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Archive for December, 2016


The beautiful bayside city of Corozal on Chetumal Bay in far north Belize is across the border from the thriving city of Chetumal in Mexico. I spent the Christmas holidays rolling around the two areas on my trusty motorcycle Rojo.

The beautiful bayside city of Corozal on Chetumal Bay in far north Belize is across the border from the thriving city of Chetumal in Mexico. I spent the Christmas holidays rolling around the two areas on my trusty motorcycle Rojo.

Hello, you of the Cult of the Jitterbug.

Your worthy leader is back.

The Road Warrior. Spent my Christmas holiday mostly off the grid, indulging my wanderlust by traveling around northern BZ and neighboring Mexico.

The Road Warrior. Spent my Christmas holiday mostly off the grid, indulging my wanderlust by traveling around northern BZ and neighboring Mexico.

I’m back in San Ignacio where I live in far western Belize, a few miles from Guatemala, from a Christmastime road trip I took via motorcycle to Corozal, a thriving town on gorgeous Chetumal Bay in northern Belize.

My friend Myrna, a saint, washing my clothes.

My friend Myrna, a saint, washing my clothes.

Corozal, which is sugar cane country, borders the bustling city of Chetumal in the southwest Yucatan in Mexico.

So mine wasn’t your traditional American Christmas. But it was all I wanted for Christmas–an adventurous road trip to beautiful places I’ve not explored much in Belize and Mexico since moving here four years ago.

Except for one overnight stay in a Mexican hostel, I spent the holiday week with my longtime Belizean friends Pops and Myrna, cane farmers who live a simple but good life in a quiet village called Louisville, 15 minutes from Corozal.(See link to Corozal info at bottom.)

Myrna's husband "Pops" is a 79-year-old cane farmer who has three children with Myrna and had 12 children with his first wife who died. Never met a sweeter and more hospitable couple than Pops and Myrna in my life.

Myrna’s husband “Pops” is a 79-year-old cane farmer who has three children with Myrna and had 12 children with his first wife who died. Never met a sweeter and more hospitable couple than Pops and Myrna in my life.

My lodging at their half-acre home wasn’t exactly of the 5-star Belizean resort variety. I spent my first, mostly sleepless night in a hammock in an unfurnished cottage behind their cottage because they forgot to borrow a bed from a villager for me to sleep in my first night there.

Hammocks are good for napping and chilling out, but not so much for a good night's sleep.

Hammocks are good for napping and chilling out, but not so much for a good night’s sleep.

They did come through with a bed the second night.

(Hammocks are great for napping or relaxing, but not so good for sleeping all night unless maybe you’re a kid or a twenty-something camper who can sleep anywhere.)

Give me a bed and a little LED flashlight to read an oldie but goody Michael Connelly whodunnit and I'm good.

Give me a bed and a little LED flashlight to read an oldie but goody Michael Connelly whodunnit and I’m good.

So Myrna and Pops and the villagers in Louisville are like most Belizeans in that they don’t have all the comforts and conveniences that the better educated types have. They work hard and more often than not are struggling just to survive.

But like so many Belizeans, they’re a God-loving couple who understand that hospitality is at the core of this Christian faith thing. They read the Bible constantly and pray without ceasing. They and their neighbors take care of each other.

They aren’t rich people.

But then again, they’re richer than many wealthy people.

Myrna and Pops live in the cottage made of bush stick and plaster on the left. Their oldest grown son sleeps in the hammock or on the floor in a sleeping back, and another son and his wife and their newborn live in a small but nice cinder-block hut on the property. Their half acre does have a spacious grass lawn where the village kids hang out and play soccer. It also has lots of fruit trees, so all in all it's cozy little family compound.

Myrna and Pops live in the cottage made of bush stick and plaster on the left. Their oldest grown son sleeps in the hammock or on the floor in a sleeping back, and another son and his wife and their newborn live in a small but nice cinder-block hut on the property. Their half acre does have a spacious grass lawn where the village kids hang out and play soccer. It also has lots of fruit trees, so all in all it’s cozy little family compound.

The bath house.

The bath house.

This time of year the weather is cool and sometimes quite chilly so some hot water in the bathing bucket makes the outdoor bath feel pretty good.

This time of year the weather is cool and sometimes quite chilly so some hot water in the bathing bucket makes the outdoor bath feel pretty good.

And back there is, uh, the plumbing.

And back there is, uh, the plumbing.

For more on Corozal, which AARP ranks as one of the best retirement places outside the U.S., go here.
More on Chetumal in Mexico here.

See you next year and have a good one, my friends.

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Love. Joy. Peace. Friendship. These are "abstract nouns," things you cannot see or feel or taste. But then again, you can clearly see and feel love, joy, peace, friendship and all kinds of fruits of God's spirit.

Love. Joy. Peace. Friendship. These are “abstract nouns,” things you cannot see or feel or taste. But then again, you can clearly see and feel love, joy, peace, friendship and all kinds of fruits of God’s spirit.

Here in San Ignacio I tutor school kids who struggle in their “language arts” learning.

Recently I was instructing a couple of boys on abstract nouns. You’ll recall from your own early education that a concrete noun is something you can generally see, feel, hear, taste or smell.

Dog. Cat. House. Street. Taco. Apple. Teacher. Mom. Dad.

Those are common concrete nouns.

An abstract noun is different. It’s an idea or concept–something you can’t see, feel, hear, taste or smell. Yet it’s real.

These are examples of abstract nouns, kids:

Love, joy, peace.

Patience, kindness, goodness.

Faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.*

You can’t see love or joy or peace, not in the way you can see a dog or cat, taste an apple or a taco, touch your mom or dad . . . and well, you get the idea.

I wouldn’t want to confuse the kids I tutor by talking about abstract nouns as a spiritual matter, not when I’m teaching them language skills.

But as a spiritual matter, children and adults alike can see, feel, hear, taste and even smell abstract things like love, joy and peace.

As I do every morning, this morning I read the daily online devotional from Richard Rohr,* the great Franciscan monk and spiritual guide. He notes that you can’t learn how to love through concepts, ideas, and commandments.

Says Rohr:

    You need to see and feel a living, loving incarnation. “She is doing it. He exemplifies it. It is therefore possible for me, too.” It is almost more a taste, a smell, or a touch than an idea.

    Recent Christianity has relied far too much on ideas instead of living models. Sincere believers can smell holiness, even when the words might seem unorthodox. They can also smell unholiness from people who seem to do religion perfectly.

Turns out you can see an abstract thing like love or holiness. We’ve all seen love and joy and peace and such in people overflowing with the love of God.

We all can have that kind of love and joy, by the way. As Rohr points out, “Love is caught more than taught.”

May all who read this catch the true spirit* of Christmas in the days and years ahead.

——-
*If you’re not familiar with His Greatness Richard Rohr go here.

*See Galatians 5 here.

*Spirit: an example of an abstract noun.

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Love. Joy. Peace. Friendship. These are "abstract nouns," things you cannot see or feel or taste. But then again, you can clearly see and feel love, joy, peace, friendship and all kinds of fruits of God's spirit.

Love. Joy. Peace. Friendship. These are “abstract nouns,” things you cannot see or feel or taste. But then again, you can clearly see and feel love, joy, peace, friendship and all kinds of fruits of God’s spirit.

Here in San Ignacio I tutor school kids who struggle in their “language arts” learning.

Recently I was instructing a couple of boys on abstract nouns. You’ll recall from your own early education that a concrete noun is something you can generally see, feel, hear, taste or smell.

Dog. Cat. House. Street. Taco. Apple. Teacher. Mom. Dad.

Those are common concrete nouns.

An abstract noun is different. It’s an idea or concept–something you can’t see, feel, hear, taste or smell. Yet it’s real.

These are examples of abstract nouns, kids:

Love, joy, peace.

Patience, kindness, goodness.

Faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.*

You can’t see love or joy or peace, not in the way you can see a dog or cat, taste an apple or a taco, touch your mom or dad . . . and well, you get the idea.

I wouldn’t want to confuse the kids I tutor by talking about abstract nouns as a spiritual matter, not when I’m teaching them language skills.

But as a spiritual matter, children and adults alike can see, feel, hear, taste and even smell abstract things like love, joy and peace.

As I do every morning, this morning I read the daily online devotional from Richard Rohr,* the great Franciscan monk and spiritual guide. He notes that you can’t learn how to love through concepts, ideas, and commandments.

Says Rohr:

    You need to see and feel a living, loving incarnation. “She is doing it. He exemplifies it. It is therefore possible for me, too.” It is almost more a taste, a smell, or a touch than an idea.

    Recent Christianity has relied far too much on ideas instead of living models. Sincere believers can smell holiness, even when the words might seem unorthodox. They can also smell unholiness from people who seem to do religion perfectly.

Turns out you can see an abstract thing like love or holiness. We’ve all seen love and joy and peace and such in people overflowing with the love of God.

We all can have that kind of love and joy, by the way. As Rohr points out, “Love is caught more than taught.”

May all who read this catch the true spirit* of Christmas in the days and years ahead.

——-
*If you’re not familiar with His Greatness Richard Rohr go here.

*See Galatians 5 here.

*Spirit: an example of an abstract noun.

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It’s Saturday night and I’m getting in the holiday spirit with a Gin and Tonukka.

Happy Holidays!

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This painting “Omran, Angels Are Here! is by Salt Lake City artist Judith Mehr.

Omran Daqneesh is the Syrian 5-year-old Syrian who was injured and shell shocked in an airstrike believed to have been by the Russian Air Force.

Omran’s 10-year-old brother Ali died in the attack while the rest of the family was rescued from their apartment building that collapsed shortly after the rescue.

Chinese and Russian media (propagandists) have dismissed the image of the child, which has had enduring viral circulation on the internet, “propaganda.”

Lord in your mercy, we pray that somehow your will for peace on earth, good will and justice for all will prevail. Amen.

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Leave it to the Naked Pastor (David Hayward at http://www.nakedpastor.com) to boil it down to the essence.

Illustration by His Greatness "The Naked Pastor."

Illustration by His Greatness David Hayward, the Naked Pastor.

Jesus wasn’t born to a prosperous family in a McMansion in a manicured suburban neighborhood or gated community, much less anything like a rich family in a Trump Tower in a great New York-ish-type city.

The gospel of John tells us that Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote–Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

Nathanael balked.

“Nazareth???!!! Are you kidding me? Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (See John 1:43-51 here.)

The vulnerable Jesus was born in a no-count backwater place, far from any important trade center or route, in a barnyard, no less, to humble parents who were on the lam as homeless folks for a good long time.

That’s the essence of the birth and incarnation story. The Messiah wasn’t the sword-wielding, Roman-killing King David type that everyone was expecting the Messiah to be.

Jesus was this vulnerable child, reared by humble parents, who grew up to be a rabbi who definitely didn’t fit the strongman savior profile.

That’s not to suggest that he wasn’t strong; he was the strongest and most fearless man who ever lived.

But certainly not strong and fearless in the sense of some kind of cartoonish American action figure.

He was born in a humble and vulnerable setting.

And then, he died willingly on a piece of wood in what in his Jewish faith was considered the most scandalous and humiliating way to die. A Messiah hung on a cross was unthinkable–a scandal. The Jews regarded a cross as the Roman version of a tree and this was their law:

“Utterly cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” (Deut. 21.23).

Utterly cursed. Wow.

Anyone in biblical times tortured and crucified was not just being punished by the Romans as a criminal–he was considered a sinner cursed by God Himself/Herself.

We find strength and salvation in our weakness, our vulnerability, not in our using money or power or even the Bible like some kind of sword.

That there weren’t any armed people puffed up with power in the barnyard outside the Inn speaks volumes about the birth, life, ministry, and death of our Lord.

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The poet and spiritual writer Luci Shaw, who has a gift for packing incisive theology and arresting imagery into a few lines of free verse, wrote a wonderful poem about Mary cradling her newborn son titled “Mary’s Song.”9780802829870

It’s one of the poems in Shaw’s book Accompanied by Angels: Poems of the Incarnation.

In “Mary’s Song,” the mother of Jesus sees her newborn as “a small hot naked star fallen to my arms.” She marvels at how he who was with God and the Holy Spirit in the beginning “overflowed all skies, all years.”

I love this advent poem and commend the poetry of Luci Shaw to anyone who may be unfamiliar with her beautiful writing. Go here for her website. And check out her landscape photography at the site as well.

    “Mary’s Song”
    Blue homespun and the bend of my breast
    keep warm this small hot naked star
    fallen to my arms. (Rest…
    you who have had so far
    to come.) Now nearness satisfies
    the body of God sweetly. Quiet he lies
    whose vigor hurled
    a universe. He sleeps
    whose eyelids have not closed before.
    His breath (so slight it seems
    no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps
    to sprout a world.
    Charmed by doves’ voices, the whisper of straw,
    he dreams,
    hearing no music from his other spheres.
    Breath, mouth, ears, eyes
    he is curtailed
    who overflowed all skies,
    all years.
    Older than eternity, now he
    is new. Now native to earth as I am, nailed
    to my poor planet, caught that I might be free,
    blind in my womb to know my darkness ended,
    brought to this birth
    for me to be new-born,
    and for him to see me mended
    I must seen him torn.

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At the highfalutin ceremony in which the absent Bob Dylan was honored with his Nobel for Literature, Dylan’s friend and kindred spirit Patti Smith got the yips so bad in singing his masterpiece “Hard Rain” that she forgot the words.

Talk about awkward. Candidly admitting she was nervous, she repeatedly apologized to the Swedish royalty on hand for the ceremony before she hit stride with vigor and passion.

All in all, her imperfect performance could not have been more perfect. Dylan’s always been tangled up in blue imperfections, starting with a nasal-drip voice that ain’t for everybody.

A nervous Patti Smith got the yips, only to recover brilliantly with her performance of Dylan's "Hard Rain" at the Nobel Prize Ceremony.

A nervous Patti Smith got the yips, only to recover brilliantly with her performance of Dylan’s “Hard Rain” at the Nobel Prize Ceremony.

And yet it seems that most everybody, sooner or later, develops a taste for Dylan’s music and word play. Great poets and singers are irresistibly seductive (and the same could be said of Patti Smith.)

I watched the youtube of Smith, accompanied by an acoustic guitarist and orchestra with a steel guitar overlay that made me want to weep, with my 3-year-old Belizean daughter cuddled by my side. I noticed that she sat up and paid complete attention with her little mouth agape. It held us spellbound the second time as well.

Smith’s musical interpretation of “Hard Rain” definitely did justice to Dylan’s apocalyptic protest poem, which I take to be about a broken, sin-sick world in need of God’s healing power and grace, complete with the call to go out and make things right lest we all get swamped in a hard and very hard rain that seems now more than ever upon us.

    Oh, what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
    Oh, what’ll you do now, my darling young one?
    I’m a-goin’ back out ’fore the rain starts a-fallin’
    I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
    Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
    Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
    Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
    Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden
    Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
    Where black is the color, where none is the number
    And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it
    And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
    Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
    But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’
    And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
    It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

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What is truth?

— What Pontius Pilate said to Jesus

Truth? What does it matter?

Truth? What does it matter? (“What is truth?” painting by Nicholas Gai

I’m starting this regular series I’ll call “Today’s Truth Alert.”

I’ll begin with a “Truth Alert” concerning something the bald-faced lying President-elect claims about the election he won via the electoral college vote only.

Let me say first that the President-elect who lost by millions of popular votes and barely squeezed out an electoral championship in three key states is a lifelong, ethically challenged businessman who was obviously never a Rotarian.

Rotary Club International is the greatest of service clubs. Its purpose is to encourage and foster service and high ethical standards in the business and professional sectors around the world.

Rotary is everywhere. It does great service projects right here in San Ignacio Belize.

In addition to local service, Rotary advances international understanding, goodwill, and peace through global fellowship.

What I like most about Rotary is its 4-Way Test applied to every action Rotarians take.

1. Is it the truth?
2. Is it fair to all concerned?
3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

* * *

Now comes the powerful Speaker of the House Paul Ryan–who like so many people had his character assassinated by Trump as recently as October–who says Donald Trump’s lies don’t matter.

In an interview with the (allegedly dishonest) media that Trump (usually but not always ) abhors on “60 Minutes,” Speaker Ryan said it doesn’t matter that Trump claims via Twitter that he won the popular vote because “millions of people voted illegally.”

Let’s get one thing straight: this is a lie. If it was the truth, Trump would have bombarded us with evidence to back up his claim.

As it is, Hillary Clinton, whether Trump or anybody else likes it or not, won the popular vote by millions.

But Ryan and other defenders suggest it doesn’t matter that Trump pulls this kind of stinking load out of his hindquarters every day and presents it as some kind of fact-based truth.

Ryan, who suggested to “60 Minutes” that the truth of a matter doesn’t matter when Trump speaks, said this specifically about the veracity of the man who will soon be the most powerful leader in this big world:

    “The way I see the tweets you’re talking about, he’s basically giving voice to a lot of people who have felt that they were voiceless. He’s communicating with people in this country who’ve felt like they have not been listened to. He’s going to be an unconventional president.

OK great! He’s giving voice to Americans who need to be heard!

Although, a tremendous number of American voices still aren’t being heard by the likes of Ryan and Trump.

And great is this–he’s unconventional! That’s the Default Excuse for every god-awful thing Donald Trumps says or does.

It’s OK–he’s just unconventional.

So is a wrecking ball, which is an unconventional tool because it destroys things the way Trump destroys the truth when the truth will do.

I mean, the guy won the election.

We can only imagine the lies the whiny little juvenile of a man would have spread had he lost.

* * *

What is it about “Thou shalt not lie” that Paul Ryan, a devout Catholic, doesn’t understand?

What is it about all that God’s truth that Jesus Christ was so passionate about fostering?

For that matter, what is it about No. 1 on the Rotarian 4-Way Test (“Is it the truth?”) that Trump … and Ryan … and all those others who defend Trump’s lies, distortions, and misrepresentations day in and day out don’t seem to get?

Somebody famously suggested that God’s truth has the power to set us free from the bondage of sin.

You don’t have to be a Rotarian or Donald Trump supporter or Christian to know that words, which are used to spread truth or lies, matter.

May God and the Truth be with us the next four years.

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