Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for March, 2015


I threw together summa this and summa that,
and here’s what came about:

And then there are famous phrases taken from the Bible: “He found him in a desert landAnd in the wasteland, a howling wilderness; He encircled him, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye.” -Deuteronomy 32:10 NKJV “Keep me as the apple of Your eye; Hide me under the shadow of Your wings.” - Psalm 17:8 NKJV “Keep my commands and live, And my law as the apple of your eye.” – Proverbs 7:2 NKJV “For thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye’.” – Zechariah 2:8 NKJV “Their heart cried unto the LORD, O wall of the daughter of Zion, let tears run down like a river day and night: give thyself no rest; let not the apple of thine eye cease.” – Lamentations 2:18 KJV

And then there are famous phrases taken from the Bible like “apple of my eye”:
“He found him in a desert land, and in the wasteland, a howling wilderness; He encircled him, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye.” -Deuteronomy 32:10 NKJV
“Keep me as the apple of Your eye; hide me under the shadow of Your wings.” – Psalm 17:8 NKJV
“Keep my commands and live, and my law as the apple of your eye.” – Proverbs 7:2 NKJV
“For thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye’.” – Zechariah 2:8 NKJV
“Their heart cried unto the LORD, O wall of the daughter of Zion, let tears run down like a river day and night: give thyself no rest; let not the apple of thine eye cease.” – Lamentations 2:18 KJV

MEME OF THE DAY (hat tip: Rev. Hospital Chaplain Mark Grace)

MEME OF THE DAY (hat tip: Rev. Hospital Chaplain Mark Grace)

The size of Earth, the "blue planet," compared to the huge and very huge provider of Vitamin D..

The size of Earth, the “blue planet,” compared to the huge and very huge provider of Vitamin D.

Your amazing factoid of the day (Outer Space Div.)

“It might not be a big surprise to you that the sun is really, really big. But this image, part of a great series on the size of astronomical objects by John Brady, underscores that it’s vast on a scale that’s simply difficult for our puny human minds to understand. We think of the Earth as a big place: flying around the equator on a 747 at top speed would take about 42 hours. Flying around the sun at the same speed, by contrast, would take about six months.”

— Taken from Vox News story “40 maps that explain outer space.” Click here to see the whole, fascinating enchilada.

And speaking of the outer realm . . . .

It’s lonely out there . . . .

Today's Big Amen of the Day!

Today’s Big Amen of the Day!

A picture of picturesque Belizean beach.

A picture of picturesque Belizean beach.

Speaking of the beach.

Speaking of the beach. Nobody is ever unhappy at the beach

Speaking of Belize: The annual La Ruta Maya Canoe Challenge, which The Huffington Post recently cited as one of the biggest canoe races in the world, concluded Monday, which is an annual, national holiday. In terms of what are Big Events in Belize, the 4-day canoe race ranks up there with Independence Day and Christmas. The race starts right here in the Macal River my hometown of San Ignacio, which promptly feeds into the Mopan River, and concludes at the Caribbean Sea near the nation's international airport in Belize City. The end of the race on the Monday holiday is marked by a part which is bigger than the Sun, which is huge.

Speaking of Belize and the Sun: The annual La Ruta Maya Canoe Challenge, which The Huffington Post recently cited as one of the biggest and best canoe races in the world, concluded Monday, which was a national holiday. In terms of what are Big Events in Belize, the 4-day canoe race ranks up there with Independence Day and Christmas. The race starts right here in the beautiful, lazy Macal River in my hometown of San Ignacio. The Macal promptly feeds into the Mopan River a couple of miles down so most of the race is on the Mighty Mopan River, which once was teeming with ancient Mayans in their canoes. The annual Huge Race ends at the Caribbean Sea near the nation’s international airport in Belize City. The end of the race on the Monday holiday is marked by a party which is bigger than the Sun, which is huge. (See above for a factoid about the hugeness of the Sun.)

And speaking of The Huffington Post . . . .

The writer describing the big canoe race said:

    “Belize is an entire country that feels like a small town.

Which largely explains my love affair with Belize: In many ways it’s still like the Texas I grew up in, in the fifties and sixties–the best of the fifties and sixties I mean, in the sense that they were simpler times.

Click here for the Huffington Post piece.

11025752_965858173447629_7439423616286427536_n

11046928_478489748968261_3588926908049193022_n

10704127_480845938721859_1486616986635758144_n

Your biting satire (American Diet Div.) of the day:

486694_467187566724623_2128209998_n

And so until next time, you of the Jitterbug Cult–the cult of the blawg that is saving the world with its wit, wisdom, provocations and stimulations while possibly (probably!) alienating whole towns, nations, cities and states.

10941877_10153061592175070_5658200237422291274_n

Happy trails and sails …..

P1020739

Read Full Post »

Even nurses ended up catching blame in all the drama surrounding Eblola, which was many exploited dramas ago that nobody even remembers it.

Even nurses ended up catching blame in all the drama surrounding Eblola, which was exploited so many dramas ago that nobody even remembers it.

Remember Ebola?

As the old joke goes, “Remember World War II? It was in all the papers.”

A news event like Ebola, which is and was by no means ever a joke, nowadays is in all the papers, all over TV and radio and social media, for weeks on end, all there for politicians to exploit to the hilt for the purposes mainly of wielding power and raising lots of money to maintain power.

Until the next news event–which might be better described as the next big “drama”–comes along to be exploited by hyping up the fear factor.

What short little spans of attention we have. As a result, the media and politicians keep perfecting ways to take full advantage of jacking up their ratings and securing votes that are all about the money, not about keeping a citizenry in a democracy informed.

* * * *

The good news is–in case you didn’t know it and you probably don’t–the deadly outbreak of Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea has subsided, dramatically.

In fact, the last Ebola patient in Liberia was released from the hospital recently, and there are currently no fresh cases of the disease in the country. That means that Liberia is counting up to 42 days required to be declared Ebola free in keeping with World Health Organization protocols and standards.

The bad news is that so many thousands of orphaned children in the African countries have been stigmatized, shunned and forgotten. And life remains a living hell even for adults treated like the lepers in biblical days because they had the misfortune of living with someone who died of the disease.

And where’s the media?

Back home, meanwhile, I wonder what happened to that controversial “Czar” that Obama, under enormous pressure to do something–to do anything–appointed to deal with Ebola.

The drama surrounding the appointment of that czar guy was like WWII–it was in all the news.

For what? Three “news cycles” maybe????

For sure, the Obama haters got all the ratings and political donations they desired from those few cycles.

* * * *

In the U.S., Ebola has entirely dropped off the radar of the fear-mongering media and politicians who took the country to the brink of all-out hysteria over the handful of Ebola cases that killed or afflicted Americans and a few others outside of Africa. And in saying that I don’t mean to diminish the sadness and severity of those few American and Western cases.

The Dallas nurse who is suffering the lingering effects of the disease, which she might suffer for life, recently caught a bit of media attention over her lawsuit against the Dallas hospital where she contracted the sickness in treating an Ebola patient who ultimately died.

That was a double tragedy of sad and very sad proportions, and her speaking out and filing suit was worthy of the updated news coverage for sure.

But it’s to our shame that the lives of those African “lepers,” if you will, who suffered so much widespread death and illness, were never of much concern to the American media and politicians anyway, except to the extent that we so feared the threat of Ebola wiping out thousands of lives in America, which didn’t happen and, in reality, was never likely to happen– except in the minds of politicians who wanted us to believe a pandemic was about the strike us down.

Meanwhile, the fear-mongering media and our self-serving, self-righteous “leaders” in government never run out of fodder for more drama and hysterics, when some sober news coverage and serious discernment about how to address serious problems with solutions will do.

Thousands of Africa orphans and adults have been forgotten and never got much sensitive attention anyway.

Thousands of Africa orphans and adults have been forgotten and never got much sensitive attention in America anyway.

Read Full Post »

My friend and most favored of theologians and spiritual writers Frederick Schmidt shared this 1996 vintage video of a prayer that Eric Clapton wrote and performed with Luciano Pavarotti.

As I told Fred, watching it gave me chills–and does it every time I watch.

Read Full Post »


My friend John Toth's mother in Vienna in 1966, where she and John found freedom after a daring escape from behind the Iron Curtain.

My friend John Toth’s mother in Vienna in 1966, where she and John found their first year of freedom after a daring escape from behind the Iron Curtain.

Back in the day I worked at The Houston Chronicle with a fellow reporter and friend named John Toth, who left the Chron years ago and became the owner, editor and publisher of the weekly Bulletin in Brazoria County, Texas.

When John was 10, he and his mother made a daring escape from Hungary to escape the tyranny of communism behind the Iron Curtain. Today John shared the story of that escape on his Facebook page and gave me permission to re-print his story in his own words:

    “On the morning of March 6, 1966 in Budapest, Hungary, my mother and I boarded a train headed for Vienna, Austria. With forged papers and an altered passport, we slipped through the Iron Curtain and started a new life.

    “I was 10 years old. My mother took this photo near the street where we lived in Vienna in the winter of 1966. Less than a year later, we landed in the USA. Forty-nine years ago today, my life changed forever, as we embarked on a great adventure.

    “I thought I was going on vacation,” John said. “I found out about the plan the next morning. It took about two years of planning before we boarded that train. She was a brave woman, for sure. She took a big risk, and it paid off.

    “We received political asylum status and flew to New York in October 1967. I spoke German and Hungarian, but over the decades have lost much of the German. The USA was the only country that would allow us in. The rest didn’t want a single mom and kid.

    “We would have gone anywhere by then. Our visas were expiring, and the Austrians would not extend them. We believed that the other countries just didn’t want a possible welfare case. They didn’t know mom, though. She ran her own small company in Vienna. and we were doing very well. The Austrians, though, would not let us stay.”

John’s father was supposed to join them eventually, but came under too much scrutiny and the reunion never happened.

Proud to say that John is a friend, and one whose story makes you appreciate the freedom that most of us take for granted.

And whose story of his brave mom makes you go “Wow!”–that’s like something out of a movie!

John and his wife Sharon Toth with their family.

John and his wife Sharon Toth with their family.

Read Full Post »

Although God allows grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone. (My italics for emphasis.)”

— Lamentations 3: 32-33

The Rev. Dr. Donald W. Haynes, a Methodist pastor of many and very many years, gives a rather lengthy but readable critique below of the kind of “Calvinist” theology persistent in so many churches today–even, ironically, many United Methodist churches.

That’s ironic because John and Charles Wesley, the Anglican priests who founded the Methodist movement that evolved into the Methodist church, were opposed to the Calvinist theology of predestination. They believed, as I do and as Dr. Haynes and most Methodists and so many other Christians believe, that God’s omnipotence is God’s power, not God’s character.

As Dr. Haynes says, God’s character is love.

Rick Warren's book of Calvinist theology took the Christian world by storm, but you don't have to be a Methodist to appreciate the Wesleyan theology you'll find in this excellent book from Dr. Don Haynes.

Rick Warren’s book of Calvinist theology took the Christian world by storm, but you don’t have to be a Methodist to appreciate the Wesleyan theology you’ll find in this excellent book from Dr. Don Haynes.

Like Dr. Haynes, I think the Wesley brothers would be disturbed that so many Methodist churches joined in the once-trendy study of Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life, a book that is way more Southern Baptist and fundamentalist than anything you’ll find in the prolific sermons and writings of John Wesley and traditional Methodist preaching of grace and free-will theology.

At any rate, the following piece from Dr. Haynes, taken from the digital United Methodist Reporter is well worth reading and thinking about no matter what your church affiliation:

By Dr. Donald W. Haynes

Both St. Augustine and John Calvin began their theology with an assumption common to us all—God is omnipotent, all-powerful.

If God is all-powerful, then we most logically resort to a fatalistic conclusion that God makes happen whatever happens. God also is omniscient—all-knowing. Most conclude that “to foreknow is to predestinate.” That is, if God knows what is going to happen—like when and of what disease we will become afflicted, or when and under what circumstances we will die—then God must be causing that to happen.

It is for this reason that many Christians across the spectrum of denominations refer to “God’s plan.” When John Milton, an English Puritan and a Calvinist, wrote Paradise Lost, his stated purpose was “to justify the ways of God to man.” We still are working at that!

A cousin of mine, who was also a minister, just died with pancreatic cancer at age fifty-eight. A former church member and friend of mine in his middle seventies begins chemo this week for pancreatic cancer that has metastasized. A fellow church member, mid-eighties, has a recurrence of breast cancer. A former colleague on a church staff has ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. A long time friend in her seventh year with the persistently debilitating disease Cerebella Ataxia is in a wheelchair and now can no longer speak clearly. A dear friend’s brother just died from causes related to prolonged alcoholism. One of my four closest friends just called: “Don, I have a malignant tumor in my throat.” In all such situations and other heartaches in our journey we ask of God, “Why?”

Whenever bad things happen to good people some good Christians will absorb their grief under the doctrinal umbrella of what they call “God’s plan.” One grief-stricken sufferer wrote, “Our wishes are not God’s plan and I try to understand.” She also said on the phone, “I am so angry that I can’t cry. I don’t know what to pray.”

Rev. Dr. Haynes: "I am compelled to ask you, dear reader, to look more closely and critically at what looks like a comfortable theology—that God is in total control of every detail of our destinies! It is comforting up to a point; then it becomes disenchanting."

Rev. Dr. Haynes: “I am compelled to ask you, dear reader, to look more closely and critically at what looks like a comfortable theology—that God is in total control of every detail of our destinies! It is comforting up to a point; then it becomes disenchanting.”

We must recognize that the Boko Haram in Nigeria who captured 276 girls to use for their sexual pleasure have some perverted interpretation of a random sura in the Quran that justifies their horrible sin. Jihadist Muslims who murdered the Jewish staff of a French magazine were convinced by their warped tutors that they were acting out the will of God—the “plan” of God for killing infidels.

Long ago, the Christians in Salem, Massachusetts thought it God’s plan for them to label women as “witches” and put them to death.

My mother was a devout Methodist and did not think she was a Calvinist! Yet as a child I remember one of her favorite sayings when bad things happened to good people was, “The Lord knows best.” She even said that when my Daddy died from cancer at age forty-nine. I was therefore 12 years old when I “sorta” became a theologian.

At Sunday school I was taught that God loved me. I concluded when Daddy contracted cancer that if God loved me, God must love Daddy who had just been converted to Jesus Christ as his personal savior. But there I got stuck! When Mama said, “The Lord knows best,” she was implying that the Lord took Daddy from us in the prime of his life—both in his young age and his new faith.

Almost everyone either owns or knows about Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life that has outsold everything except the Holy Bible and the Quran. Rick Warren is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and founder-pastor of Saddleback Church in California, which is basically Baptist. Methodists are, theologically, not Calvinists who believe in pre-destination, but thousands of Methodist churches used Warren’s book for small groups to study. Millions of people who have never read the Bible have read Rick Warren’s book. Rick is pretty much responsible for chucking the old term “pre-destination” and re-marketing it as “God’s plan.”

Warren wrote, “God decided when you would be born and how long you would live. He planned the days of your life in advance, choosing the exact time of your birth and death.” Of course, he quotes scripture! We all do that to justify our theology! So did the Devil when he was tempting Jesus (Matthew 4:6; Luke 4:10)! Rick pushed his belief further, saying that the conception of every child is planned by God: “God knew that those two individuals possessed exactly the right genetic makeup to create the custom ‘you’ that God had in mind. They had the DNA God wanted to make you.” Wow! This means that when you go to the “premie” ward of a hospital and see the children born addicted to crack cocaine at birth because of the mother’s addiction—that is God’s plan. That means that when babies are born with birth defects, that is God’s plan. That means that even abortions must be God’s plan if God determines “the date of our death.” That also means that every person who dies of an accident or victim of a crime or casualty in a war simply had “a time to die.” Does not Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 say, “There is a time for everything, for every matter under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die….”?

    ——-
    “We just saw the movie “Unbroken,” about the life of Louis Zamberino who was shot down in the Pacific in World War II, spent 47 days on a lifeboat only to be captured by the Japanese and was kept over two years in a concentration camp. Now, did God control which planes on that mission were shot down and which ones returned to base? Of the crew who landed in the ocean, did God control which ones survived the crash and which ones were drowned?”

——-

We just saw the movie “Unbroken,” about the life of Louis Zamberino who was shot down in the Pacific in World War II, spent 47 days on a lifeboat only to be captured by the Japanese and was kept over two years in a concentration camp. Now, did God control which planes on that mission were shot down and which ones returned to base? Of the crew who landed in the ocean, did God control which ones survived the crash and which ones were drowned? In the concentration camp, did God predestine the ones who would survive the brutality? In Germany, did God plan the date of the deaths of the more than 6,000,000 Jews who died at the orders of Adolph Hitler? If it were “their time to die,” does that let Hitler off the hook? What about the killing of Kurdish Christians today by ISIS, or the beheading of prisoners?
Do we see God’s will in Psalm 139:16—“written in the book all the days that were formed for me”? Or, do we read Jesus words at the conclusion of Luke’s quote from Jesus: “Is there anyone among you who, if you child asks for bread will be given a stone, or asks for a fish will be given a scorpion?”

Then Jesus said, and on this I base my understanding of God’s will for each of us: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” And Jesus said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” I love James 1:13 &17—“No one, when tempted, should say, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God…himself tempts no one… every generous act of giving… is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no shadow of change.”

Really, if God had predestined or planned everything to the most minute detail, including the time and circumstances of our death, why exercise or eat right or even go to a doctor? Think of the diseases, even plagues, in history that were attributed to the will of God only to be found to have been caused by mosquitoes or sewage-saturated water! My grandfather died of appendicitis and had lost three children to tuberculosis or the flu epidemic, one to a farm accident, and one to diphtheria. It is likely that all would have lived longer in the late 20th century than they did in the earlier years. Did God’s will change for the cause and time of death? Did medical science interfere with the will of God? When Dr. James Simpson of Scotland developed chloroform, the clergy opposed its use because they thundered from their pulpits that pain in childbirth is God’s punishment of women for Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden! Two famous evangelists blamed the destruction of the World Trade Towers on God who was punishing America for the sin of homosexual lifestyles! What? Even the Muslim Jihadists were agents of God whose name is Love!

Come, let us reason this out. John Wesley’s ministry in England was in a time that the doctrine of Calvinism dominated the Church of England. Wesley had a fundamental problem with God’s being the author of evil, or the cause of the bad things that happen to good people. But what to do with the foundational belief in the omnipotence of God?

——–

    “When I was nineteen years old, I became the pastor of a church. One afternoon as I returned from seminary, I was told a child had been killed on a bike, just in front of his mother’s eyes as she sat on the front porch. As I climbed her steps she said to me, “You are the third preacher to come. If you are here, like them, to tell me Buddy’s death is God’s will, get the hell off my porch.”

——–

Wesley, in the doctrinal lineage of Jacob Arminius of Holland, concluded after much intellectual struggle and biblical study that God’s omnipotence is God’s power, not God’s character. God’s character is love: “God so loved the world that God gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).” “We know and believe the love that God has for us because God is love…we love because God first loved us (I John 4:16 & 19).”

“Aha,” concluded the Oxford professor John Wesley! This means that God’s love (the essence of God’s character) trumps God’s power. In like manner, parents have total power over infants and small children. They can “tie them to the bedpost” or keep them locked in a closet if they use only their power. But with that capacity of total control, there is the spirit of parental love. The normal behavior of a loving parent is to gradually teach the baby what it means to avoid the hot stove because the baby will be burned, or to hold Mommy’s hand or the toddler may get lost. With maturity comes the parental discipline of teaching that good choices bring good consequences and bad choices make bad consequences. Then comes the scary reality that our child will be affected by the behavior of other people and that both must live in a universe where natural law is impersonal: “The wind blows where it will (John 3:8).” Jesus said, “…for He makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the just and unjust (Matthew 5:45).” Wesley preached that “predestination is not plain scriptural doctrine; it is inconsistent with the written word that speaks of God’s universal offer of grace, his invitations, promises, and threatenings.” God revealed to Peter that “God shows no partiality between persons (Acts 10:34).”

So what about using the term “God’s plan”? Well, it sounds more like a corporate strategy for the future of the company! It sounds programmed. The word “plan” would be best replaced with the word “relationship.” We are God’s children and God is our heavenly Father. God relates to us much like the most loving parents relate to their children—“love and warning,” “warning and love.”

I believe that even the microbes and cells of most infinitesimal size are not confined to a “plan.” Scientists find freedom of movement in every molecule and atom. This freedom allows some cells to metastasize, to “do their own thing,” and suddenly a normal cell or organ is cancerous. Some diseases are genetic; some are caused by environmental exposure to material like asbestos or lint in mills, or high decibel noise; some are caused by what we eat!

When I was nineteen years old, I became the pastor of a church. One afternoon as I returned from seminary, I was told a child had been killed on a bike, just in front of his mother’s eyes as she sat on the front porch. As I climbed her steps she said to me, “You are the third preacher to come. If you are here, like them, to tell me Buddy’s death is God’s will, get the hell off my porch.” That day, I recalled my father’s death by cancer when he was forty-nine, and committed my theology to that of Jacob Arminius and John Wesley, not John Calvin.

While I respect my fellow Christians who believe that everything happens in accordance with God’s Plan, I demur. If God controls the bad and the good, then we are robots. We do not live our lives as if we have no control. We seek God’s guidance, we believe in God’s impartial, unconditional love. I like Lamentations 3:32-33:

“Although God allows grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.”

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts