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Archive for August, 2017


A friend posted this unbelievable picture of what looks like a stormy sea or lake. It’s actually a shot of I-10 near Beaumont, Texas, where Harvey victims have no water supply now and may not for a long time to come. Lord hear our cries and prayers for the people of Southeast Texas and Louisiana.

It’s long been fashionable to bad-mouth or dismiss “organized religion.” At one level, I understand that sentiment. On a deeper level, churches, denominations and big faith organizations of all kinds–i.e., “organized religion”–can, and do, do a world of good.

UMCOR provides all kinds of relief for victims of disasters around the world, including various kinds of “relief kits” stored in the church agency’s huge depots and volunteer centers.

Here are reasons to consider a donation to UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) — an efficient relief agency that serves every part of the world — which is currently taking donations for Hurricane Harvey relief.

1. Every dollar you donate to the Hurricane Harvey Advance (see here) will go directly to aid for the victims in Southeast Texas.

I repeat — every dollar. That’s because UMCOR’s administrative and overhead costs are paid by donations given throughout the year in a systematic way by the people of the United Methodist Church in America and other nations.

2. Rebuilding in Houston, Beaumont and others areas ravaged by this god-awful disaster will take years and many years.
In the years ahead, experienced UMCOR staff members and church volunteer teams will be down there, on the ground, directly involved in rebuilding efforts.

Dollars will also keep flowing as future UMCOR contributions to the Advance Fund stream in.

I could cite more good reasons, but I’ll let those two good reasons stand.

I’m making a plea to my always generous blog readers to consider a donation–and to keep the people of my beloved homeland in Southeast Texas and in neighboring Louisiana in your thoughts and prayers.

Again, here is the site for UMCOR’s Harvey funding, complete with other links and a video about the agency’s long-term commitment to Harvey relief.

    Holy God, the source of all life, out of the depths of sorrow we call to you.

    In the face of incomprehensible anguish and sorrow, we lift the cries of our distress.

    We implore you the God of mercy to hold up the masses of people suffering from the destruction of Hurricane Harvey.

    We pray for those who have died and ask you to hold those in grief in your loving arms.

    Strengthen the weary hands and hearts of all those assisting in search-and-rescue and relief efforts. Grant them the resolve to stand with their neighbors, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen

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Merciful God, as the chaos of natural disaster overwhelms all our hearts and minds as well as the weary bodies of so many in Southeast Texas, strengthen those who have been brought low by overwhelming loss and pain.


Photo: Jon Shapley/AP

Deliver them from fear and ease their anxiety. Help them to endure uncertainty and give them the strength and resolve to face the challenges ahead.

Be with the first responders, the caregivers, the leaders. Bless them and bless the Good Samaritans and good neighbors from places near and far who are joining in search and rescue missions.

Give us all peace. Awaken in us all the assurance of your presence with us as we hang on to the promise of hope and renewal.

Your mercies are new and tender every new day and for that we thank you and praise you.

In your love we trust.

Amen.

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Nehemiah’s Great Big Beautiful Wall only took 52 days to complete.
But then, Nehemiah didn’t have to deal with obstructionist Democrats and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

If you want to be for a great big beautiful wall on the great big beautiful border of my beloved Texas*–even if it means plowing through American people’s private properties–fine. Be all for the wall.

But please don’t be abusing the Bible to justify the wall by buying into the spiritual malpractice of money-grubbing charlatan preachers advising the POTUS who say that Godly men like Nehemiah built walls.

Trump spiritual “advisors” like Paula White (who sells “resurrection seeds” for $1,114 a pop and says the price was set by God), Cabinet member Dr. Ben Carson (he who’s convinced that the pyramids were built by Joseph to store grain) and the patriot/leader of First Baptist Church in Dallas Robert Jeffrees have this bad habit of referring to Nehemiah’s wall.

Even happy Joel Olsteen has gone there with a defense.

Here are 4 quick counterpoints to this nonsense:

1. Nehemiah led the rebuilding of a city and the city’s sacred Temple in a time when all cities had walls for protection.

All cities.

2. Repeat after me: Jerusalem: not a nation.

3. In biblical times, there were no “legal” or “illegal” aliens/immigrants.

There were just aliens and immigrants and the Old Testament has page after page of admonishments from God and God’s prophets to be hospitable to aliens and there’s not any reference to “illegal aliens.” There’s an entire theology of hospitality to aliens and strangers because God’s own people had been aliens and strangers escaping oppression.

4. In regard to No. 3, see the story of Joseph and Mary and that little baby Jesus.

We desperately need Bible literacy in a day and age when, to paraphrase Mark Twain, everybody talks about the Bible and nobody studies it, much less reads and reflects on it from the standpoint of reason, tradition and experience.

The POTUS and his corrupt band of spiritual advisors aren’t helping the cause.

—–
*Keeping Texans in the Harvey storm path in thoughts and prayers.

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The instant receipt of $700 million may be yet another tragic story waiting to happen.

Far be it for me to get all sanctimonious about gambling because I’m not above popping $2 for a couple of lottery tickets once in a long while.

Belize has a lottery almost every day of the week (and enticing casinos) and that’s one reason Belize continues to have so many poor people.

For that matter, it’s one reason America continues to have so many poor people.

Anyway, I bought $5 worth of lottery tickets over four weeks just last month when I had some extra, unexpected cash come my way.

That said, I devoted a couple of pages of my book about poverty (The View From Down in Poordom) to lottery winners I interviewed back when I was a truth-seeking reporter. (I still have all the scars from all the cussings and threats from conservatives, liberals and boobs from the general population.)

I was reminded in the latest update about the record amount of the Powerball Lottery–a mind-boggling $750 million obscene dollars) of something Oscar Wilde in all his wisdom said:

    In this world, there are only two tragedies: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.

Everybody wants to get filthy rich.

Poor people want it and rich people often want it more: they just can’t get enough of it.

I want riches as much as anybody.

I also point out in The View From Down in Poordom that I would love to have more money than God, as they say. I say this because I like to think I could handle the corruptive power and status money brings.

I like to think I would be so smart in first taking care of my financial security and that of my family that I wouldn’t do what so many people do with huge lottery winnings: blow it.

I like to think I’d manage to make $700 million dollars grow in perpetuity for God’s glory and the greatest of God’s purposes while maintaining a far more comfortable and convenient but down-to-earth lifestyle.

I like to think I’d remain humble and… well, you get the picture.

But knowing me, I’d probably disappoint God and a lot of people with all that heady power big money brings.

In fact, I’d say it’s a pretty sure bet that I (and maybe you???) would be just another tragic story of one who got what he wanted.

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Down in the Trump White House in Florida, there are a lot of gold statues like these parrots having sex.

Parrot sex in the Florida White House. Pretty strange.

(Sounds like some kind of punk rock band: The Sex Parrots.)

Maybe with all the world dignitaries visiting the place now the parrots have been removed.

Maybe they’ll be placed someday in the Trump Presidential Library.

That’s First Daughter Ivanka back in the day.

There weren’t exactly a family out of Mayberry RFD but they can’t all be that.

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Here in the rustic but fast-developing tourist town San Ignacio, not a day goes by that I’m not approached by most of the same ragged and often inebriated street people asking me for something.

I mean, every day I hear it.

“Hey big man! Give me a shilling for some water!”

“Hey buddy! I need a dollar!”

“My friend! Can I borrow a dollar for a bottle of water?”

“I need money for noodles. Help me out, man!”

Honestly, some days I feel like saying, “Hey buddy, give ME a dollar why don’t you?”

They hang out by a small but thriving Chinese kiosk, right in the big middle of town. Scores of tourists pass by them every day. The beggars know better than to bug the visitors too much because downtown is heavily patrolled by police walking in packs.

But sometimes, for reasons I don’t understand, you’ll see one or more of them throw all discretion to the wind and swarm some nice-looking couple who just have too-nice-to-refuse written all over them. These nice folks usually stop and dish out the coins, most of which go to the Chinese-Belizean kiosk owner for rum or rolling paper or whatever.

The shop owner prospers selling his endless supply of cheap, mini-sized, plastic bottles of rum, beer, cigarettes and rolling papers for “herbs.”

Saturday night in San Ignacio is always festive and there’s a lot of music of all kinds in the air. When Sunday morning comes down, it looks like a ghost town. Walking by the kiosk, you might have to step around somebody like this man in this picture with the little rum bottle on his chest.

A beggar, after a Saturday night of mini-rum binging, at rest on Sunday morning.

Like I say, on my worst days I feel like telling the poor, wretched besotted beggars to bug off.

On my better days I remember the words of John Wesley, who wrote:

    A poor wretch cries to me for an alms. I look and see one that has an immortal spirit, made to know, and love, and dwell with God to eternity. I honor him for his Creator’s sake. I see, through all these rags, that he is purpled over with the blood of Christ.

Now, the drunken beggars aren’t exactly begging for alms, of course, unlike the many beggars you see in San Ignacio with mangled bodies from birth defects. It’s easy enough to honor the man born with no legs or the heart-breaking young girl with the twisted body in the wheelchair being pushed by her weary grandma.

And yet that alcoholic beggar laid low by poverty and all the varieties of self-abuse and destruction that poverty spins has an immortal spirit and is “purpled over” with the blood of Christ.

On their better days and moments, when they’re not blitzed out of their heads with alcohol, I smile at those beggars and maybe give them fist bumps and tell them I hope they’re having a blessed day and say “God bless you.”

They’ll say God stuff back at me, like “Yes, my brother–God is good!”

They light up with joy because I’ve given them what they really want from us all: affirmation that they too are children of God, created in the image of Ultimate Love, worthy of honor for the Creator’s sake.

Chapters in my book The View From Down in Poordom: Reflections on Scriptures Addressing Poverty, available online at Amazonbooks.com and Barnes&Noble.com.

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Guar–an-teed, to blow your head apart… (in a good way).

Listening to “Welcome Back My Friends…” is like taking a trip and never leaving the farm….

Boom.

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