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Archive for February, 2017


Heading to southern Belize for some Vitamin Sea.

Heading to southern Belize for some Vitamin Sea.

So I upsized my motorcycle last week for a bigger, more comfortable ride in a trade-and-cash deal that was too good to pass up.

I made this deal just in time because I’ve been hankering for some Vitamin Sea and this bike I bought–a Chinese-made mini version of a Harley–is perfect for a road trip.

So stay tuned for travel reports–and some great news later in the week about my book, The View From Down in Poordom.

The Road Warrior has a bigger bike and will be cruising around the beautiful coastline beaches of southern Belize for a few days. Be afraid, Belize. Be very afraid.

The Road Warrior has a bigger bike and will be cruising around the beautiful coastline beaches of southern Belize for a few days. Be afraid, Belize. Be very afraid.

Leaving Old San Ignacio Town in far western Belize (near Xunantunich on the map) for a few days down in Hopkins, Placencia and Punta Gorda (remember Harrison Ford in The Mosquito Coast?). Punta Gorda, known as PG in BZ, is the one place in BZ I've never been.

Leaving Old San Ignacio Town (near Xunantunich on the map here) in far western Belize to relax a few days down in Hopkins (a beach south of Dangriga and near that Maya Centre on the map) and Placencia, a popular tourist town at the end of the 16 mile Maya Beach peninsula. I’ll also be venturing down south to Punta Gorda (remember Harrison Ford in The Mosquito Coast?), the one place in BZ I’ve never been.

Your favorite Road Warrior traded his smaller, speedier bike for this bigger, more comfortable ride in a trade-and-cash deal that was too good not to take.

Your favorite Road Warrior traded his smaller, speedier bike for this bigger, more comfortable ride in a trade-and-cash deal that was too good not to take.

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A funny thing happened to me on the way to enlightenment: I realized how little I really know.16938728_1731306573866145_4043971793700873915_n

I have learned a lot about God over these years.

I have read a library of books by greater thinkers than me; I have attended schools of theology; I have engaged in more workshops and conferences and retreats than I can remember. Each has taught me something, but I still know very little.

The mystery of God remains just that, a mystery. I will keep studying, but along the way, I will walk outside on a starry night and just enjoy what I never expect to understand.”

~ Author Steven Charleston is a Native American elder (Choctaw Nation) and retired Episcopal bishop of Alaska. He is Adjunct Professor of Native American Ministries at Saint Paul School of Theology at OCU.

A seminary professor I had described the knowability of God as being somewhat like a blind person feeling an elephant for the first time.

The blind one can feel the legs, maybe even feel the hind feet and the tail. And then there’s that strange, mysterious trunk thing that can be felt as it hangs down or curls or swings up and down.

The hide feels rough for the most part, but then this blind explorer is intrigued the first time he or she feels those smooth ivory bones that don’t seem to fit with the rest of this mysterious being. And then there will be those soft jumbo ears to be felt as the creature bows its head or drops down and gets still.

Over time, as the blind one keeps exploring the giant elephant, he or she will climb to the top of the elephant and experience the joy and exhilaration of riding it.

Wow! The mystery and wonder of it all is too much sometimes!

Of course, there will be fear and trembling the first time the mighty elephant decides to drop down onto its back and roll around and kick up dust.

This will be the blind explorer’s big lesson in awe and reverence (“fear” of the overwhelming Lord, that is).

And so on and so forth and you get the picture, don’t you?

We can’t see God, but we can feel and experience the presence of “a higher power” a jillion-plus times more mighty than our little minds can imagine.

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Every first-semester seminary student in the world learns in Theology 101 what is called “Anselm’s Ontological Argument” (learned immediately after learning the definitions of “high-dollar tuition words” like “ontological”).

The Italian St. Anselm was a monk who became Archbishop of Canterbery a long time ago (1093) and is one of the greatest of great Christian thinkers ever.

He famously defined theology as “faith seeking understanding.”

The gist of his “Ontological Argument” runs far deeper than this tidy summary of his brilliant case in response to those who deny the existence of God, but this summary will do:

    (1) God is that than which no greater can be conceived.

    (2) If God is that than which no greater can be conceived then there is nothing greater than God that can be imagined.

    Therefore:
    (3) There is nothing greater than God that can be imagined.

    (4) If God does not exist then there is something greater than God that can be imagined.

    Therefore:
    (5) God exists.

God is too magnificent an overwhelming mystery for us to imagine anything more magnificent.

But such a magnificent mystery it is, dwelling within you and me and all the other wild creatures on earth and flung out among the stars, too!

    I love to define mystery as not that which is unknowable, but that which is endlessly knowable. So you never get to the point where I know it all. And wouldn’t we assume that would be the nature of God? That God will always by definition be mystery. More knowability, more knowability, deeper experience, deeper surrender. So that’s the meaning of faith, and why faith has such power, not just to transform people but to keep them on an ongoing path of transformation and growth.

    — Father Richard Rohr

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“Are they being mean to you, girl?”

"Just let it roll off the duck's back, OK?"

“Just let it roll off the duck’s back and focus your little mind, OK, baby?”

"Well done, kid."

“Well done, kid. Grab em by the gonads.”

Seriously, is it too much to ask…

1. That he stop flying off to his Florida palace for R&R every weekend at great expense to us taxpayers?

2. That he stop costing taxpayers the needless price of security to hold campaign-style pep rallies near his Florida palace to throw red meat to his base considering that the election was last year?

3. That he get serious and fulfill that promise to be “so, so presidential–the most presidential President ever!”

4. That he stop demeaning, denigrating and pissing off whole continents, nations, races, religions, the CIA, the military brass, NATO, and that big majority of Americans who voted against him in what was an unprecedented loss in the popular vote and not even close to being a landslide in the electoral vote count as he keeps repeating? (And oh, yeah–demeaning judges, too.)

5. That he stop alienating and start listening to the handful of Republicans who care more about our country than their Republican Party?

6. That he prove to us that he has no financial ties to Putin and Russia by showing us his income taxes and also sharing with us why a close member of his inner circle called an official of a hostile enemy of America’s five times in one day during his pre-election campaign?

7. That he who slimed and promised to “lock up” Hillary for using insecure devises get rid of the terribly insecure phone he’s still using that makes him more vulnerable to hacking that Hillary ever was?

8. In short, is it too much to ask that he grow up and stop acting like a whiney little girl being put upon by the meanies in the press, the CIA, the sanest wing of the Republican Party and critics everywhere who have every right if not obligation in a healthy democracy to question his authority, criticize him and oppose him?

Here are the answers to those eight questions in consecutive order.

Yes.

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My friend Sheri (left) had a thing about red slippers. I'm told she was wearing a pair when she passed away in the hospital.

My friend Sheri (left) had a thing about red slippers. I’m told she was wearing a pair when she passed away in the hospital.

Well, I’m livin’ in a foreign country

but I’m bound to cross the line

Beauty walks a razor’s edge,

someday I’ll make it mine

If I could only turn back the clock

to when God and her were born

Come in, she said I’ll give ya

shelter from the storm

— From “Shelter from the Storm,” Dylan

I’ve lost a friend in Austin, Sheri Jones, who died unexpectedly and all too young this week and can’t get this song/poem out of my mind; it’s one that she and I loved and one that, in a way, fit her so well. She was a devout Christian who loved her United Methodist Church (and served it as a mission leader) and was always there to pay attention and listen to people going through stormy times.

She also had pizzaz. And a thing for Red Slippers.

This one’s for you, Sheri, R.I.P.

But then, considering your wild and crazy sense of humor, I know you’ll much prefer this version from that excellent Bill Murray movie “St. Vincent.”

Say hi to God for us.

‘Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form
Come in, she said
I’ll give ya shelter from the storm

And if I pass this way again, you can rest assured
I’ll always do my best for her, on that I give my word
In a world of steel-eyed death, and men who are fighting to be warm
Come in, she said
I’ll give ya shelter from the storm

Not a word was spoke between us, there was little risk involved
Everything up to that point had been left unresolved
Try imagining a place where it’s always safe and warm
Come in, she said
I’ll give ya shelter from the storm

I was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail
Poisoned in the bushes an’ blown out on the trail
Hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn
Come in, she said
I’ll give ya shelter from the storm

Suddenly I turned around and she was standin’ there
With silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair
She walked up to me so gracefully and took my crown of thorns
Come in, she said
I’ll give ya shelter from the storm

Now there’s a wall between us, somethin’ there’s been lost
I took too much for granted, I got my signals crossed
Just to think that it all began on an uneventful morn
Come in, she said
I’ll give ya shelter from the storm

Well, the deputy walks on hard nails and the preacher rides a mount
But nothing really matters much, it’s doom alone that counts
And the one-eyed undertaker, he blows a futile horn
Come in, she said
I’ll give ya shelter from the storm

I’ve heard newborn babies wailin’ like a mournin’ dove
And old men with broken teeth stranded without love
Do I understand your question, man, is it hopeless and forlorn
Come in, she said
I’ll give ya shelter from the storm

In a little hilltop village, they gambled for my clothes
I bargained for salvation and she gave me a lethal dose
I offered up my innocence I got repaid with scorn
Come in, she said
I’ll give ya shelter from the storm

Well, I’m livin’ in a foreign country but I’m bound to cross the line
Beauty walks a razor’s edge, someday I’ll make it mine
If I could only turn back the clock to when God and her were born
Come in, she said
I’ll give ya shelter from the storm

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Increasingly, Franklin Graham is looking like a fool.

He’s ripped his pants one too many times with members of his own evangelical tribe.

Where is the equal time at Fox News for Christians who have essentially repudiated Franklin Graham?

Where is the equal time at Fox News for Christians who have essentially repudiated Franklin Graham?

And I, for one, am glad to see his wrongheaded theology repudiated by folks who can’t be dismissed as flaming, mushy liberals.

Riding on his iconic father Billy’s coattails, Franklin Graham has been held up in the media for years as the sort of Pope of Evangelicalism–as the anointed leader and spokesman for the millions of evangelicals, who aren’t the monolithic breed the media make them out to be anyway.

Check this out from Christianity Today, the magazine that Billy Graham co-founded back in the early fifties.

    More than 500 conservative evangelical pastors and leaders representing all 50 states are urging President Donald Trump to reverse his temporary ban on refugee resettlement and his “dramatic reduction” of the total America will accept this fiscal year.

    The open letter, published Wednesday as a full-page ad in The Washington Post with more than 100 of the signatories listed, was notable for two reasons. First, it contained only conservative evangelicals, instead of the mix of progressive names that usually sign such open letters. And second, topping the list were Tim Keller and Max Lucado—two well-known and well-respected pastors and authors who rarely speak out on political matters. [My italics for emphasis.]

    Other key signatories include Kathy Keller, Willow Creek’s Bill and Lynne Hybels, authors Stuart and Jill Briscoe, author Ann Voskamp, Southern Baptist seminary president Daniel Akin, and pastors Joel Hunter and Derwin Gray, among many others [full ad below].

    “As Christian pastors and leaders, we are deeply concerned by the recently announced moratorium on refugee resettlement,” stated the group letter, later noting, “We have a historic call expressed over 2,000 years to serve the suffering. We cannot abandon this call now.”

The article–which I urge you to read in its entirety here–adds this stunning note:

    The organizer of the group letter–World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and one of the nine agencies that resettle refugees in America–explained on a conference call Thursday morning that the signatories have grown to more than 3,000. It continues to gather signatures.

Got that? More than 3,000 conservative evangelicals have signed off on the letter urging President Trump to accept the refugees who were supposed to be resettled this year.

(Update: The latest update has the number at 5,000 and growing!)

Christianity Today–which denounced Donald Trump in a commentary before the election last year–cited this as one of the takeaways from the open letter to Trump:

    “Evangelical leaders overwhelmingly oppose the four-month refugee freeze and resettlement reduction.”

Which makes Franklin Graham look like the misguided odd man out, at best, among evangelical leaders.

You wouldn’t know this from watching Fox News, however, which continues to give Franklin Graham face time on TV every day and every night to espouse his twisted theology.

Astoundingly, Franklin Graham asserted the other day that immigration is “not a biblical issue.”

My friend Mark Wingfield, a pastor at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, notes that Graham’s statement should be listed in the category of “alternative facts.”

Wingfield is no fan of Samaritan’s Purse. In a forceful article about Graham’s evermore stridently hateful crusade against immigrants and Muslims, Wingfield wrote:

wingfield_mark

    Franklin Graham has a voice not only because he is his father’s son but because of his work through Samaritan’s Purse. No doubt, this relief agency does good work and not everyone who works there agrees with Graham. But remember that he gets a hearing because of the scope of that organization.

    Evangelical Christians across America enable this platform — and Graham’s mean declarations — by supporting Samaritan’s Purse financially and by teaching their children to support it through Operation Christmas Child. Do you really want to send a dose of hatred along with that shoebox of Christmas trinkets? Does handing out Christmas gifts counterbalance Graham’s declaration that many of those who receive them would not be welcome in America?

Please read Brother Mark’s article here.

It should be noted that Franklin was also repudiated by conservative Baptists in Puerto Rico last week because of his immigration nonsense. They planned to boycott Franklin’s own Festival of Hope evangelistic rally in San Juan if he showed up. (He stayed home and the rally went on.)

See that story here.

It’s heartening to see this sort of theological revolt against Trump’s policy, and encouraging to see Franklin Graham’s influence take a tailspin–except in conservative TV and radio, of course.

If this Christian revolt against Trump continues, even the talking heads who fawn all over Franklin Graham at Fox might have to pay attention and give other evangelicals equal time.

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Malcolm Mitchell, a Super Bowl receiver, avid reader and best-selling author of The Magician's Hat.

Malcolm Mitchell, a Super Bowl receiver, avid reader and best-selling author of The Magician’s Hat.

Back when Malcolm Mitchell of the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots arrived the University of Georgia on a football scholarship, he read at the level of an 8th grader.

Before he graduated in December 2015, Mitchell was the author of an award-winning children’s book and a member of two Book Clubs, including one headed by fellow Georgia native Reese Witherspoon.

His book, The Magician’s Hat, also earned him an invitation to the Savannah Book Festival.

NFL wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell with his mom, Patrina Woods, who survived a 2-year battle with breast cancer.

NFL wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell with his mom, Patrina Woods, who survived a 2-year battle with breast cancer. When he wanted to quit football in 6th grade because he couldn’t get playing time, his mother told him to stick to it and try harder. Now he’s a Super Bowl star.

Go here for Five Fascinating Facts about this classy jock

It’s the kind of story that’ll make you go “Wow!”–in a good way!!!

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@realDonaldTrump wake up this morning to see you’ve used my Son murder to further your campaign of hate, how dare you. You are a disgrace.

— tweet from Australian parent Sandra Jackson over Donald Trump exploiting her son’s murder in what was NOT a terrorist attack as Trump wants the world to believe

Speaking of god-awful lack of shame (see today’s previous post about Mitch McConnell and his Republican cronies in the Senate)…

The headline over the Washington Post story about an angry Australian couple says it all: Parents furious over Trump’s false terrorism claim.

It’s a hard fact of life that there is nothing more painful than losing a child.

So leave it to Donald Trump, whom God has supposedly placed “back in the White House” according to so many of Trump’s Christian supporters, to intensify the pain of Australian parents whose children were killed by a madman last year.

Not a Muslim terrorist, mind you. The young woman and another young man were killed by a mentally ill madman in a hostel.

(And what if he had been a mentally ill man who happened to have been a Muslim: Are all murders committed by those who claim to be Christians who are members of churches plain murders while all slayings committed by Muslims are acts of global terrorism?)

Both grieving families woke up to their children’s murders on a White House list of terrorist attacks that the Trump Administration claims were neglected by the media.

Read the story here.

Les Jackson, father of a young woman NOT killed by a Muslim terrorist, and his wife are angry. As our great friends the people of Australia.

Les Jackson, father of a young woman NOT killed by a Muslim terrorist, and his wife are angry. As our great friends the people of Australia.

And here’s the response of the grieving mother from the young woman’s family:

A mother's grief has been intensified because of the typical recklessness of Donald Trump and his band of mindless, steamrolling friends and family members in the White House.

A mother’s grief has been intensified because of the typical recklessness of Donald Trump and his band of mindless, steamrolling friends and family members in the White House.

Will Trump–who supposedly is “a changed man” since supposedly giving his life to Christ (which never happened) do the Christian thing and make a public apology to the grieving families in Australia and the entire angry continent of Australia?

No way.

People who get hurt every day by Trump’s language and behavior are just so much “collateral damage” in Trump’s war on anyone anywhere who doesn’t bow down to him in this world.

He’s a sick, sick man.

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