat when I engage these folks on the street whose marginal lives are held by such fragile threads. They do not have the luxury or wherewithal to hide or to camouflage their poverty, their disappointments and their desperation. Life is proclaimed on their faces, in their body smell, in their empty pockets, in their outstretched hands. I tend to move closer to them so that some of their vulnerability will rub off on me, inform my life of the need for humility, and the need to beg for love.”

If I may sum up Ms. Demaree’s eloquent words, the poor don’t have “the luxury or wherewithal” to hide their many miseries, which can’t be seen, smelled or felt in any economic statistic.

* * * * * * * *

In the story of the disabled man by the side of the healing pool, Jesus finds a poor soul suffering from a variety of miseries that can be called poverties. This is a man who couldn’t hide his misery if he wanted to. He’s suffering from the miseries—that is, the poverties—of physical pain, of emotional and mental anguish, of disappointment and heartache. He’s suffering the misery of torment by oppressive, uncaring religious leaders unwilling to help him, least of all on the Sabbath Day! Jesus, the “Great Physician,” in fact gets himself into trouble with the Pharisees (as usual) by healing and giving a new life to this poor man on the Sabbath.

Jesus deplored misery. Jesus dispensed mercy, curing people of the miseries (poverties) of everything from sin to severe illness.

Material poverty bites people with all kinds of other poverties; the stinging bite of it spreads miseries that no economic “Misery Index” can begin to expose.

I suppose there’s no such thing as a statistical “Mercy Index.” But you’ll see the healing power of mercy at work for yourself if you get to know the poor and walk with them in their shoes a while, dispensing the simple but potent mercies of friendship and care.

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Me and my homeboy from Texas Ed Jenkins, the man who came to Belize almost 40 years ago from the "jungle" in LA and quickly established himself as a shaman and master of healing arts, acupuncture included. The theme of the benefit was, "Time to help the healer heal. Ed had brain surgery six weeks ago but you wouldn't have known it watching him dance and play his drum.

Me and my homeboy from Texas Ed Jenkins, the man who came to Belize almost 40 years ago from the “jungle” in LA and quickly established himself as a shaman and master of healing arts, acupuncture included. The theme of the benefit was, “Time to help our healer heal.” Ed had brain surgery six weeks ago but you wouldn’t have known it watching him dance and play his drum.

So a large time was had by all at the benefit held for my best bud in Belize–he who is the best bud to a lot of people in western Belize–complete with wine or rum drinks, great food, a live auction and a silent one, too, at the fabulous Orange Gallery, a fabulous one-stop, roadside attraction that has a first-class outdoor restaurant, a hotel and a sprawling shop featuring Belizean arts and crafts, Belizean clothing, hand-made furniture, jewelry and more.

Ed lost his dreadlocks to brain surgery, but hasn't lost his mojo on de drum. Here he is playing a Jimmy Buffet coconut song with the colorful western Belize musician "Barefoot Skinny." He and Ed played in a band together years ago doing regular gigs at the Orange Gallery.--

Ed lost his dreadlocks to brain surgery, but hasn’t lost his mojo on de drum. Here he is playing a Jimmy Buffet coconut song with the colorful western Belize musician “Barefoot Skinny.” Mind you–this is a mere six weeks after brain surgery–and a followup surgery for some “cleanup,” as the doc put it.He and Ed played in a band together years ago doing regular gigs at the Orange Gallery.

On the left is expat Josiah, who has a healing retreat center across the road from the Orange Gallery. The Orange Gallery is owned by Julian Sherrar on the right. Julian was born on the famous hippy commune "The Farm" in Tennessee. I actually saw the HBO documentary about "The Farm" last year, but Julian himself hasn't seen it! "I've heard about it and heard it's really good," he said. His hippy parents moved to BZ when he was a small child and quickly got to know Ed Jenkins, so Julian and his entire family are close to the Bryan, Texas-born shaman. Like Ed, Julian has a wealth of stories to tell about his days growing up in BZ with his seriously hippy folks, and that includes lots of great yarns about Ed.

On the left is expat Josiah, who has a healing retreat center across the road from the Orange Gallery. The Orange Gallery is owned by Julian Sherrar on the right. Julian was born on the famous hippy commune “The Farm” in Tennessee. I actually saw the HBO documentary about “The Farm” last year, but Julian himself hasn’t seen it! “I’ve heard about it and heard it’s really good,” he said. His hippy parents moved to BZ when he was a small child and quickly got to know Ed Jenkins, so Julian and his entire family are close to the Bryan, Texas-born shaman. Like Ed, Julian has a wealth of stories to tell about his days growing up in BZ with his seriously hippy folks, and that includes lots of great yarns about Ed.

Julian's Orange Gallery, a first-class roadside attraction on the Western Highway near San Ignacio, BZ.

Julian’s Orange Gallery, a first-class roadside attraction on the Western Highway near San Ignacio, BZ.

Speaking of hippies: That would be Mary and her husband "Sparkles" (I've no idea if he has a regular name) cutting git up on the dance floor. They left the rat race in Boston three years ago and came to BZ to chill and find their inner hippiness. Belize is full of those types, people looking to get out of the concrete jungles and get back to simple, fun living.

Speaking of hippies: That would be Mary and her husband “Sparkles” (I’ve no idea if he has a regular name) cutting git up on the dance floor. They left the rat race in Boston three years ago and came to BZ to chill and find their inner hippiness. Belize is full of those types, people looking to get out of the concrete jungles and get back to simple, fun living.

Expat Suzi, who is from Florida but is Ed's business partner at "Mo Life," their acupuncture studio.

Expat Suzi, who is from Florida but is Ed’s business partner at “Mo Life,” their acupuncture studio. (Ed learned acupuncture from a Chinese master in Los Angeles before bring his skills to BZ. She’s also writing a book about the testimonials from people about shaman Ed’s healing powers. Many Belizeans and expats swear he has given them miracle cures when medicine didn’t work. In fact, just about everyone at the benefit has a testimonial about Jenkins. It’s why so many rallied to put up the cash in advance for the brain surgery he needed.

Tennessee-born Julian and his Belizean wife  Olga chilling at their Orange Gallery resort. "My parents, my siblings, my wife and now my children all love Ed Jenkins--he's practically family," Julian said. "And talk about courageous--it takes real courage to submit yourself to BRAIN SURGERY in Belize." Indeed, it's not exactly famous for anything like quality medical care. In fact, The country's only neurosurgeon--who performed the successful surgery on Ed's brain--only arrive a couple of years ago in Belize from Mexico. But nice to know we actually have a good brain surgeon here in this crazy country.

Tennessee-born Julian and his Belizean wife chilling at their Orange Gallery resort. “My parents, my siblings, my wife and now my children all love Ed Jenkins–he’s practically family,” Julian said. “And talk about courageous–it takes real courage to submit yourself to BRAIN SURGERY in Belize.” Indeed, it’s not exactly famous for anything like quality medical care. In fact, The country’s only neurosurgeon–who performed the successful surgery on Ed’s brain–only arrive a couple of years ago in Belize from Mexico. But nice to know we actually have a good brain surgeon here in this crazy country.

That another Texas expat, Mo from Austin, who along with his wife Irene (below) came to Belize a long, long time ago, on a sailboat, and stayed. They opened a beach resort at Caye Caulkker but moved inland a few years ago. They built the most beautiful house I've ever seen up in Pine Ridge Mountain and took in Ed Jenkins to convalesce at their place all these weeks since his surgery. Mo and Irene are incredibly adventurous, like so many expats who re-locate to BZ. They moved around for seven years on that sailboat!

That another Texas expat, Mo from Austin, who along with his wife Irene (below) came to Belize a long, long time ago, on a sailboat, and stayed. They opened a beach resort at Caye Caulker–a popular place called The Lazy Iguana–that they still own. But they moved inland a few years ago. They built the most beautiful house I’ve ever seen up in Pine Ridge Mountain and have taken in Ed Jenkins to convalesce at their place all these weeks since his surgery. Mo and Irene are incredibly adventurous as well as generous,, like so many expats who re-locate to BZ. They moved around for seven years on that sailboat!

The aforementioned Irene, who with her man Mo has traveled the world and the seven seas like she's Annie Lennox or something.

The aforementioned Irene, who with her man Mo has traveled the world and the seven seas like she’s Annie Lennox or something.

That's Misty, originally from Washington State, who's traveled and lived all over BZ. She loves her some Papa Ed Jenkins and he looks after Miss Misty.

That’s Misty, originally from Washington State, who’s traveled and lived all over BZ. She loves her some Papa Ed Jenkins and he looks after Miss Misty.

Two expats (left) and one Belizean blood, chillin..

Two expats (left) and one Belizean blood, chillin’ on a beautiful day in BZ…

Ed's friends come in all age groups.

Ed’s friends come in all age groups.

Yes, all ages.

Yes, all ages.

What's a benefit dance and auction without too fabulous food and drink?

What’s a benefit dance and auction without too much fabulous food and drink?

Until next time, jitterbug dancers ...

Until next time, jitterbug dancers …

76-year-old Ed Jenkins says, "Keep your jitterbug mojo bangin'."

76-year-old Ed Jenkins says, “Keep your jitterbug mojo bangin’.”

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This 4th-century poem by the Christian poet and hymnist Aurelius Clemens Prudentius was translated by the Irish poet and playwright Helen Waddell for performance at JFK’s memorial service in 1963.

It’s fit for remembering and cherishing those who gave all:

“Take him, Earth, for cherishing
To thy tender breast receive him.
Body of a man I bring thee,
Noble even in its ruin.
Once was this a spirit’s dwelling,
By the breath of God created.
High the heart that here was beating,
Christ the prince of all its living.
Guard him well, the dead I give thee,
Not unmindful of his creature
Shall He ask it: He who made it
Symbol of His mystery.
Comes the hour God hath appointed
To fulfill the hope of men,
Then must thou, in very fashion,
What I give, return again.
Body of a man I bring thee.
Not though ancient time decaying
Wear away these bones to sand,
Ashes that a man might treasure
In the hollow of his hand:
Not though wandering winds and idle winds,
Drifting through the empty sky,
Scatter dust was nerve and sinew,
Is it given to man to die.
Once again the shining road
Leads to ample Paradise;
Open are the woods again,
That the Serpent lost for men.
Take, O take him, mighty Leader,
Take again thy servant’s soul.
Grave his name, and pour the fragrant
Balm upon the icy stone.
Take him, Earth, for cherishing,
To thy tender breast receive him.
Body of a man I bring thee,
Noble in its ruin.
By the breath of God created.
Christ the prince of all its living.
Take him earth, for cherishing.”

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How they never figured out before that I'm a freak , Lord only knows

How they never figured out before that I’m a freak, Lord only knows

"Cause I speak of the pompatus of love."

“Cause I speak of the pompatus of love.”

Can I get a big amen that THAT!

Can I get a big amen that THAT!

It brings to mind the typical Monday in America.

It brings to mind the typical Monday in America.

I mean, whatever happened to simple fishin'

I mean, whatever happened to simple fishin’

Totally not realistic!

Totally not realistic!

And then there were my much-despised Irish immigrants that came in waves and were greeted with hatred (many of them Catholic and extra-despised).

And then there were my much-despised Irish immigrants that came in waves and were greeted with hatred (many of them Catholic and extra-despised).

Superb advice.

Superb advice.

Go to your room and practice your awesomeness, Billy.

Go to your room and practice your awesomeness, Billy.

gotta have a dog meme

gotta have a dog meme

Get their mind right, dammit!!!!

Gotta get their mind right, dammit!!!!

The Buddha was a great spirit and never mind that he abandoned his own family.

The Buddha was a great spirit and never mind that he abandoned his own family–so much of his teaching parallels the teachings of Jesus.

And a great memoir it was that he wrote (The Invisible Wall) about the invisible line that divided Jews and Christians on the street where he grew up.

And a great memoir it was that he wrote (The Invisible Wall) about the invisible line that divided Jews and Christians on the street where he grew up.

Note to the leaders of my own beloved United Methodist Church ...

Note to the leaders of my own beloved United Methodist Church …

From back in the day

From back in the day

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einstein_learning

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Blake Mycosckie, a Texan who went to my beloved SMU on a tennis scholarship, has moved to another level in his mission to alleviate poverty--all because he opened up to his critics instead of recoiling into defense mode.

Blake Mycosckie, a Texan who went to my beloved SMU on a tennis scholarship, has moved to another level in his mission to alleviate poverty–all because he opened up to his critics instead of recoiling into defense mode.

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Huffington Post has posted a brief but interesting interview with the always interesting CEO Blake Mycoskie of TOMS Shoes fame. (His story according to Wiki here.)

I found it interesting that rather than just brushing off the mounting criticism of his efforts to alleviate poverty–which was his initial reaction–he eventually opened himself up to the criticism and embraced it. As a result, he’s making advancements in his company’s efforts to reduce poverty by creating jobs in Haiti and Ethiopia.

“There really is a lot you can learn from the critics,” Mycoskie says. “You can either try to debate them and fight them or you embrace them, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Criticism can sting the ego and produce a lot of inner anguish sometimes. Our first reaction is to get defensive or strike back at a critic–even if it’s constructive criticism. Unfortunately we’re prone to hear all criticism as destructive.

And, for sure, the world is full of blow-hards who are insecure about walking across the street. It seems they don’t know how to do anything but tear down other people out of envy or self-loathing or whatever lies behind the masks they wear to hide their own inner baggage.

(Me, I’ve had two careers–one in journalism and the other in ministry–in which you either develop crocodile skin or die of criticism. So I’ve had my share of constructive critics, who helped me grow and improve, and the attack dawgs.)

Mycoskie’s open reaction to his critics is a reminder that if we’re not so quick to throw up our guard–if we open our arms to the (constructive) critics rather than throw up our boxing gloves to save face–good things can happen to us and to others too.

Here’s the interview, and a link here to his bestselling book Start Something That Matters:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/14/toms-ceo-critics_n_4274637.html?ncid=txtlnkusaolp00001031&utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false

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Yeah, it's a pigs head, fresh from the slaughter for the gobs of pork served at a birthday party in the bush for a girl who turned 9 Sunday.

Yeah, it’s a pigs head, fresh from the slaughter for the gobs of pork served at a birthday party in the bush for a girl who turned 9 Sunday.

Pork: It's what's for dinner.

Pork: It’s what’s for dinner.

Grandpa out at the fire pit in the outdoor kitchen roasting up the pig's feet to drop in the pot of beans for flavor. As they say in East Texas, "No part of a pig goes unused, except the squeal."

Grandpa out at the fire pit in the outdoor kitchen roasting up the pig’s feet to drop in the pot of beans for flavor. As they say in East Texas, “No part of a pig goes unused, except the squeal.”

Kimberly, the birthday girl in Seven Miles Village in Mountain Pine Ridge. Her family hosted and fed about 50 families Sunday. In what's a really sweet tradition Kimberly stood up as all the guests lined up to give her a hug and tell her happy birthday. Some also gave her gifts, if only things like a pencil for school.

Kimberly, the birthday girl in Seven Miles Village in Mountain Pine Ridge. Her family hosted and fed about 50 families Sunday. In what’s a really sweet tradition Kimberly stood up as all the guests lined up to give her a hug and wish her happy birthday. Some also gave her gifts, if only things like a pencil for school.

Grinding corn for the tortillas.

Grinding corn for the tortillas.

Sisters arriving on their bike.

Sisters arriving on their bike.

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So how is it, girls?

So how is it, girls?

One of the bigger boys finally busted the piñata.

One of the bigger boys finally busted the piñata.

A relative from town ended up taking it home. (Sorry, my vegan friends; it's a very agrarian culture.)

A relative from town ended up taking it home. (Sorry, my vegan friends; it’s a very agrarian culture.)

There was some nice, healthy plant food around the house.

There was some nice, healthy plant food around the house.

And lethal red peppers to go with the red sweet peppers.

And lethal red peppers to go with the red sweet peppers.

Kimberly's little bro gonna take his 3-wheeler for a ride.

Kimberly’s little bro gonna take his 3-wheeler for a ride.

Or does that make it a 2-wheeler?

Or does that make it a 2-wheeler?

Just down the road from Seven Miles is Mike the Canadian expat's zipline and caving place.

Just down the road from Seven Miles is Mike the Canadian expat’s zipline and caving place. The girl in the picture on the billboard is Mike’s daughter.

And what do you know--Big Mike his own self. He came to Belize 26 years ago and married a Belizean and they and their son and daughter live in a great big house down there where there's nobody around for at least two miles in the evening, excepting the monkeys and night crawlers.

And what do you know–Big Mike his own self. He came to Belize 26 years ago and married a Belizean and they and their son and daughter live in a great big house down there where there’s nobody around for at least two miles in the evening, excepting the monkeys and night crawlers.

Mike's nearby bush competitor is Calico Jack. Seven Miles Village-area is Zipline and Water-Caving Central in western Belize.

Mike’s nearby bush competitor is Calico Jack. Seven Miles Village-area is Zipline and Water-Caving Central in western Belize.

Grab a belt and put some zip in your life.

Grab a belt and put some zip in your life.

A small solar panel on the roof of birthday girl Kimberly's house. It provides about six hours of light at night when plugged into a fully charged car battery. Most residents in Seven Miles Village have no electricity but I saw about 10 other houses and buildings with the one-piece solar panels. Solar energy is slowy but surely spreading in BZ where the cost of electricity for most people is very high--and one reason very few people have a.c. One reason I don't have ac my own self, in fact. Believe it or not you can survived without ac in a hot climate--I go home to Texas now and feel miserable in all the cold air-conditioning!

A small solar panel on the roof of birthday girl Kimberly’s house. It provides about six hours of light at night when plugged into a fully charged car battery. Most residents in Seven Miles Village have no electricity but I saw about 10 other houses and buildings with the one-piece solar panels. Solar energy is slowy but surely spreading in BZ where the cost of electricity for most people is very high–and one reason very few people have a.c. One reason I don’t have ac my own self, in fact. Believe it or not you can survive without a.c. in climate that’s as year-round as Texas in July. (Come to think of it, I went to school from first grade through high school with no a.c. and slept in a house for 10 years of childhood with none. Gad, how’d I ever make it through school??)

Until next time, thrill seekers: Hasta luega.

Until next time, thrill seekers: Hasta luega.

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Thoughts from a few thinkers on the theology of “Enoughism”:

“From the point of view of a theology of enough, standard methods of measuring growth are profoundly misleading. in the United States there has been a great deal of growth in the past half century, but people are less satisfied with their lives now than they were then. Changes adopted to promote economic growth have led to a decline of well being overall. Why, then, persist in seeking more and more of what demonstrably does not satisfy us? Yet the nations of the Earth all worship the god of economic growth—all but one.

“The one nation that explicitly aims at a different goal is Bhutan. Its goal is not gross national product but gross national happiness. Rather than subordinating the wellbeing of the people to the economy, the Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan judges that the economy should contribute to the happiness of the people.”

John B. Cobb, Jr., United Methodist theologian

"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.’  -- Jesus

“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.’ — Jesus

“Although we live in the richest society in the history of the world, we still assume that there is not enough. Not enough life, not enough food, not enough entertainment, not enough happiness.

“This keeps our economy going. The truth is the opposite. There is too much. We are overwhelmed, and our imaginations can’t take it all in. There is limitless beauty for us to wonder at. There is truth to explore–not just the dimensions of science or the ponderings of philosophy but the depths of poetry and the testimony of history. There is goodness in the human spirit to admire–in great explorers and mighty warriors, in the humble potter or the resourceful midwife. Yet there is also the temptation to steal, because we fear that there will not be “enough.” We are generous when we trust that we’ll have enough; we are covetous and anxious because we have lost this trust.”

Samuel Wells, Vicar of St. Martin in the Fields in London

* * * *

“Economically and socially, the vision of shalom is captured in what Bishop John Taylor calls ‘The Theology of Enough.’

“The greed of the rich is tempered by the need of the poor. Justice, harmony, equilibrium prevail. ‘It meant a dancing kind of inter-relationship, seeking something more free than equality, more generous than equity, the evershifting equipoise of a life-system.’ Excessive extravagance, vaunting ambition, ravaging greed–all are foreign to the complete contented brotherhood of shalom. Under the reign of God’s shalom the poor are no longer oppressed, because covetousness no longer rules.

— From Freedom of Simplicity by Richard J. Foster

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“Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise I may have too much and disown you and say “Who is the Lord?”‘

— Proverbs 30:8,9

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