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Archive for January, 2017


Why I live where I live in Cayo, BZ: One reason is because the lazy Macal River runs through it, and merges with the mighty Mopan River on the outskirts of town. I love rivers.

Why I live where I live in Cayo, BZ: One reason is because the lazy Macal River runs through it, and merges with the mighty Mopan River on the outskirts of town. I love rivers.

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.

From A River Runs Through It*, By Norman Maclean

Aerial view of the Macal River, which runs through the rustic twin cities of San Ignacio-Santa Elena, known as "Cayo," where I live.

Aerial view of the Macal River, which runs through the rustic twin cities of San Ignacio-Santa Elena, known as “Cayo,” where I live.

I live where I live in Belize in the twin cities San Ignacio/Santa Elena, commonly known in Belize as “Cayo.”

Of all the places in the world I could live and the places I could reside in Belize, I live in Cayo partly because a beautiful, scenic, usually tranquil and lazy river–the Macal–runs through it.

I love the Macal even at times during the rainy season when it’s roaring and the water is muddy after torrential downpours that come and go sometimes for a week or more at a time. I especially love it this time of year, though, during “dry” season when it can appear pristine.

Just outside of Cayo the Macal River merges with the mighty Mopan River to form the Belize River which winds down the length of Belize into the Caribbean Sea.

Tourists chilling out on the Macal River below the high, iron bridge that spans in Cayo.

Tourists chilling out on the Macal River below the high, iron bridge that spans in Cayo.

I love rivers. As Norman Maclean said in his concise and oh-so-beautiful and one and only novel, “A river, though, has so many things to say that it is hard to know what it says to each of us.”

Rivers speak to me and I love rivers. They are tranquilizers with no dangerous side effects. In fact, they are like vitamins–they empower the mind, body, soul and spirit and keep them healthy.

I’ve been feeling so distressed by the news back home in the States lately–and a little stressed trying to get my book manuscript and the pictures that will illustrate The View From Down in Poordom ready for production–that I’ve neglected to get back to nature where I can breathe.

Today I did just that—took the time to walk four miles along the river with my binoculars to look at the birds and butterflies and magnificent greenery and water currents.

It was like getting a booster shot for the soul.

His greatness Norman Maclean wrote:

    Many of us would probably be better fishermen if we did not spend so much time watching and waiting for the world to become perfect.

I’m not much of a fisherman and never have been, except in the sense of being “a fisher of men (and women) in the biblical sense.

But we’d probably be better people if we stopped waiting for the world to become perfect, amen?
————-
* In his review of Maclean’s instant classic of a novel, Alfred Kazin wrote in the Chicago Tribune:

    There are passages here of physical rapture in the presence of unsullied primitive America that are as beautiful as anything in Thoreau and Hemingway.”
The walkway on the high and very high iron bridge that spans the Macal River and connects San Ignacio and Santa Elena. Another wood-plank bridge, called the "low bridge," rises only a few feet above the river.

The walkway on the high and very high iron bridge that spans the Macal River and connects San Ignacio and Santa Elena. Another wood-plank bridge, called the “low bridge,” rises only a few feet above the river.

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Many who claim to be Christian want The Ten Commandments prominently displayed on school and courthouse lawns, in courtrooms and elsewhere. Sometimes I wonder if they've ever read and thought about the Then Commandments in trying to justify and defend Donald Trump's propensity for lying and bearing false witness.

Many who claim to be Christian want The Ten Commandments prominently displayed on school and courthouse lawns, in courtrooms and elsewhere. Sometimes I wonder if they’ve ever read and thought about the Commandments in trying to justify and defend Donald Trump’s propensity for lying and bearing false witness. However much they’ve read them, they haven’t internalized the meanings of them.

I will say one thing for Donald Trump, from whom lies fall from the lips like hard rain you can’t see but definitely can hear in astonishment.

In just under a week’s time in office he has managed to give the whole of God’s world a massive nervous breakdown and damaged relationships with our best friends and allies in the world, starting with Mexico.16194965_1810948269158506_702026115572902689_n

In his first full weekend on the job he created a constitutional crisis with his signature on a most unconstitutional order banning anybody from Muslim countries excepting the countries in which he does HUGE business. (Saudi Arabia, for example, which gave us Bin Laden and the 911 psychos.)

(In addition, his counselor added a new term to government arena: “alternative facts.”)

That’s a huge accomplishment, however dubious.

I’m still trying to process the brazen lies he told in one week on duty.

His insistence against all empirical evidence that he had the largest turnout at his Inauguration, for example.

That is simply an astounding lie that anyone with two eyes and one reasonably object mind can see and know.

Also, his insistence that 3 to 5 million immigrants committed voter fraud, and that that’s why he lost the popular vote.

That’s a lie.

Period.

(Trump did have an overwhelming victory, county-wise. But he still lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes. And his electoral college victory ranked 46th out of 58 presidential elections.)

And the investigation he seems hell-bent on having into allegedly massive fraud into his own election promises to be a huge–huge!–waste of taxpayer time and money. (Gotta love that Republican fiscal responsibility.)

As some of the more sensible Republicans in D.C. like Sen. Lindsey Graham have maintained, this new President is simply undermining his own credibility, hurting no one but himself and the country.

But the fact is that he’s hurting Christianity big-time.

I can’t repeat this enough: Christianity is The Truth and Christianity is about the pursuit of truth.

Setting aside the Truth that our Lord Jesus embodied, consider that whole Ten Commandments thing.

For years and years and years we’ve been hearing fundamentalist Christians insist on having The Ten Commandments posted in school classrooms, on courtroom walls and even carved in stone on courthouse or school lawns.

So what is it about “thou shall not bear false witness” (i.e., lying against another) they don’t understand.

Trump has so intensely and unceasingly borne false witness against so many of his critics and enemies that the list of all those he’s lied about, hurt, and assaulted with his verbiage wouldn’t fit on a 50-foot-long scroll.

Consider also the idolatry of the sort we’ve seen attached to this President from the time he was a new candidate. It’s clear to me that many Christians (they who practice the bastardized version of Christianity that is Trumpianity) worship at the altar of this President in a way that amounts to worship of a false god.

They are convinced that God actively placed President Trump in his position of world power in order to save America first and in doing that, saving the world.

The kind of God that would actively place a pathological liar and character assassin in the White House would be a God that has nothing to do with truth.

But that kind of god is not God the Almighty, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.

The Redeemer was the walking, talking Truth.

Donald Trump is a walking, talking Lie.

And that’s the Truth.

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Whenever we build walls to separate ourselves from those in need, Jesus chooses the side of the wall where the need is.”

— Carlos A. Rodriquez, author of Simply Sonship

(HT: Debra Dean Murphy)

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[And check out this link to an article from United Methodist Communications: the Rev. Owen Ross is a friend of mine and a fierce but gentle advocate for immigrants.]

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Was, or is, Christ Jesus an American? A Belizean? A Syrian? What's wrong with this picture?

Was, or is, Christ Jesus an American? A Belizean? A Syrian? What’s wrong with this picture?


Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

(See more here.)

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The late international hero and Nobel Prize-winning author Elie Wiesel recalled a day in Auschwitz in 1945, when Jews awaiting death in a huge crematoria were praying.

Part of Jewish worship includes a Torah scroll being carried around a synagogue sanctuary as worshipers reach out to touch it. (The Torah is the first five books of what we Christians call the Old Testament.)

Because there obviously was no Torah scroll to pass around, Wiesel recalled how the prisoners lifted a little boy and carried him around the room so older worshipers could touch the child–a living symbol of Jewish faith.

That is a story worth recalling not only because it reminds us so much of the horrors of the Holocaust, but it’s a reminder of what deep, serious faith in God is about.

These kinds of Jesus in the White House memes have been circulating on social media lately.

That such memes are blasphemous seems lost on folks. Jesus came to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. To speak truth to power, not to stand at the right hand of President Trump the Father Almighty.

(This just in to News Central: Jesus wasn’t and isn’t even an American. Or a Canadian. Or a Mexican. Or a Belizean. Or a Syrian. Syria at least gets some serious mention in the Bible, however.)

Were a practicing Jew elected to the White House you would never find the likeness of Moses or David posted by Jews on social media. (Of course, there seems to be an unwritten law in the constitution requiring that a President be Christian, or claim he’s Christian even thinks he believes he’s not in any need of repentance or asking God’s forgiveness for any vile thing he does or says.)

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Late last year the governor of Oklahoma proclaimed a Prayer Day for the Oklahoma Oil Industry. Prayers and blessings were heaped on the oil-related companies and oil-related workers that God has so richly blessed in the Sooner state. (More on that here.)

It was a feel-good event, all about praise to God for all things oil-related! And don’t get me wrong–there’s nothing wrong about feel-good prayers of praise and joy.

(There was no mention that scientists have absolutely linked a barrage of earthquakes in Oklahoma felt all the way to Dallas are occurring because of fracking. But scientists don’t get much respect these days.)

Presumably, Oklahoma has arrived at such a blessed state that nobody there is in need of Christian prayer and remembrance for the poor, the abused, the homeless, the sick, the prisoners, and all the people on the margins with whom Jesus stood and walked in solidarity while warning the rich at every turn that wealth and power are corruptive forces.

Presumably Oklahoma is not a land of milk and honey, but a land of oil and natural gas money and prosperity.

Christian theology in America (or the bastardized strain of it I call Trumpianity) runs miles wide and one-inch deep.

Jewish theology has always run miles wide and as equally deep, never flinching from taking the daily realities of suffering, evil, life, and death seriously.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and knew a thing or two about suffering, evil, and the Holocaust–who authored volumes of wise words about the theologies of prayer, worship, praise and wonderment and so much more–wrote:

    Prayer must never be a citadel for selfish concerns but rather a place for deepening concern over other people’s plight. Prayer is a privilege. Unless we learn how to be worthy, we forfeit the right and ability to pray.

    Prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive, unless it seeks to overthrow and to ruin the pyramids of callousness, hatred, opportunism, falsehoods.

    (From Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity by Abraham Joshua Heschel)

God bless America and the whole, big wide world.

*More on Trumpianity here.

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“People living deep lives have no fear of death.”

— Anais Nin

* * * *

“You say it’s your birthday…”

–Sir Paul McCartney

It was a cold, dark and stormy night 67 years ago in that crumbling little Southern hamlet they call Navasota, Texas.

Wild dawgs were prowling and wolves on the outskirts of town were howling when Dr. Ketchum handed a newborn boy over to Goldie McKay and said, “Congratulations, Goldie.”

Whereupon Goldie inspected her pinkish newborn boy and screamed, “OMG! He’s got his daddy’s Jitterbug legs!”

In the distance the townspeople heard Satan laughing with delight

* * *

But (somewhat) seriously, ladies and germs.

In my misspent youth (hey, it was the sixties; and seventies; followed by the eighties), I used to say:

    “Have em play ‘Born to Be Wild’ at My funeral!”

I was thinking as we tend to do when we’re young and stoopid that I was invincible and would never be in need of a funeral.

I’d still be fine with that rock anthem being played at my funeral, but also some Judy Collins doing “Amazing Grace” (the best version ever in my book, and it A cappella) and Leonard Cohen doing “Anthem.” (Take note here, kids.)

Not that I’m planning for a funeral anytime soon. But having walked through the valley with so many people who had to face up to their mortality when I was a practicing hospital and hospice chaplain, I’ve come to appreciate death as much as life.

Appreciating every day the cold, hard fact that you’re going to be no more some day makes good living urgent.

* * *

I’m living good, and wouldn’t want to go back to my wild and crazy teens or twenties or any other age. Whereas I used to shout out at parties, “Vino! More WINE for my WIMMEN!”, I’m now likely to be turning out the light by 9, 10, 11 if a night football game is in overtime.

It’s lights out after reading whatever novel I have on my nightstand along with my Book of Common Prayer for nightly prayers, and lifting up those who’ve asked me to pray for them (your requests are always welcome and taken seriously), and my random reading of Psalms.

Living alone as I do in a humble little man cave, my idea of a good time at night is squeezing a roll of Charmin while sipping my daily 6 to 8 ounces of Kombucha or Chaya tea I get from a shaman who is a descendent of Mayans who tramped around my part of Belize thousands of years ago.

The Shaman’s Mayan name is too hard for me to deal with, but he goes by the name “Earl” anyway. (I’m blessed to be living this good life of mine in the oddest nation on Earth: Belize.)

That said, I still do have my wild side and always will.

I dance in the shower every day like nobody’s watching, for example, since nobody is.

But sometimes in public places too.

Stay wild, my friends.

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From "Limping to Jerusalem" the community group on Facebook. (Culled from another FB site: Garden of Bright Images. Artwork by Carl Holsoe

From “Limping to Jerusalem” the community group on Facebook. (Culled from another FB site: Garden of Bright Images. Artwork by Carl Holsoe)

On Facebook I came across a Christian community group in which some anonymous person puts up beautiful memes and pictures every day.

The illustrations usually cite wonderfully incisive and inspiring quotes from Christians famous and obscure, but also from other faith and wisdom traditions.

This is how it’s described at the Facebook site itself:

About
Join me, friends, in filling your minds, hearts and eyes with what is inspiring, encouraging and gracious.

Sometimes it simply features a picture that gives its viewer meditative pause, like this one below of a boy and his dog. (And what’s not to love about a child with a dog.)

Oftentimes the daily posts at “Limping” are taken from other spiritual FB community groups that I go to and start following.

A beautiful meditative picture from the Christian community group on Facebook called "Limping to Jerusalem."

A beautiful meditative picture from the Christian community group on Facebook called “Limping to Jerusalem.” It immediately brings to mind Jesus telling us that the way into heaven is by letting your guard down and becoming as free and vulnerable as a child.

The group site is called “Limping to Jerusalem”–a name that got me quietly excited the first time I saw it.

Admittedly, it doesn’t take much to get me quietly excited when I see something that stirs me spiritually.

We're all broken people. You might say we're all "limping to Jerusalem."

We’re all broken people. You might say we’re all “limping to Jerusalem.”

But that name–Limping to Jerusalem–grabbed me because it comports with my own personal theology. And longtimers here at the Cult of the Jitterbug know that my theology in the proverbial nutshell is this:

    “We’re all broken people, all doing the best we can in a noisy, violent, broken world, all in need of God’s healing powers of love, extravagant grace and tender mercies–all of which the healing God is happy to provide.”

That’s a way of saying “We’re all broken people, all limping to Jerusalem.

The anonymous person behind the Facebook group has a messenger button on the page, so I sent a private message and this is the communication we had:

    ME:
    Love the name “Limping to Jerusalem. That’s chock full of theology.”

    THE RESPONSE:
    Thank you, Paul. Here’s a little paragraph I wrote to explain the name. (You’re the FIRST one who hasn’t asked me for an explanation. You understood it immediately… Bless you, brother, from your sister Claudia way up in North Idaho.)

    Why Limping? We live in a world where human strength is idolized. We gaze longingly upon the athletes…so dazzled by their leaps and bounds. But what impresses God?

    Psalm 51 says: “You [Lord] do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice You desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God…”

    I have despised my brokenness, but God does not. I am a limper, but scripture tells me:

    “What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs. The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings. They will continue to grow stronger, and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem.” (Psalm 84)

    Though I have spent many years in the Valley of Weeping, I will appear before God in Zion. I will limp up the hill into Jerusalem, singing a Psalm of Ascent and carrying my sheaves with me. Follow me, fellow limpers, and make your struggle the most beautiful part of your song.

Good stuff.

Blessings back atcha up there in the frozen north, sister Claudia.

More posts from the many and very many posts at Limping to Jerusalem:

"As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate." From Limping to Jerusalem and the FB site Contemplative Monk, another wonderful online community.

“As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” From Limping to Jerusalem and the FB site Contemplative Monk, another wonderful online community.

Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton

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" 'For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.'  Then they said to Him, 'Lord, always give us this bread.' Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.' " (John 6:33-35)

” ‘For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.’
Then they said to Him, ‘Lord, always give us this bread.’
Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.’ ” (John 6:33-35)

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Great wisdom is great wisdom, now matter who shares it. Limping to Jerusalem isn't restricted to orthodox Christian wisdom and spirituality.

Great wisdom is great wisdom, now matter who shares it. Limping to Jerusalem isn’t restricted to orthodox Christian wisdom and spirituality–another thing I like it about. If you’re on Facebook check it out.

See here to see Claudia Lovejoy.

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The Obama Family Legacy


First Class Family.

First Class Family.

Money can’t buy class, and the Obama family exemplifies class.

Money has nothing to do with family values and the Obama family represents the best of the best in family values.

Grace-filled people show grace and courage under all kinds of pressure, including the relentless pressure of hatred and vitriol. The Obama family has demonstrated extravagant grace and courage under burning hot pressure.

Christian families don’t just talk about their love of God and neighbor to impress other Christians. They walk the love of God and neighbor. The Obama marriage is a model of what a Christian marriage can and should be, and the Obama family is a model of a what Christian family can and should be.

Thank you, Obama family, for your beautiful legacy of grace, Christian values, and love of country and people everywhere.

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