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Archive for April, 2015


At age 69, this retired Arkansas nurse is feeding seniors who sometimes have to decide between spending money for medicine or a hot meal. (Photo from NBC News)

At age 69, this retired Arkansas nurse is feeding seniors who sometimes have to decide between spending money for medicine or a hot meal. (Photo from NBC News)

Allowing the generation that raised us to go to the point that they’re eating cat food and dog food, I can’t imagine that. I think it’s a forgotten population.”

— Charolette Tidwell, retired Arkansas nurse using her pension money to feed the hungry in Fort Smith, Ark.

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Years ago, when I was in pastoral-care ministry in Dallas hospitals, I used to make it a practice every three or four months to get away from the grind by going on spiritual retreats at the St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith, Ark. The nuns there were incredibly hospitable and gave me much needed spiritual direction. And the monastery’s Sister Macrina Wiederkehr is a renowned spiritual writer (click here).

Fort Smith is a nice and really nice and pretty and pleasant Arkansas kind of town and I liked it. And the nuns there at the landmark monastery have a long history of being active in local social-justice work.

So I perked up a while back when NBC News teased a report about a woman in Fort Smith who is making an impact in her community.

Her name is Charotte Tidwell and here’s the report from the NBC News digital page(and note that she gives a nod to the nuns!)–plus a video about Miss Tidwell on the occasion of her receiving an award.

And may her tribe increase:

    Charolette Tidwell’s plans for retirement aren’t like many others: The retired 69-year-old nurse is using her pension to run a food pantry she started and is working there – unpaid – six days a week.

    “The community that I was raised in did this. My mom did it. The folks at the church did it. The nuns at the school that I went to elementary school did it,” she said. “We were mentored into this kind of work. Service was something that I’ve always been involved in.”

    Tidwell feeds 7,000 people a month in her hometown of Fort Smith, Arkansas – handing out 500,000 meals a year through her Antioch for Youth and Family group. The town has suffered from the closures of factories, layoffs at the chicken factory, and low wages, and Tidwell said she sees the elderly and families showing up for help.

    “I was raised in poverty and I understand all the issues that go along with not having enough money,” she said.

    She started the charity in 2000 after retiring and learning that seniors in her community were eating cat and dog food – a cheap way to get protein.

    “Allowing the generation that raised us to go to the point that they’re eating cat food and dog food, I can’t imagine that,” she said. “I think it’s a forgotten population.”

    People come and go on a recent food giveaway day, with some bringing wagons to carry home the donations. Others just come on bicycles. They scoop up vegetables, fruit and meat.

    “We thank the Lord for this lady here, Mrs. Tidwell, for helping us out in a time of need, said Sherri Warren, a client of the food pantry.

    Tidwell said she saves enough from her pension to get by, economizing on utility bills and figuring out the best deals on food to maximize what she can give. For more than 13 years, most of the group’s funding came from Tidwell and a few small donations; now that’s been supplemented by some small grants.

    “I think if they have a persistence or purpose to come here, I have the obligation to serve them,” Tidwell said. “And to serve them in a compassionate, respectful way.”

    There is a sense of community among the clients, the unpaid volunteers and Tidwell.

    “Many of our people are repeaters. They tell someone, and then those persons become repeaters. So it’s important for us to be not just a giver of food, but a giver of hope,” she said.

    Tidwell hopes to pass on her work to the next generation, and there is already one contender: a boy named Timmy who comes to volunteer with his mom.

    “It makes me feel good because I get to help people,” he said.

    “I want it to continue, if anything happens to me, Tidwell said of her work. “I just believe it will happen.”

And here’s that video from Fort Smith, produced on the occasion of Charlotte Tidwell being recognized for her giving back to Fort Smith:

And here’s your Jitterbug Thought for the Day:
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A powerful, healing song from one of the greatest duos ever at what was probably their greatest performance ever.

PSALM 69
For Those Seeking Deliverance From Persecution:

Lord in your mercy . . .

Hear our prayer.

Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
and the flood sweeps over me.
I am weary with my crying;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God.

More in number than the hairs of my head
are those who hate me without cause;
many are those who would destroy me,
my enemies who accuse me falsely.
What I did not steal
must I now restore?
O God, you know my folly;
the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.

Do not let those who hope in you be put to shame because of me,
O Lord God of hosts;
do not let those who seek you be dishonoured because of me,
O God of Israel.
It is for your sake that I have borne reproach,
that shame has covered my face.
I have become a stranger to my kindred,
an alien to my mother’s children.

It is zeal for your house that has consumed me;
the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.
When I humbled my soul with fasting,
they insulted me for doing so.
When I made sackcloth my clothing,
I became a byword to them.
I am the subject of gossip for those who sit in the gate,
and the drunkards make songs about me.

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.
At an acceptable time, O God,
in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me.
With your faithful help rescue me
from sinking in the mire;
let me be delivered from my enemies
and from the deep waters.
Do not let the flood sweep over me,
or the deep swallow me up,
or the Pit close its mouth over me.

Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good;
according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.
Do not hide your face from your servant,
for I am in distress—make haste to answer me.
Draw near to me, redeem me,
set me free because of my enemies.

You know the insults I receive,
and my shame and dishonour;
my foes are all known to you.
Insults have broken my heart,
so that I am in despair.
I looked for pity, but there was none;
and for comforters, but I found none.
They gave me poison for food,
and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

Let their table be a trap for them,
a snare for their allies.
Let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,
and make their loins tremble continually.
Pour out your indignation upon them,
and let your burning anger overtake them.
May their camp be a desolation;
let no one live in their tents.
For they persecute those whom you have struck down,
and those whom you have wounded, they attack still more.
Add guilt to their guilt;
may they have no acquittal from you.
Let them be blotted out of the book of the living;
let them not be enrolled among the righteous.
But I am lowly and in pain;
let your salvation, O God, protect me.

I will praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
This will please the Lord more than an ox
or a bull with horns and hoofs.
Let the oppressed see it and be glad;
you who seek God, let your hearts revive.
For the Lord hears the needy,
and does not despise his own that are in bonds.

Let heaven and earth praise him,
the seas and everything that moves in them.
For God will save Zion
and rebuild the cities of Judah;
and his servants shall live there and possess it;
the children of his servants shall inherit it,
and those who love his name shall live in it.

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"If elected, I promise to restore America to the Kingdom of God of which Jesus gave us a foretaste and left for us to advance on earth as in heaven!": Good luck getting elected on THAT political agenda.

“If elected, I promise to restore America to the Kingdom of God of which Jesus gave us a foretaste and left for us to advance on earth as in heaven!”: Good luck getting elected on THAT political agenda.

The Gospel of John tells us that the masses were so impressed by Jesus and his signs and wonders that they wanted to grab him and force him on top of a mighty, white steed wearing a King’s crown and swinging a big sword.

That, after all, was the kind of Messiah that people were expecting to come and forcefully and violently vanquish all the oppressive forces that ruled them.

But Jesus, sensing that they wanted to crown him as the kind of king they expected and so desperately wanted, ran hastily to the hills:

    “When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.’

    “When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.” (See John 6: 14-15)

It seems that many among us Americans want a King–or Queen–to “take back America” and the world, in the name of Jesus Christ, no less.

Progressives want an ass-kicking, uncompromising progressive King or Queen (preferably, at the moment, a Queen); conservatives want an ass-kicking, uncompromising conservative King or Queen (it’s gotta be a King).

Rigidly progressive and rigidly conservative Christians want a ruler who will rule in the name of a very progressive Christian or a very conservative Christian.

Back in the biblical day, the Messiah rode into town on a humble donkey, unarmed, and not on a big, white steed.

The Messiah wanted nothing to do with the world’s idea of a political, power-mad King.

But I would argue that depending on what side of the political dividing line we’re on, we aren’t really interested whatsoever in a leader who is Christ-like, however conservative or progressive we might think we are. Or how ideologically pure we think our ideal Kingfish (or Queenfish) would be.

We’re perfectly willing to be lied to by political office-holders and candidates who break The Ten Commandments with reckless abandon every day.

And we’re OK with their lying to us even as they finish every sentence with “God bless America!” or push to have the Ten Commandments posted all over schools and other government properties.

As Kurt Vonnegut famously noted:

    “For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.

    “’Blessed are the merciful’” in a courtroom? “’Blessed are the peacemakers’” in the Pentagon? Give me a break!”

Standing in Christian solidarity with the meek, the poor, the merciful and the peacemakers and such–good luck getting elected with that party platform.

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Good stuff, as always, from a great Christian blogger who is a great friend of the poor Gerry Straub at Gerry Straub’s Blog:

    “Those who struggle for their daily bread can offer great insight to those of us who struggle to go deeper into our spiritual lives. The road to mystical consciousness is paved with an acceptance of our natural state of exodus, acceptance of the reality of human misery, acceptance of our limitations and fragility.

    “The poor know about these things. And the humanity of Christ illuminated the vulnerable character of human nature.

    “As I made my film “Endless Exodus,” which documents the plight of the undocumented migrants from Central America and Mexico, I came to see that an awareness of oppression and a struggle for justice are integral to genuine mysticism. The all-embracing Christ invites us to be with Him, so that He, through us, can be with all people.

    “We are all migrants. As people of faith, we are migrants going from sin to grace, from earth to heaven, from death to life. Our migration is grounded in our belief that God first migrated to us in the person of Jesus and through him we are called to migrate to God. If migration worked itself into the self definition of all human beings we would not be as threatened by migrants as we often are; instead, we would see in them not only a reflection of ourselves but Christ who loves us.”

More on “Endless Exodus” here.

And all of Gerry’s powerful films on some of the poorest places in the world can be ordered here.

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Last Saturday I piled more than 15 Belizeans, mostly kids, and two adults and a baby into the passenger seats, and we headed up the washboard roads that lead to the Rio-On Pools–site of some of the best, natural, spring-water swimming holes, with breathtaking views everywhere, in this big world

I think piling people into the back of a pickup truck is against the law everywhere in the States now. Down south of the U.S. border, it’s just how they roll. And I roll with them.

CLICK ON THE PICS TO ENLARGE OF OUR DAY OF BARBECUEING, SWIMMING AND ROCK CLIMBING.

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You don’t want to be left behind for this rapturous day.

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No part of a chicken goes uncooked: feet, backs, necks–they’ll it’s going on the grill.

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No Belizean meal is complete without the traditional beans and rice.
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Thanks for stirring the pot, Miss Belize.
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Step up with your cup of ice for some of that orange-squash juice.

Step up with your cup of ice for some of that orange-squash juice.

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Speaking of where I broke my ankle: on the trail to here. I went swimming, broken ankle and all, for about 20 minutes before I  sort of crawled pm all fours back up to the truck.

Here’s “Big Rock Waterfalls,” where I broke my ankle on the trail down to it last August. I went swimming, broken ankle and all, for about 20 minutes before I sort of crawled back up the steep trail all fours to the truck. Driving back to town was a painful experience. Happy to report I suffered no broken bones Saturday at Pine Ridge.

Gringo tourists from His Greatness Francis Ford Coppolla’s nearby, high-dollar Blancaneaux Eco Lodge. The great film-maker fell in love with Belize in the early 1980s and pretty much put the country on map.

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Of course, all good things gotta come to an end and we got to get back to town before dark, but this should tell you that a large time was had by all up at Mountain Pine Ridge Saturday in the wilderness country of far-western Belize.

Of course, all good things gotta come to an end and we got to get back to town before dark, but this should tell you that a large time was had by all up at Mountain Pine Ridge Saturday in the wilderness country of far-western Belize.

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We really need to do something with the poor and needy in this country–the hungry, the homeless, those who take government “assistance” like food stamps and come down here to Belize on cruise ships.

I swear to God–I see America’s poor people down here eating lobster for snacks while I’m having to buy 50-cent salbutes from the back-street vendors.

We need to ship the poor back to Poordom where they came from because after all, they are not patriotic Americans.

The poor among us . . . are the people who aren’t really Americans and who don’t even seem to appreciate that we let them call themselves Americans.

It was the poor who took to the streets and demanded that George W. Bush invade Iraq in an endless war that we financed with loans from the great nation of . . . . . . .

China. . .

And don’t forget–it was the poor who then insisted that the President and Congress not raise taxes to finance the kazillion-dollar Iraq quagmire.

The poor among us . . . are those disgusting, freeloading, so-called “Americans” who sucked the national treasure dry taking food stamps and who, consequently, ignited the 2008 economic meltdown that took us to the brink of a 1930s-style Depression.

The poor among us . . . demanded that Wall Street bankers and lenders, Big Oil, Big Business, Big Agri-business and Big Everything reap all the federal-government subsidies they could leech out of Washington D.C.

But what is a Congress supposed to do when the poor demand that an ever-rising number of billionaires and multi-millionaires and corporations (which are people too!) pay no taxes while sucking off the government teet?

And now the poor–who by the way aren’t really poor at all because they have luxuries like refrigerators and TVs and couches mostly bought at yard sales and thrift stores–they want to blame Republicans, Bush, Congress, Wall Street for all that has gone awry in our America today.

The poor have all the wealth and power in America now, and then have the nerve to scapegoat the rich and powerful for all our problems. They are holding us hostage, those of us who work hard–we who stay out of the casinos.

That is, we who work for our money the old-fashioned we (we earn it!) save our money and live within our means.

It’s time to take America back (God bless you, Rand Paul! I hear ya!) from the power-drunk poor people who have the audacity to insist that they are Americans too!

It’s time we shipped our poor to Haiti or, for that matter, to the sinkholes where people subsist in Belize out of the purview of the rich and powerful American expats.

Let em see what real Poordom looks like!

Power to the (rich) people!!!!!

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“And so as a Christian, I stand with the president and many others on behalf of LGBT young people who need our intervention. I don’t want to see any more kids throw themselves off of a bridge or in front of a train because we as a society have told them they are less worthy because they are ‘different.'”

— Alan Chambers

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It’s a tragic thing that Alan Chambers for so long pushed a process that drove so many LGBT youth all the way to suicide in trying to make them “normal,” “normal,” that is, in the context of what Christianity has dictated as “normal” for too long.

But blessings on Chambers for doing what he can to head off any further damage that he did to youth and adults alike when he led the so-called “reparative therapy” movement as the head of Exodus International.

Trying to change someone’s sexual orientation from what it is by nature to what someone thinks it ought to be–especially a youth–is like trying to change someone’s ability to walk with two legs to the limits of one. You’ll only succeed in limiting their wholeness and well-being–and very well might inflict more harm than they can handle as they take up all kinds of crutches to reduce the pain and loss they suffer.

And please, don’t trot out the platitude that “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.”

What kind of loving God would inflict anguish and suffering on any of us, gay or straight, to see how much pain we can handle?

LGBT youth comprise upwards of 30 percent of all youth suicides among kids who can’t handle the pain inflicted largely by Christians who deem them as “abnormal.”

That is, the Christians–they who always have their radar out for other’s sins while lacking the self awareness to consider any of their own sins–who say they “hate the sin but love the sinner.”

Aside from the fact that we’re all sinners who fall short in every way in the eyes of the God of perfect love, loving one another among us mere mortals involves actively engaging others in order to listen to them, to really hear them and their stories, and at least try to understand them.

Because we all want to be heard, listened to, understood and loved, don’t we?

As a Christian and pastor here I stand:

I thank God that Alan Chambers finally saw the light, and none too soon, as he explains in this article in Religion News Service:

    (RNS) “Why are you here?” my counselor asked.

    “I want to be straight. Normal,” I answered. “I want to be here six months and then never talk about this again.”

    I was 19 at the time, and this counselor seemed like the answer to my eight years of praying for God to fix me, cure me, heal me, give me a lobotomy, give me amnesia or kill me. I was devoutly Christian and intrinsically gay and the two, I was told, could never mix.

    While the counselor I sought help from worked under the organizational banner Change Is Possible, I am thankful he knew better than to promise that such a dramatic change from gay to straight would definitely happen. There was plenty of discussion about the sinfulness of homosexuality and the encouragement to pursue celibacy. There was also advice given on pursuing heterosexual dating and marriage. It was 1991, and the only thing that seemed abnormal about all of this was that I was attracted to other men. That was bad.

    I was a good student. I had a natural and honest desire to marry a woman and live happily ever after. I believed what I had been taught about sex and sexuality, and over the years I realized I could live without gay sex and resist the temptation to give into sexual urges. I thought this meant I was healed and that change was indeed possible.

    I was happy with my life and wanted to help others like me who wanted this freedom.

    I got married in 1998, and for more than 17 years have found it easy to be faithful to my wife. I am more in love with her today than ever before and enjoy every part of our amazing marriage. But it took me 20 years, 12 of which I served as the president of Exodus International — the world’s largest so-called ex-gay ministry — to realize my story is just that: my story.

    While I am thankful for the ministry I went to for support — there was no other place for gay Christians to go in 1991 to admit the truth — I am sorry that they and I prescribed a one-size-fits-all story for every gay and lesbian person. I’m sorry we preached an incomplete gospel and wrongly told LGBTQ people they could and should do more to be acceptable to God. Doing so was deeply hurtful and damaging to many who never experienced the kind of change we thought possible.

    For too long, same-sex attraction has been categorized as sinful and in need of repairing. Such stigma has caused LGBTQ people crippling shame and fear. As a child I experienced and as an adult I perpetuated that stigma. I profoundly regret my support for and promotion of reparative therapy.

    And that’s why I stand with President Obama in calling for a ban on this practice for minors and for greater measures to protect adults seeking this niche therapeutic intervention.

    This ban is in no way an attempt to strip parents of their ability to be good parents or to keep them from helping their child to navigate the complexities of sex and sexuality. Nor is it an infringement on religious liberties.

    Regardless of a person’s opinions on sexual morality, efforts to change someone’s primary sexual orientation are dangerous and always unsuccessful. Every adult should have the right to choose his or her own path. And if someone has a religious or moral objection to a particular sexual expression, then who are we to tell that person he or she must embrace a specific act or identity?

    But this has nothing to do with that.

    This is about protecting kids from unsubstantiated claims that sexual orientation can be changed. This is about protecting the mental health of kids by validating their worth as human beings who are loved by God. This is about reducing shame and stigma and providing an opportunity for them to grow into mature adults who make decisions based on reality, not fear.

    As a Christian, this is about understanding the gospel in greater fullness, realizing God’s love is for all of us or it is for none of us — without exception or qualification.

    And so as a Christian, I stand with the president and many others on behalf of LGBT young people who need our intervention. I don’t want to see any more kids throw themselves off of a bridge or in front of a train because we as a society have told them they are less worthy because they are “different.”

    (Alan Chambers, with his wife, Leslie, is the author of the forthcoming memoir My Exodus (September 2015, Zondervan). From 2001-2013, he served as president of Exodus International, and then worked with his leadership to close the ministry. Alan and Leslie have two kids, write at http://www.alanchambers.org and live in Winter Park, Fla. On Twitter @AlanMChambers and @MyExodusBook.)

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