Archive for April, 2018

It’s a common attitude: “I’m just one person with no control of events in such a big, broken, overwhelming world. But God is in control and I trust in God.” As if Jesus entrusted us with no control over our destiny and that of future generations.

In a confrontational episode concerning the woman at the well, Jesus famously wrote some words in the sand. As far as anybody knows, that was the extent of his writing life.

Yet he was an author in a unique genre, for he was “the Author,” as Peter called him, “of Life.”

Consider but a few of the names Jesus is called in the Bible.

The Son of God. The Son of Man. The Son of David.

The Groom. The Liberator. The Prince of Peace. The Shepherd. The Good Shepherd.

Immanuel. The Lamb of God. The King of Kings. I Am.

The Rock. The Cornerstone. The Mediator. The Redeemer. The Christ.

The Servant of God. The Master. The Savior. The Arm of God. The Head, the Body.

The Door. The Bread. The Morning Star.

The Truth. The Light.

The Way.

And… well, this fascinating list of descriptive labels goes on and on.

But I’ve always been especially intrigued by label Peter tagged him with: “the Author of life.”

In the name of Jesus Christ and by the healing power of God, Peter and John had just enabled a crippled man to stand up and walk. The poor guy proceeded to jump with joy in praise to God.

The very Israelites who witnessed this miracle, who had once called for the death of Jesus and the release of a murderer, were staring menacing holes through the two healers.

As they stared, Peter called them out — and harshly.

    3:12 When Peter saw it, he addressed the people, “You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk?

    3:13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him.

    3:14 But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you,

    3:15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. (See Acts 3:12-19 here.)

The Author of life.

This is the powerful author who wrote, “The pen is mightier than the sword” in a play about a Catholic Cardinal who believed in the power of the pen over the sword.

Maybe that interesting turn-of-phrase resonates with me because I’ve always loved to read or watch interviews with, and articles about, writers. Probably because I wanted to be a writer all my life and always will.

An author is a creator.

And author has the authority speak persuasively and passionately, not just for himself, but also for other people — including those who have no power or authority and are vulnerable to those who do.

An author has enormous power. (“The pen,” it is famously said in a 19th century play, “is mightier than the sword.”*) An author has command of language and language, like imagination, is power.

Figuratively speaking, Jesus wrote a sort of script for us to live by and, more importantly, to act out in our lives. Though we know how the story ultimately ends with the return of Jesus, it’s also an open-ended script.

We’re the co-authors of life with Jesus, which is to say that, with Jesus, we’re to be and act on the side of life, not the side of suffering, torture, death and evil in all its ugly manifestations.

I hear people say all the time — and seemingly more every day now that the world seems to be spinning so dangerously out of control — that “God is in control.”

What will be will be. Que sera, sera.

As if we have no control over our own destinies and the destiny of God’s entire good, green Creation. As if the only thing we can do is go to church and say our prayers and leave everything in the hands of God to fix.

I submit that we do have power, in the name of God, to fix the broken world to the fullest extent of our human abilities.

By the power vested in us in our baptism, we do have control over events. We have more than prayer and worship and generally being good people. We in fact have a responsibility to respond to poverty, illness, violence and injustice with life-giving action.

There is such a thing as what a Methodist writer called in the title of a fine book “Responsible Grace.”

It can’t be said enough in these confused times that Jesus initiated the kingdom of Heaven and God on Earth, leaving it to us to advance the kingdom of heaven on Earth.

Jesus left us with a call to action, not to passiveness in the face of so much misery and suffering and violence and injustice in the world.

We are co-authors — co-creators — with Jesus.

Absolutely, positively yes — God is in control! In the great big cosmic scheme of things, the future is in God’s hands!

But here’s an important footnote:

*Jesus us left us to be his hands and feet until his return to make all things as perfectly perfect as things are in heaven.

We can trust in God because God is in control.

But God trusts in us to respond in obedience to Jesus, who called us to life-sustaining action.

He wrote us a script that contained an action plan, complete with an instructional guide.

It’s know as “The Way.”

For those worried about the future of America and the world and the world their children and their children will be left with, nothing gets corrected and better by watching from the church bleachers.

*”The pen is mightier than the sword” was a phrase authored by the mighty fine author Edward Bulwer-Lytton in his historical 1839 play about the great French Cardinal (who later in life became a great French politician)Richelieu: or, the Conspiracy.

The Cardinal’s full line was this:

True, This! —
Beneath the rule of men entirely great
The pen is mightier than the sword. Behold
The arch-enchanters wand! — itself is nothing! —
But taking sorcery from the master-hand
To paralyse the Cæsars, and to strike
The loud earth breathless! — Take away the sword —
States can be saved without it!

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Do you believe in ghosts? Horoscopes? Tarot Cards? Shirley MacLaine and road lizards with high IQs? UFOs that always land in New Mexico or some backwoods peckerwood’s pasture in Alabama and never in, say, Belize? Do you know without a doubt that there is super-intelligent life out yonder in one of God’s far-flung universes? If so, fine. It’s a free cosmos.

I’ve often been insulted by snarky non-believers who say they can’t believe I believe in someone they like to mock as an “invisible friend.”

An invisible friend like Jesus Christ, that is.

I ask them if they believe in things like ghosts, Horoscopes and UFOs from space and such. Or psychics. I’ve always noticed that a lot of militant atheists really believe in psychics, who mostly are con artists.

And then there’s the star of stage, screen and television Shirley MacClaine. Her kind are just “out there.” With the Martians.

Almost every time, the intolerant nonbelievers believe in some kind of nonsense like ghosts or space beings who — for some peculiar reason — always appear in, or hover around in their spaceships, in New Mexico or backwoods Alabama and never in, say, San Ignacio, Belize.

I see a lot of drones here in San Ignacio now, invading my privacy. I’ve never seen a UFO anywhere in my life, anywhere I’ve lived or traveled in a lot of traveling.

Honestly, I don’t understand why so many scientists (like the loquacious, ubiquitous entertainer Neil-what’s-his-face) and lay science geeks are absolutely, positively convinced without a doubt that there MUST be intelligent life out there in one of the universes.

When they have no evidence of it.


Well, anyway …

The pollsters are always reminding us that a (disturbing) number of Christians want to believe in ghosts so much that, well … they believe in ghosts.

Ghosts are entertaining, with their stories best told, read or viewed in the night.

The Gospels are about the light of the world; they aren’t found in the entertainment sections of your film and book stores.

Sometimes it seems people, who just can’t get themselves entertained enough in this age of celebrity and endless entertainment, believe more in ghosts than in the living Jesus.

When the resurrected Jesus returned to the Upper Room to visit the scared and confused disciples, he didn’t even so much as say Hello. “Peace be with you,” he said.

Which brings us (alas!) to the Gospel reading for the upcoming 3rd Sunday of Easter, from Luke 24:36b-49.

This scripture describes the event in which the dazed and scared disciples are holed up in the safety and comfort of the Upper Room. Suddenly — Eek a freak! — in comes a ghost(?) who looks just like you-know-who!

I submit that this is one of the most significant scriptures in all the Gospels. For it’s in this post-ressurection appearance that Jesus persuades the boys he’s back in all his glorious flesh and blood, that he’s not a ghost.

It’s important because it sums up the entire Good News as follows:

— It’s about how we can count on Jesus for peace in our constant, human state of fear, worry and anxiety.

— It’s about how Jesus rose from the dead and was so real before his ascension that he remains real, fully present and available to us through the Holy Spirit, who is not a ghost.

— Jesus says, “Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself.” His scarred body bears witness to the suffering he endured. His scars also happen to assure that time and faith heal all wounds.

When we weep, he weeps. When we suffer, he suffers. He’s been there.

When we suffer, he suffers; when we weep, he weeps. He’s been there. The Gospels tell us that Jesus felt such deep compassion — and compassion is a word literally meaning “to suffer with” — that he felt it literally in his bowels.

— The scripture is another “Great Commission” in which Jesus commands us not just to know and understand his life, ministry and resurrection, but also to get out of the safety and comfort of our Upper Rooms and bear witness to the Big News!

And not just to those in our neighborhood, state, nation or hemisphere. We’re to teach and, more importantly, embody the Good News everywhere.

The Good News is not local news: it’s universal.

This scripture from Luke is worthy of much study, reflection and discussion because it describes an event that “opened the minds” of his disciples.

It has the power to open our minds to this day.

In addition, it’s a reminder of certain realities we have to face.

One being that there is no such thing as a ghost.

    New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

    36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence.

    44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

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More atrocities to come in Syria.

A Palestinian man carries a wounded boy after a peaceful march in Gaza erupted into carnage. (Photo by Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

From the “Stories That Make You Go Wow!” category, the pope described Palestinians as oppressed people.

Here’s an excerpt of the strong antiwar language from the antiwar pope in The New York Times:

It was a highly political Pope who stood this chilly morning on the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, addressing tens of thousands of people who filled the vast square below him. Millions of others watched on television in 53 countries. …

“Lend an ear, humanity of our time,” [Pope John Paul II] said, speaking in Italian, “to the long-ignored aspiration of oppressed peoples, such as the Palestinians, the Lebanese, the Kurds, who claim the right to exist with dignity, justice and freedom — legitimate requests repeated in vain for years.”

Lebanon’s plight and the goal of a Palestinian homeland have long been familiar papal themes. But it was unusual for him to mention the Kurds, a transnational, largely Islamic group in the Middle East that for decades has sought territory for itself and whose members in Iraq are now fighting a civil war against President Saddam Hussein’s troops.

“I address myself to you, the leaders of nations, in this difficult hour of history,” he said. “Listen to the voice of the poor. Only upon an international order in which law and freedom are indivisible for all can the society we all hope for be founded.”

Throughout the gulf war, John Paul made his opposition abundantly plain, and several times the Vatican expressed frustration over the futility of the papal appeals for peace. From his remarks today, it was equally clear that his antiwar stand had not eased in the month that has passed since the guns were silenced.

In talking of the “darkness menacing the earth,” he did not single out any country for criticism. In fact, he never explicitly mentioned the gulf war at all. But the references to it were unmistakable, and in the circumspect language of papal discourse, they were emphatic and uncompromising.

At another point in his message, the Pope urged people to “say no to the lucrative arms trade, which you will replace with plans of genuine solidarity.”

— You can read the whole report, from April 1991, here.

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The only reason President Obama wants to attack Syria is to save face over his very dumb RED LINE statement. Do NOT attack Syria,fix U.S.A.”

A tweet from citizen Donald Trump, Sept. 5, 2013


“These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution. President Obama said in 2012 he would establish a red line against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing.”

President Donald Trump’s position on the gas poisoning of scores of people in Syria yesterday (and again, today)

NOTE: I wrote this blog post about Trump’s past position on Syria almost one year ago to the date. Our presidential history of Syria is definitely repeating itself today.
/ AFP PHOTO / Omar haj kadour

Here is the blog post I posted on April 15 (Tax Day) — almost exactly one year ago — slightly edited:

Let us count the ways the private citizen Trump used to advise then-President Obama, whom he now blames for a war crime in Syria, to stay the hell out of Syria.

The first time President Trump STRONGLY ADVISED then-President Obama not to get involved in Syria was in this tweet from May 29, 2013:

    “Obama wants to unilaterally put a no-fly zone in Syria to protect Al Qaeda Islamists … Syria is NOT our problem.”

About two weeks later, Trump tweet-shouted this ALL CAPS (and typically illiterate) tweet of advice to Obama:

    “We should stay the hell out of Syria, the “rebels” are just as bad as the current regime. WHAT WILL WE GET FOR OUR LIVES AND $ BILLIONS?ZERO”

Americans have such short little spans of attention that they forget this: that Obama actually wanted to get involved in Syria back in 2013 (see the No Fly Zone reference above).

Like Syrian expert (cough!) Donald Trump, Congress didn’t even want to consider the backing of Syrian rebels or creating a No Fly Zone or anything else Obama considered.

Of course, Trump and his Republican chumps in Congress now speak as if they advised the weak noodle Obama to bomb Syria back to the Stone Age and let God sort em out.

* * *

Here are more words of advice from Donald Trump with his usual fierce and endless energy urging Obama to leave Syria the hell alone:

    If Obama attacks Syria and innocent civilians are hurt and killed, he and the U.S. will look very bad! (Aug. 30, 2013 Tweet by Donald Trump.



And oh yea, who can forget how concerned citizen Trump the Syrian expert was about a conflict with his big-bosom buddy Putin back in those days:

    Russia is sending a fleet of ships to the Mediterranean. Obama’s war in Syria has the potential to widen into a worldwide conflict.

Yes, Donald Trump tweeted out his concern about a worldwide conflict and a fight with Russia.

How easy it was to be Obama’s most passionate, armchair advisor-slash-critic when Obama was President.

Look who owns the no-win Syrian puzzle now.

Minutes ago, in an appearance with the the ever-stately and smart King of Jordan (a Muslim), Donald Trump said the butcher Assad “crossed many lines for me yesterday.”

Apparently all the previous gassings and massacres of innocents didn’t cross any lines in Trump’s mind, who wouldn’t be able to find the Middle East on a globe.

“The Obama Administration had a great opportunity to solve this crisis” and others in places like North Korea,” he said, again laying this atrocity at Obama’s feet.

With that, he acknowledged that “it’s my responsibility now and I’m going to fix it.”

No problem–Donald Trump is going to fix Syria. Only he can fix things, as he famously said in his campaign.

“Only I can fix it,” he said with typical Trumpian hubris.

And then, in that appearance with the King minutes ago, Trump said something so eloquent, so profound, so inspiring, that it will surely ring through the ages:

“These are very troubled times in the Middle East.”

We and the world need a Roosevelt or a Churchill and we have a massively large empty suit adorned with a power tie made in China.

God the Syrians and God help us all.

Prayers for the innocents who continue to be victimized by chemicals. (photo by the courageous, humanitarian Syrians known as “The White Helmets of Syria”)

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A decorated Texas warrior, Master Sgt. Jonathan Dunbar, was killed in Syria last week. Nowadays our fallen heroes get hardly a mention by the media, members of Congress or the Commander-in-Chief. He asserted one day after the soldier’s death we would be pulling out of Syria soon — before he said we won’t be pulling out of Syria so soon.

The U.S. has more than 2,000 military personnel, all serving in the top–quality special forces, in Syria.

Sixty American warriors have been killed in Syria since the campaign to destroy ISIS began under President Obama in 2014.

Last week, Master Sgt. Jonathan Dunbar, a 36-year-old Texan from Austin, was killed by a roadside bomb in Syria, along with a British coalition soldier. (We aren’t the only nation with warriors making the ultimate sacrifice in war zones.)

The Pentagon said the American and Brit were on a “kill or capture” mission to take out a “known ISIS member.” Five others on the mission were wounded.

Sgt. Dunbar was heroic indeed. He was deployed many times to Afghanistan and Iraq. He earned the Bronze Star and the Army Commendation Medal.

This courageous American’s death occurred one day before Trump said emphatically that — and I quote — “We’re coming out of Syria, like, very soon. Let the other people take care of it now. Very soon — very soon we’re coming out.”

He said this at what amounted to a campaign rally in Ohio. He made no mention to Ohio supporters of an American soldier being killed and others wounded the day before, in spite of knowing it.

In a typical flip-flop, Trump then announced that our troops in our illegal war in Syria (it has never been authorized by Congress) will “be in place in Syria a little longer.”

No doubt meaning, as with Afghanistan, forever. (Ditto our illegal war in Yemen.)

In a perfect American world, Congress would do its constitutional duty and take public, open, up-and-down votes for the authorization of wars in which so many of our best and brightest die and get maimed for life.

Trump had dinner Saturday night with his old pal the boxing-promoter con man Don King — a day after an decorated special ops soldier from Texas was killed in Syria. Don King is no relation to the late great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In addition, the commander-in-chief would spend more time with military heroes and less playing golf and waging an endless campaign that was supposed to end after he won election by a hair of electoral votes (while losing the popular vote by millions; just a reminder).

Over the weekend, Trump had dinner at the Florida White House, between rounds of golf, with his friend the great American boxing promoter and super-wealthy con man with the hideous hair, Don King.

King (no relation to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) brought up the president’s affair with the porn star Stormy Daniels (with whom Don King is well also well acquainted), saying “it’s a ridiculous accusation.” (Don King was serving prison time for murder in the Vietnam War era.)

Our military members are heroic, high-quality people for the sacrifices made by them — and their families.

They deserve better than this media, this Congress and above all, this commander in chief.

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