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Archive for April, 2017

It [God’s soliloquy in Job 38] is incredibly biologically accurate, sexy and crunchy.

It’s a sarcastic speech that God gives, taunting Job: “If you’re so smart, can you tell me where I keep the wind and the snow? Can you whistle up a storm? Can you tell the waves where to break?” For Job, like for all people, all he could say was “No, you’re in charge. Can I sit down now?”

My realization was that for us now, that’s changed. We are large enough now to spit in God’s face—and we are. Now it’s us who have to decide how high the waves go, how many storms we are going to get and how strong they’re going to be.

— Environmental activist and Methodist Bill McGibben

Bill McGibben: the leading voice in environmental activism–and a devout Christian (Methodist Div.)

Let us now praise professor, author and activist Bill McGibben, if only for three reasons:

1. He’s known as the most famous environmentalist in the world because he’s the smartest, most sensible and tough-minded environmentalist in the world–and probably the most universally respected.

2. McGibben is one scientist who is a devout, unapologetic Christian who gets extra points for being a Methodist.

Go here to check out his interview with “America” the Jesuit Journal (one of my favorite Christian journals I read online every day).

3. He’s not Bill Nye the Science Guy, who, as it turns out, is a total crackpot who may not be the most credible spokesman for science and the environment.

I mean, you won’t find Bill McGibben getting down with Rachel Bloom on her “sex junk” in what looks like an old Saturday Night Live skit.

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Leath Tonino: a fine and mighty journalist, essayist and poet from Vermont.

Vermont free-lance writer Leath Tonino appreciates the natural and simple things in life. He’s a terrific writer whose essay “In Pursuit of Bird Poop” was a notable mention in 2016’s The Best American Science and Nature Writing.

Read it here.

He wins my vote for the poem below published in the February edition of The Sun magazine.(Link here.)

The last line with its reference to “crooked-in-the-best-sense” delighted me to no end, considering how politicians are crooked in the other sense.

“Write-Ins For President”
LEATH TONINO
I elect that bull elk in the Snake River.
I elect that raven in Canyonlands National Park.
I elect autumn moonlight on metal roofs.
I elect the strand of barbed wire that fell from the post and is now woven into the tall brown grass.
I elect the tall brown grass.
I elect my neighbors’ cat — the neighbors who are always cursing one another and screaming hateful things — because every morning he sits with me on the fire escape and watches the sunrise without meowing.
I elect the feeling of boots laced tight.
I elect potatoes cooked however.
I elect Vermont’s faded, sagging, leaning, crooked-in-the-best-sense-of-the-word barns.

If you’re new to the blog check out my book The View From Down in Poordom: Reflections on Scriptures Addressing Poverty.

It’s available at Amazonbooks.com, here, and Barnes & Noble online books.

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The Rev. Kent Ingram of First United Methodist in Colorado Springs said he has been a “faithful foot soldier” who obeys church law, yet he is supporting Oliveto. He struggled for years regarding the church’s LGBTQ stance, and when he learned from the congregation’s youth minister that six gay youths have attempted suicide because they “thought there was no place for them in God’s love,” Ingram made up his mind.

“Lives were at stake,” he said. “The integrity of the gospel was at stake.”

— From a story in The Denver Post about United Methodist Bishop Karen Oliveto

DENVER, CO – August 22, 2016: Bishop Karen Oliveto posed for a portrait in the Denver Post Building on August 22, 2016 after being elected the first openly gay bishop in my beloved United Methodist Church. (Photo by Vince Chandler / The Denver Post)

Below is a link to a story from the Denver Post about the United Methodist Church’s Bishop Karen Oliveto, whose unforgivable sin, according to my beloved UMC, sadly, is loving another woman.

I hope and pray she prevails today, but that’s hoping against hope considering that the dominant segment of the church can’t accept that Christ-loving people of the same sex can live in honest-to-God love with one another as much as straight couples.

Here’s the story, and a followup will be forthcoming on the turnout of today’s decision about this embattled church leader.

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Consider this the latest in our series we call here at the blog the “Trump Truth Alert,” in which we call out the President of the United States for routinely lying through his teeth, incapable of passing the Rotary Club 4-Way test which asks first: “Is it the truth?” (See here for more on that.)

In tonight’s edition we raise the question, “What’s wrong with this video?”

Hint No. 1: Pavarotti’s been dead for 10 years.

Hint No. 2. The great tenor’s family didn’t appreciate very much candidate Donald Trump using Pavarotti’s music at Trump Pep Rallies.

But you’ll find Trump saying this to Italian Prime Minister Gentiloni in the vid:

On July 21, last year, when then-candidate Donald Trump was using Pavarotti’s music at his Trump Pep Rallies, the great tenor’s family issued a statement that included this excerpt:

    “As members of his immediate family, we would like to recall that the values of brotherhood and solidarity which Luciano Pavarotti expressed throughout the course of his artistic career are entirely incompatible with the world view offered by the candidate Donald Trump.”

See more of the statement here.

God is the truth and the truth matters, even if President Trump has no relationship with truth.

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“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?”

— From the Book of Job, 38:4

Being the nationalistic Texan I am–and being an old newspaper scribe who loves good print journalism–I thoroughly enjoyed reading the ever-great Texas Monthly magazine’s profile of the genius filmmaker and native Texan Terrence Malick.

Malick, who doesn’t give interviews, has made such offbeat but hugely acclaimed and original films as Badlands (1978), Days of Heaven (1998) and The Thin Red Line and, currently the movie Song to Song that is set in his beloved hometown Austin.

The much-acclaimed movie-making genius Terrence “Terry” Malick, now 73, pictured here when he played football back in the day at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School. Long considered one of the most private and reclusive people in the arts, Texas Monthly points out that the enigmatic Malick hides in plain sight in Austin these days, two-step dancing with his wife at Austin night clubs.

I commend Texas Monthly writer Eric Benson’s superb profile of Malick to you, which you can read here.

In the video below are scenes from my favorite of Malick’s movies, The Tree of Life. It was filmed in Bastrop, Texas, not far from where I grew up, and also in some of the most remote places on earth. Malick spent more than 30 years filming scenes for it.

I’ve written here before about it being a thoroughly spiritual if not outright Christian movie: it’s a sublime, surreal, non-linear story and meditation on the age-old questions about evil, suffering, beauty, grace and nature.

Listening to the music from the movie always makes me feel like God has entered my mind, body, soul and spirit to the max.

The music in this collage of scenes is from the late, great Christian composer John Tavener’s “Funeral Canticle” from Tavener’s album.”Eternity’s Sunrise.” ( was introduced to Tavener’s music by a seminary classmate in 2000. I’ve been listening to Tavener since. More on Tavener herehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Tavener.

I could look at and listen to this beautiful vid all day.

And furthermore …

If you’re interested…

There was this analysis from Bishop Robert Barron when the movie came out in 2010.

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Regarding Fox News Channel, where the TV broadcasters are doing their almighty best to ignore the two-ton elephant in the room that is Bill O’Reilly…

I have this question: We’ve got this for a “fair and balanced” interview with an intelligent, informed and utterly polite Nebraska family farmer???

Click onto this link and watch before you answer that question for yourself: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/art-tanderup-keystone_us_58fa85dbe4b018a9ce5b72f7?lq&ncid=inblnkushpmg00000009

Watch Fox’s Sandra Smith in action. She might as well have donned her Chinese-made “Make America Great Again” cap in suggesting for four minutes straight that a salt-of-the-earth farmer, Art Tanderup, and 90 fellow farmers are putting their selfish interests above the best interests of America.

Watch how flustered Smith gets toward the end when Tanderup–a retired schoolteacher who has definitely done his homework on the pipeline–counters her prosecutorial questioning.

Another question: Why would a professional TV news broadcaster even play the role of a prosecutor in the way she interviewed a Midwest farmer and retired schoolteacher who–gad!–dares along with 90 other landowners to suggest that it’s time for America to turn to renewable energy?

Is the position of these farmers who care about Mother Earth and the damage the pipeline has already done and will do tantamount to some kind of un-American crime?

Art and Helen Tunderup have been fighting the Keystone XL Pipeline for going on eight years.

They aren’t exactly “extreme environmentalist” flame-throwing liberals, as much as the sophisticates like Sandra Smith in the comfy confines of the Fox News studio in New York City would have you believe.

It might be to much to ask them to go to Nebraska and places like North Dakota and by the way–Canada–where Keystone’s “fancy leak detectors” have failed big-time, and talk to landowners.

Happy Mother Earth Day.

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Just because. This is good.

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Why are Rick Steves and these folks smiling? Because those folks have shelter thanks to the Christlike compassion of globe trotter Rick Steves.

I’m placing this story about Rick Steves–a man whom I as a veteran traveler has always admired–in my “Stories That Make you Go Wow!’ in a Good Way!” file.

The legendary TV travel guide has given a $4 million apartment complex to homeless women and kids who needed housing.

Writes Steves:

    Before “Europe Through the Back Door,” my travels were “Europe Through the Gutter.” Slumming through Europe as a teenage backpacker, life for me was the daily challenge of finding an affordable (i.e., free) place to sleep. […]

    I traveled in Central America, where I learned civil wars that I thought were between communists and capitalists were actually between obscenely rich oligarchs and landless peasants. I hung out with poor Christians who took the Biblical Jubilee Year (the notion that every fifty years the land is to be re-divided and debts are to be forgiven) seriously… even though rich Christians assumed God must have been kidding. [My italics for emphasis: Steves gets extra points from me for the God-talk.}

    Back home, one of my pet social causes has long been affordable housing.

And so …

I urge you to read the whole story here, or at least watch the video.

It’s a good kind of “Wow!” story at a time when there are so many
“Wow!” stories of the other kind in the news.

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While I have not (yet) read Anne Lamott’s latest book Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy, the title is as captivating as the parts that I have read of it in reviews, articles and interviews with her.

The woman writes like an angel.

Here are excerpts (with a big Hat Tip to Her Greatness Maria Popova at Brain Pickings):

    So why today is it absolutely all I can do to extend mercy to myself for wanting to nip an annoying relative’s heel like a river rat? Forget extending mercy to this relative, who has so messed with me and my son — she doesn’t even know she needs my mercy. She thinks she is fierce and superior, while I believe she secretly ate her first child. Horribly, she is perfectly fine. I’m the one who needs mercy — my mercy. The need for this, for my own motley mercy, underpinned most of my lifelong agitation, my separation from life itself.

    I came here with a huge open heart, like a big, sweet dog, and I still have one. But some days the only thing that can cheer me up is something bad happening to someone I hate, preferably if it went viral and the photo of the person showed hair loss and perhaps the lifelong underuse of sunscreen. My heart still leaps to see this. I often recall the New Yorker cartoon of one dog saying to the other: “It’s not enough that we succeed. Cats must also fail.” This is the human condition.

    * * *

    Mercy is radical kindness. Mercy means offering or being offered aid in desperate straits. Mercy is not deserved. It involves absolving the unabsolvable, forgiving the unforgivable. Mercy brings us to the miracle of apology, given and accepted, to unashamed humility when we have erred or forgotten.

    * * *

    Mercy, grace, forgiveness, and compassion are synonyms, and the approaches we might consider taking when facing a great big mess, especially the great big mess of ourselves — our arrogance, greed, poverty, disease, prejudice. It includes everything out there that just makes us sick and makes us want to turn away, the idea of accepting life as it presents itself and doing goodness anyway, the belief that love and caring are marbled even into the worst life has to offer.

    Kindness toward others and radical kindness to ourselves buy us a shot at a warm and generous heart, which is the greatest prize of all. Do you want this, or do you want to be right? Well, can I get back to you on that?

    I want to want this softening, this surrender, this happiness. Can I get a partial credit for that? The problem is, I love to be, and so often am, right. It’s mood-altering, and it covers up a multitude of sins… I know justice and believing that you’re right depend on cold theological and legal arguments where frequently there is no oxygen, but honestly I don’t mind this. I learned to live in thin air as a small child.

Check out or buy Hallelujah Anyway here.

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Easter Sunday is the most feel-good Christian day of the year, although Christmas Day ranks a seriously close second.

Easter is the day we joyously proclaim: “He is alive! He is risen!”

Now, I don’t want to put a damper on the joy dust you received in Easter Sunday worship this morning. But I will ask you to think about something that the prolific and most-excellent American writer Annie Dillard once wrote:

Why do people in church seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? . . .

Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it?

The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets.

Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us to where we can never return.”

— Annie Dillard in Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters, (New York: Harper & Row, 1982)

No offense to anyone who wore their Easter bonnets and velvet hats to worship today, but Annie hit the cross’s nail right on the head with her suggestion that we should wear crash helmets to church.

We Christians are Easter people in a Good Friday world. Easter is about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord and savior. And that Resurrection and the Good News of it hit Rome and the world like a 222,000-pound bomb. And Caesar wasn’t having Easter egg baskets and boxes of bunny chocolates scattered around his feet.

Never forget–back when Jesus walked, talked, taught, saved, healed, rebelled and died on a Roman cross, only to rise from the dead, Caesar was Lord!

Everybody knew it. The many crucified bodies hanging on Caesar’s crosses were reminders: don’t mess with the Lord of Rome and the world!

For the followers of Jesus to proclaim with contagious joy and utter conviction that the Lord(!!!) Jesus rose through the power of the Holy Spirit from the dead–it was that so-called “Good News” that shook Rome and the world, and shakes the Caesars and the world today, which happens to be Resurrection Sunday. (Actually every Sunday is Resurrection Sunday, but that’s another post for another day.)

Caesar threw every assault weapon at his disposal at Jesus–lashing, beating, more lashing, a piercing thorn of crowns, and crucifixion on a cross–and made sure he was plenty dead.

But in killing Jesus, Caesar killed the Son of God (or tried to), and the Son of God responded with the weapon that no amount of torture, no amount of TNT, can overcome.

God responded with the power of love.

Hallelujah! He is risen!

Happy Easter!

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