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Archive for July, 2015

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When you are poor, and live on disability, there doesn’t seem to be anyway out of poverty, so you don’t look further ahead than the next SSI check. If you work, the amount that you receive goes down, so working doesn’t seem to be a good idea.

“With no real job skills, and a very low minimum wage, working is actually a bad idea because it is not possible to work enough to feed and house your family. So you stick with the government checks and you try to do a little here and there to get some extra.”

— From a blog post by my friend and colleague in clergydom Martha Myre, who took a struggling mom and her six children into her home but is now having to raise funds to keep up support for the family.

Stories that make you go, “Wow!” in a good way: My friend and colleague the Rev. Martha Myre is raising funds for a struggling mom and the mom’s six kids, all of whom Martha took into her own home.

Back in North Texas, I have a friend and colleague in United Methodist clergydom, Martha Myre, who writes a lot about sexuality issues, especially those involving LGBT issues such as gay marriage and the ordination of gays.

She and I have diametrically opposed views on such issues, on which I’m liberal and she’s definitely not.

But she and I can agree to disagree and remain friends.

And besides, lest any progressives are thinking that Pastor Martha must be some kind of narrow-minded, ultra-conservative fundamentalist because she opposes gay marriage, she makes no secret of being an ardent Bernie Sanders supporter.

Which makes her way, way more librul on most issues than yours truly.

But enough of that.

What I want to share here is Pastor Martha’s story about seeing poverty up-close and personal and doing what she could to alleviate it.

It’s a story about how, after the sudden death of her beloved husband, Martha took a struggling mom and her six kids into her own home to give them the decent shelter and other support they were lacking.

The rest of the story is that Martha, whose own financial situation has changed since she made the family her own family, is now raising funds through the terrific Web site www.GoFundMe.com.

So rather than re-print the story that Martha shared on her blog “Silent No Longer,” I hope you follow the link to her blog and read her story and the story of the struggling family’s she now struggling to keep afloat.

And if you care to donate to the cause, by all means–share some of your means.

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This TV ad is a rare kind of TV ad.

I think the ad is powerful and food for serious conversation about the seductive power technology wields over kids.

I think the ad is a good thing, but of course no good thing goes unassailed by snark-mongers anymore.

Click here to see the trashing of it by the writer Rebecca Cullers at AdWeek.

Then draw your own conclusions.

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Today’s “Big Amen of the Day to That!” is a humbling word about humility from Socrates (culled from the book How to Think Like a Wise Person).

    “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”

Too bad that such wisdom is lost on the hyper-arrogant President, the hyper-arrogant Congress and the growing herd of hyper-arrogant presidential wannabes.

I mean, Pollyanna Paul is keenly aware that leaders in any field usually have at least a touch of arrogance and usually more than a touch. And I was a pretty cocky reporter in my time, and I’ll admit to being a cocky blawger-minister-male person more often than I really care to admit. (I like to think I’m, ahem, confident rather than, uh, cocky.)

But how refreshing it would be for just one of our leaders to say just one time something like, “Look, it’s a very complicated issue and I don’t pretend to know all the answers. But here’s where I am on this issue right now and here’s what I’m convinced we should do. . . . ”

It seems to me that Jesus and Paul showed us that there is power and strength in humility, and humility in strength and power–assuming that strength and power are used appropriately, that is.

Belizean Sign of the Day.

Belizean Sign of the Day.

Your Thought for the Day.

Your Thought for the Day.

And finally, why is there so much abortion and so little of this?

And second happy birthday to my adopted Belizean baby Ludy Paulita McKay!

Two years ago today I took on shared custody of a baby in adoption and it's been a joy!

Yes,two years ago today I took on shared custody of a father-less baby in adoption and it’s been a joy!

Or as I call her, “Miss Belize!”

Happy Day!

Happy Day!

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Your Jitterbug Thought For the Day:

“What would I try if I weren’t afraid of anything? If I had no fear of rejection, or no fear of what others might think of me, or no fear of failing? No fear, period?”

At Ambergris Caye, BZ

At Ambergris Caye, BZ

A beautiful poem from Jain Buddhist Shantideva:

    May I be a guard for those who need protection,
    A guide for those on the path,
    A boat, a raft, a bridge for those who wish to cross the flood.
    May I be a lamp in the darkness,
    A resting place for the weary,
    A healing medicine for all who are sick,
    A vase of plenty, a tree of miracles;
    And for the boundless multitudes of living beings,
    May I bring sustenance and awakening,
    Enduring like the earth and sky
    Until all beings are freed from sorrow,
    And all are awakened.

Your Belizean Faces of the Day:

My friends from my former Belizean home in Succotz Village, shown here at the market booth where they sell chips, candies, gums and trinkets every Saturday.

My friends from my former Belizean home in Succotz Village, shown here at the market booth where they sell chips, candies, gums and trinkets every Saturday.

Good advice:

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Happy Tuesday.

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A pet dog can be just another beloved member of the family. And the loss of a family member is crushing.

A pet dog can be just another beloved member of the family. And the loss of a family member is crushing.

An American friend of mine mentioned the other day that a poor couple she knows lost their beloved dog to cancer, and that the couple never had the money to take the pet to a vet.

It had to be heart-breaking for the couple to watch the dog suffer. Anybody who ever had a dog knows that a dog can be as much a part of the family unit as any human member of the family.

But so it goes when one lives in what I call “Poordom”–“Poordom” being a word for poverty that my mother casually spoke one time when we were discussing her struggles in growing up after her father abandoned her.

The poor face struggles and losses that we who are well-to-do never think about. The lack of money for vet care, for example, is something that never crossed my mind until my friend back home raised up that poor couple’s loss of their pet to cancer.

It’s obvious from almost every page in the Bible that God has a special place in God’s heart for the poor. That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love the rich or that God excludes the wealthy or that money is the root of all evil.

(Once more for the record, because this can’t be repeated enough–it’s the love of money that is the root of all evil.)

It just means that God has an abiding concern for the poor and that God wants us to lift up the poor every chance we get.

I’ll have more thoughts to share about the poor and the little hells of poverty (like no money for a vet) this week.

Meanwhile, remember that to know God, you don’t have to know church creeds or doctrines or polity–Jesus never gave anybody an exam about what to do and know to be a Christian.

But it’s obvious from scripture that God’s love and concern for the poor is such that God wants you to know God by knowing the poor.

“He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him. ‘Is not this to know me?’ 
says the Lord.”

— Jeremiah 22: 16

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A steep climb down a long, zig-zagging stairway with a lot of observation decks along the way takes you to this at the bottom of the Gaia Eco-Resort.

A steep climb down a long, zig-zagging stairway with a lot of observation decks along the way takes you to this at the bottom of the Gaia Eco-Resort, not far from my adopted hometown in San Igancio (“Cayo”) Belize.


I realized Friday that I was feeling a little depleted from doing, doing, doing so much of the time, and not taking enough time to be.

And there’s no place like beautiful nature settings to just let yourself be.

I’m blessed to live an hour’s drive away from Belize’s massive Mountain Pine Ridge area, home to a number of great eco-resorts, including two that are especially recognized as two of the world’s best: Francis Ford Coppola’s Blancaneaux Lodge and the Gaia Resort.

The two resorts are way out of my meager beer budget–I can’t even afford the $4.50 price of a Belikin beer at Coppola’s place (which is $1.25 to $1.50) for the same bottle of the prime beer all over Belize).

But I can hang out there all day and benefit from some of its offerings, like the birding and orchids trail and the streams and waterfalls that run beside it. I can even sit on the balcony of one of the vacant cottages and take in an incredible view or catch some birds in the distance with the binocs.

Just hanging there, or at Gaia a couple miles down the road from it, is absolutely free.

In the background: the roaring, loud waterfall at “Big Rock” up in Mountain Pine Rich, BZ, located about halfway between two, world-cass eco-resorts: Francis Ford Coppola’s Blancaneaux Lodge and the Gaia Resort, which has access to another great waterfall right on its property.

But my first stop up in the mountains Friday was at the natural waterfall and great swimming holes at the place called “Big Rock.”

You may recall that a year ago this week, I was making the steep and very steep descent down the trail to Big Rock when I slipped and fell and slid with my right ankle forming a pretzel beneath my butt as I slid down the steep and very steep trail about 15 feet before I was able to grab something and stop.

I ended up, you’ll recall, at the hospital, in this condition:

With a stop at a watering hole appropriately called “Malfunction Junction,” where I stopped for an ice pack and one of those Belikin beers that I couldn’t afford at Coppola’s place. Driving home down the rustic mountain road with a swollen ankle broken in 2 places was a challenged, but I sucked up the pain and just drove. Not my sweetest Belizean night.

Meanwhile, two weeks later at the hospital for the boot removal and the new cast.

Meanwhile, two weeks later at the hospital for the boot removal and the new cast.

Happy to report that I made it up and down Big Rock without incident this year and enjoyed my Nature Appreciation Day.

And mind you, I don’t Belize you have to live in a Belize to find a beautiful place in nature to just be for a while. Find your own Belize and just go sometimes.

Here’s pix form Frank Coppola’s joint, a pretty exceptional place, admittedly, to let everything just be.

A bird's nest cottage that was vacant, and so ... I parked up there a while with the binocs. What a great country!

A bird’s nest cottage that was vacant, and so … I parked up there a while with the binocs. What a great country!

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So until next time, thrill-seekers . . .

So until next time, thrill-seekers . . .

Let it be.

Let it be.

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I know that the issue of teaching math in schools is one of those controversial, hot-button issues that brings out the hostility in people, but I’m going there.

I agree with the Miss USA candidate and others who argue that math should be a choice in America because we’re not Russia and if we want to learn math, alchemy, scientology, gymnastics or how to mix a good drink … well, how to mix a good drink and stuff is good knowledge to know.

Tell me what you think.

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Speaking of the mysteries of God (see this blog’s posting from yesterday):

Here’s a poetic reflection that expands on the mysteries of God in a powerful way, while reminding us that there is a time to run, a time to stop and tune in to the larger voice that is constantly calling:

“I hold up too big a section of the sky to sit down and meditate.” — From The Book of Uncommon Prayer

Eternal God,
you are a song amid silence,
a voice out of quietness,
a light out of darkness,
a presence in the emptiness,
a coming out of the void.

You are all of these things and more.
You are Mystery that encompasses meaning,
meaning that penetrates mystery.

You are God, I am man.
I strut and brag,
I put down my fellows
and bluster out assertions of my achievements.
And then something happens:
I wonder who I am,
and if I matter.
Night falls,
I am alone in the dark and afraid.
Someone dies, I feel so powerless.

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A child is born,
I am touched by the miracle of life.
At such moments I pause . . .
to listen for a song amid silence,
a voice out of stillness
to look for a light out of darkness.

I want to feel a presence in the emptiness.
I find myself reaching for a hand . . .
Oftentimes, the feeling passes quickly,
and I am on the run again:
success to achieve,
money to make.

Catch me if you can, God: Always things to do, places to go, money to make, Gotta run, now.

Catch me if you can, God: Got things to do, places to go, money to make.

O Lord, you have to catch me on the run most of the time,
I am too busy to stop,
too important to pause for contemplation.
I hold up too big a section of the sky
to sit down and meditate.

But even on the run,
an occasional flicker of doubt assails me,
And I suspect I may not be as important to the world
as I think I am.

Jesus said each of us is important to you.
It is as if every hair of our heads were numbered.
How can that be?
But in the hope that it is so,
I would stop running
stop shouting,
and be myself.
Let me be still now,
let me be calm.

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Let me rest upon the faith that you are, God.
And I need not be afraid.

—- From A Book of Uncommon Prayer, Kenneth G. Phifer

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Join me in keeping the Chattanooga victims and their survivors in constant prayer this weekend.

Join me in keeping the Chattanooga victims and their survivors in constant prayer this weekend.

“Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.”

— Ephesians 6: 19-20

———————–

“Christ is both the mystery AND the solution. Paul references the mystery of our religion, the mystery of the gospel, the mystery of our faith and being stewards of the mysteries of God. Faith, apparently, does not necessarily make sense. It is a mystery. . .

“I love a good mystery.”

— United Methodist writer and lecturer Dan R. Dick

Christianity and the Bible have endured for thousands of years–and will endure–and not because of certainties about the Trinitarian God.

And not because God is The Great Answer Man who dropped the Bible out of the sky one day, granting us all the correct, pat answers to every moral question, ancient or contemporary, ever posed.

The Bible was written over centuries by men (what a different book it would be if women had been in on the process!) who were inspired by a God who is and was well known–while remaining totally and completely unknown.

We Christians live in “the cloud of unknowing” that is faith, believing in that which is real, and yet believing in things not seen. (Oh look! There went the Holy Spirit!” Did you see her?)

I always say that God is a mystery, but a magnificent mystery.

The United Methodist Rev. Dan R. Dick is a terrific author, lecturer and blogger whose latest posting at his blog United Methodeviations got my attention.

That’s because I, like Pastor Dan, love a good mystery.

And God is just the eternal best.

Here’s what the good reverend wrote:

    Though I am not overly superstitious, I DO try to pay attention to unusual coincidences. Over the last three days, I have been led, in one way or another, to look up four passages of scripture: Ephesians 6:18-20, I Corinthians 4:1-2, Ephesians 1:7-10, and 1 Timothy 3:16. Each of these verses contain the Greek word musterion or secret/mystery. The apostle Paul spends a lot of time waffling back and forth between the mystery revealed and the mystery unknown. In both cases, though, Paul speaks of a reverence for something HUGE. Christ is both the mystery AND the solution. Paul references the mystery of our religion, the mystery of the gospel, the mystery of our faith and being stewards of the mysteries of God. Faith, apparently, does not necessarily make sense. It is a mystery. Why should God care about us? Mystery. Why doesn’t God just give up on us and metaphorically walk away? Mystery. Why should God loves us even in the depths of our sinfulness? Mystery? Why does it rain on the just and unjust alike? Mystery.

    However, as humans are wont to do, we seem dedicated to erasing and eliminating any and all trace of mystery from our religion. We want to boil everything down to a dull paste that makes sense, is rational, reasonable, and rote. We displace faith with certainty, and any working of the Spirit with reductionist rules and regulations about who is in and who is out. We spend much more time judging than we ever have praying. We speak as if we understand God’s will and intention instead of humbly approaching the altar, seeking what God might mean instead. We state false declaratives about who is “born again” and who is “saved” and whom will go to heaven and whom to hell. Our self-righteousness outshines any righteousness God bestows.

    The responsibility and demand of being a steward of God’s mysteries is huge, but the privilege and honor of such stewardship is amazing. To offer the mystery of the gospel to each other, think what that means. “Gospel” is an inadequate translation of euaggeliou or, evangelion — but its essence is spot on: GOOD NEWS. Some of the basic tenets of “good news” as espoused in the early Christian writings are incredibly powerful, though there are many today who would like to turn these tools of liberation into weapons of oppression:

    — all have sinned, but God offers redemption and salvation through Jesus the Christ

    — poor, ostracized, marginalized, oppressed will be vindicated and redeemed; those who oppress, judge, and condemn will be judged and condemned

    — the full measure of our faith will be how we treat others, especially those who wrong us

    — we are all here to serve one another; we are all gifted to serve one another

    — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are visible signifiers (fruits) of whether God guides us or not

    — there is a place in God’s kingdom for all creation; God’s grace is larger than our brokenness

    — no one is better than anyone else; no human being is holier or more deserving of God’s love than any other

    — the way we treat others indicates how much we love God; no one can say they love God then ignore brother, sister, stranger or enemy; withholding help from a human is withholding help from God

    This list could go on for pages and pages, but it is long enough to make most of us scratch our heads and say, “This doesn’t make sense!” And indeed it doesn’t. Not in the least. Mystery. This is the point. While we try to reduce faith in Jesus Christ and relationship to God and neighbor to a simplistic list of do/don’t, yes/no, righteous/sinful, in/out, us/them, straight/gay, white superior/black, red, yellow, brown magenta, fuchsia, chartreuse inferior, either/orness, God keeps it simple — this is none of our business. Judgment belongs lock, stock and barrel to God. Our job? Sow the seeds of love. Spread the good news of mercy, compassion, justice, hope, kindness, acceptance, and grace. Feed the positive and starve the negative. Invite every person you meet into the mystery — and continue always and every way possible to go deeper into the mystery yourself. Any faith that is simple to understand and that you can fully master in one lifetime really isn’t a faith worth believing in.

    It is hard for modern Western minds to just go with the flow. We strive so hard to make sure everything makes sense. Knowing is often so important that we forget to understand. Meaning is much more important than truth. What meaning do we find for our lives? Do we find meaning in judging, hating, hurting, excluding, dividing, insulting and disrespecting those who disagree with us? Not much meaning in that. Do we find meaning in welcoming, creating, loving, appreciating, accepting, teaching, learning, and understanding those around us? A limitless pool of possibility, but only if we can trust, have faith, and embrace mystery. Those who know Christ have a great opportunity to embrace mystery, for we have been entrusted with perhaps the greatest mystery of all time — God so loved the world (and everyone created in it) that God gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but have eternal life. I love a good mystery.

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“Potty training” took on new meaning when a jilted husband abandoned by his wife started drawing creative pictures of his bull terrier “Jimmy Choo” around the house. “Jimmy” was the only thing the wife left behind when she split with the furniture, the cookware and most everything else.

It’s a well-known fact that pain can be transformed into creative energy and here’s a good example.

Rafael Mantesso was left with that old down-and-out feeling after his wife walked out on the marriage and took everything with her.

She took the furniture, the cookware, the photos, everything!

Except the bull terrier, Jimmy Choo.

In a classic case of making lemonade out of lemons, Rafael was inspired one day to take a marker and start drawing around the white walls, with the dawg as his model and inspiration. In doing so he rekindled his dormant passion for creative arts and his zest for life.

Nothing like a refreshing shower. (Drawings and photos by Rafael Mantesso.)

Nothing like a refreshing shower. (Drawings and photos by Rafael Mantesso.)

I mean, wow--this one will make you do a double-take or two.

I mean, wow–this one will make you do a double-take or two.

Jimmy wants to rock and roll, oh yeah (and party every day like KISS).

Jimmy wants to rock and roll, oh yeah (and party every day like KISS).

Obvious fans of “Mad Men.”

Give this dawg another biscuit--he's outstanding.

Give this dawg another biscuit–he’s outstanding.

And now to see the whole story and more of Rafael and Jimmy’s work, click right here to the website Amazingthings.com.

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