Archive for July, 2018

I believe this ministry is important, because everyone should be able to worship God, and everyone needs hope.

“We are also providing a safe place for an emotional release. Tears flow freely, even in the boys’ service.

“During the prayer time, there is permission to cry out to God.

— The Rev. Dr. Owen Ross on the ministry he and other church folks from the Dallas area are doing with kids in detention on the Texas border.

The United Methodist Church at its best: A team of dynamic United Methodist pastors and leaders are working with other Dallas church folk to hold worship and prayer services with hundreds of detained children in Tornillo, Tx.

Speaking of border kids down in Texas (see yesterday’s post)…

The Texas Methodist Foundation* has a terrific interview with the Rev. Dr. Owen Ross, a friend of mine from the United Methodist Church’s North Texas (Dallas Area) Annual Conference.

A Texas native and (let’s hear it, Aggies!) graduate of Texas A&M, Owen is something of a legend in North Texas for his lifelong ministry with the Spanish-speaking poor. He now holds a special church development office as a member of the Dallas Bishop’s cabinet.

So I invite you, and urge you, to read an interview the aforementioned Texas Methodist Foundation had with Owen about the weekend ministry that he and a team of church or church-related ministers are doing in Tornillo, Tx., the now famous (infamous?) tent home to children being held by the Trump Administration.

Here are a couple of excerpts, including ways for Christians to respond to the crisis:

    Interviewer: What exactly are you doing and what is involved? How are the teenagers, who participate, responding?

    Owen: Each week we go into the detention center and lead a worship service at 10 am for about 340 teenage boys. Most are unaccompanied minors, but some arrived with their families and were separated. Then we have lunch and an afternoon worship service with about 35 teenage girls. We seek to find songs they know and songs that are relevant. When they are singing a song they know, they fill the room with their voices and sing with abandon. They see God as their only hope; worship becomes very powerful when people have a deep hunger and a very present need for God to intervene on their behalf.

    When we go into communion and prayer time, most of the team goes around the room to reach teens who want personal prayer. I believe that is the most important service we are providing. The #1 prayer request – Pray for my case. The #2 prayer request – Pray for my mom or other family members. They are afraid; they are afraid of being sent back to their country of origin,after they have been on such an arduous journey. They are afraid for their family members who are left behind, and they are scared to discover what will happen if they are deported.

    Interviewer: What are the best ways for a church to respond to the current crisis at the border?

    Owen: There are four categories you can fall into if you arrive at the border as an immigrant. (1) You have a spouse, parent or immediate family member who is the US; (2) You have extended family here, like an aunt or an uncle; (3) If you are a minor, you have a family friend who has been authorized by your parent to receive you and that person has passed a background check; (4) You have no one to serve as your sponsor.

    Some of the youth at the detention center in Tornillo do not have sponsors in the US. However, Church World Service (CWS) is working right now to help find sponsors. Churches can identify as sponsors and help people get out of detention. Individuals can serve as sponsors, too. If you or your church is concerned about the crisis at the border, you can take action right now through CWS and you will be an answered prayer for someone who is stuck at the border, if you do.

*Please go here for pictures and the entire interview, and more about the great work the Texas Methodist Foundation does.

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ALL lives do matter, as every Christ-loving, God-fearing Christian knows.

Gregory of Nazianzen, a 4th century Saint and Doctor of the Church, wrote the following in his think piece titled “On love for the poor”:

    The basis for our responsibility to help others is our shared human nature, the identity as created in the image of God: “We must, then, open the doors to all the poor and all those who are victims of disasters, whatever the causes may be, since we have been told to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep” (Rom 12:12).

    And since we are human beings, we must pay our debt of goodness to our fellow human beings, whatever the cause of their plight: orphanhood, exile, cruelty of the master, rashness of those who govern, inhumanity of tax-collectors, brutality of blood-thirsty bandits, greediness of thieves, confiscation or shipwreck.

“exile . . . orphanhood…”

“cruelty of the master…”

“the rashness of those who govern…”

What prophetic words given the ongoing, cruel treatment of poor and vulnerable people in the custody of the U.S. government.

Lord in your mercy,

Open the hearts, minds and hands of those American leaders too blind to see what their political leadership has wrought.

Open their ears that they might hear the cries of innocent, unarmed men, women and children, they who so fear the loss of life in their own countries that they are willing to risk the loss of life in long and dangerous journeys for the mere possibility of safety.

Open the eyes of these leaders that they might see how tearing loving families apart and caging even infants runs so utterly counter to your will, God, for love, mercy, fair and equitable justice, and peace on earth, good will to all.

Open their minds to working for creative, imaginative, humane solutions to a national immigration problem that can be worked out in accordance to your will, God, your over-arching will being love, peace, mercy and justice for all.

In the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Hear our prayer.

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I don’t recommend quitting your job without another job lined up and I understand that quitting a job usually isn’t as simple as quitting. But all in all there is a lot of wisdom in “The Holstee Manifesto” (see theholstee.com/manifesto for more)

Six years ago this month, I sold and gave away almost everything I owned. I moved to Belize, a country I had never set foot in, on a wing and a prayer and a call from God–with a George Strait song playing in my head.

People–especially newcomers to the blog or the new friends I make on Facebook–are always asking: Why did you move to Belize?

My short answer is typically, “Because I could.”

Which is to say I had nobody but myself to support. I was divorced and my three children were grown and thriving on their own. I was free to indulge the free spirit in me and live anywhere I wanted to live.

“Chaplain Paul,” who was always dressed up and wearing his silver cross in his church and chaplaincy life, at an interfaith function in Dallas in 2011.

The expanded answer goes like this:

— I felt I’d been rode hard and put up wet (not to mention rode wet and put up hard) from two intense and stressful careers, the first in newspaper reporting and the second in hospital and hospice ministry. I was weary and restless and wanted a change.

Years before, when I was 50 years old, I had turned my back on a thriving, lifelong career in journalism, enrolled in seminary at SMU, and got myself ordained as a Deacon in the United Methodist Church.

When I make a change, I don’t fool around.

— I wanted to strip my life down to the bare essentials, to live a simpler, quieter and more deeply reflective and spiritual life. I wanted the writer’s life.

You’ve heard of the starving artist.

I wanted the simple life of a starving writer. (I have achieved that goal, Belize me.)

— The Nature Boy in me wanted to live in a beautiful place with lots of green trees and beaches and waterfalls and birds and exotic wildlife.

When Chaplain Paul makes a change, he don’t fool around. Here pictured at DFW airport in Dallas on his way to Belize with everything he owned, July 15, 2012.

— I wanted diversity. Belize has one of the most diverse cultures and populations in the world. Every day I hear Belizeans speaking English, Spanish, Kriol, Mayan or Chinese. And then there are the Mennonites with their mule-drawn carts who live off the grid and speak a lot more Dutch or German than English.

— I’m a natural-born free spirit and I wanted to indulge the free spirit in me.

Did I mention I was in a place in life where I could do that, since I had no one to support but me, myself and I?

As a starving writer wannabe, I was inspired by one of my favorite songs of all time sung by fellow Texan George Strait, who said in classic hit “Amarillo by Morning” — I ain’t rich, but Lord I’m free.

— I wanted to live up-close and personal among the poor for the simple reason that I’ve always had an affinity for children, elderly folks and the poor among us.

I wrote a little book last year about my experiences with needy people. It’s titled The View From Down in Poordom: Reflections on Scriptures Addressing Poverty. It’s not exclusively about poverty on the other side of paradise in Belize, but it does include a lot of stories about the poor I’ve known and observed up-close and personal in Belize, Guatemala and neighboring Mexico.

My first book isn’t exclusively about poverty in Central America as I’ve seen it up close and personal, but it is full of stories about what I’ve seen and people I’ve known south of the U.S. border.

— And yet another reason I uprooted and moved to Belize: I wanted to live on my own terms before I die.

Having been a hospital and hospice chaplain and having the privilege of walking through the valley of grief with people in their final days or months of life, I heard some variation on the following from scores upon scores of dying people.

    “If I had it to do all over, I wouldn’t have worked so hard.

    “I would have spent more time with my family.

    “I would have traveled more.

    “I would have done all the things I always wanted to do and never took the time to do. I would have gone scuba diving. I would have jumped out of a plane. I would have gone to Africa.

    “I would have taken a month (or a year) to live (or travel) in Europe (or Africa, or Costa Rica, or Belize). I would have moved my business to Florida (or Nashville, or Seattle).”

    Chaplain Paul the intrepid adventurist at Big Rock, one of the world’s most famous waterfalls and swimming holes up in Mountain Pine wilderness, an hour’s bone-rattling drive the Chap’s home in San Ignacio/Santa Elena BZ.

    “I love horses. I would have cashed out, moved the family to a shady little farm or ranch outside some little country town and got out of the rat race.

    “I definitely would have retired or semi-retired sooner and enjoyed life while I had a lot of good years ahead of me.”

    “I would have done this… I would have done this.”

You get the drift, dear reader.

I didn’t want to be on my death bed some day like all those people who spilled their guts out to me about all their many regrets.

AND SO … THIS MONTH MARKS THE SIX-YEAR anniversary of my move to this whole other country. And Belize me when I tell you (Belizeans love their puns and one becomes a chronic punster here), every day is still an adventure here. Belize is both a Caribbean nation and a Central American nation. That fact alone is enough to make it the oddest little country in the world.

I’m an odd old bird. An odd nation suits me.

And while my reasons for uprooting and moving here were many, it all came down, in the final analysis, to a calling from God.

I’m a strong believer in God and believe that God calls us Christians in ways large and very large, and ways quite small to move out of their comfort zones.

He wasn’t exactly sure why he felt called to Belize, of all places in the world, but he definitely felt God nudging, and then pushing him, to go there. And God never promised him it would be an easy, care-free life in a country that prides itself on being “The Eden of the Caribbean.” Chap Paul was called to the other side of Paradise.

I always felt my first calling was to journalism, which for most journalists is absolutely a calling.

My second calling was a loud and clear call from God to ministry.

There is no greater call than the call to ministry. And any minister who has had God tap him or her on the shoulder and prod them into the holy life knows how powerful that call is. You reach a point where you can’t NOT heed the call, no matter how young or old you may be.

Chaplain Paul and his Belizean daughter Ludy Paulita McKay. She turns 5 on July 29. . Could she and her family be the reason God wanted him in Belize?

I attended seminary with a woman who was 64 years old when she was ordained. She had six thriving years as an associate pastor in a city church and spent another 15 years in retirement doing mission work with orphans in Siberia.

So for a full year before my move to Belize in 2012, I had this mysterious, nagging sense, which was starting to feel more and more urgent, that God was calling me to, of all the places in the world, Belize.

The mystery of that divine calling I had has since been cleared up. It was a call to meet a poor “bush woman” whose long estranged husband showed up at her shanty heavily intoxicated one night. He pinned her to her bed and had his way with her, impregnating her.

The baby she had is my adoptive daughter, Ludy Paulita McKay. She turns 5 on July 29. I’m pretty sure God called me to Belize to support her mom and to get her big sister and big brother all the education and graces in life they can get.

But that’s another story I’ll share in more detail before the milestone birthday of little “Miss Belize.”

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“For what does it profit a man if he loses his soul?” — The Lord

At one of his frequent pep rallies with his cheerleaders in their China-made MAGA caps–this time in Montana–the President of the United States was “on,” as the comedians say.

— He trashed George H.W. Bush, who at age 94 is frail and grieving the loss of his beloved (one) wife and First Lady by mocking the former president’s “Thousand Points of Light” program.

Meanwhile, down on the border…

For those too young to remember, that was a program aimed at rewarding patriotic Americans who had started and sustained effective volunteer programs.

It was one of the few Bush programs Americans on both sides of the political divide supported and respected Bush for.

That’s because American volunteers make America great without costing American taxpayers the millions of dollars Americans have paid to underwrite Trump’s weekly trips to his Florida Resort where he attends church at Easter before getting back to his beloved golf course.

But back to the Montana rally.

— Yet again he thoroughly trashed the great American war horse and hero John McCain, who is dying a slow, horrible death.

Pass the pom-poms!

That was some funny yuckin’ shit right there, weren’t it?

But seriously, he was just getting warmed up …

— He once again denigrated every Native American alive–including the Indian war veterans he has honored at the White House who have pleaded with him to stop with the racist slurs.*

— He praised two of the world’s most brutal dictators, his BFFs Kim and Vladimir.

And … well … he just loves to hear himself talk smack about decent Americans who deserve our honor and respect.

Once again …. President Trump is not only not being presidential –which, perversely, he loves not being–he is continuing to be an anti-Christ leader.

Once again I plead with those fellow Christians who think Jesus put him “back in the White House” to stop and think about what this is doing to the integrity of the Christian faith tradition; how is steadily destroying the influence of Christianity and the universal church; and how much it wounds our Lord Christ Jesus every time this president assassinates the character of fellow Americans and the poor and marginalized people Jesus loves.

*What Sen. Elizabeth Warren said about her Indian blood was a dumb and awful case of a white politician appropriating Native American culture. She shouldn’t have done it. The thing is, her dumb gaffe does not make Donald J. Trump’s brazen racism for some laughs acceptable. Racism is never acceptable. This is sort of Christianity 101.

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If you love great films and high-quality film making, and, like me, you love Texas movies most of all, I urge you to read “The Top 50 Texas Movies” list compiled by five writers at The Houston Chronicle.

You can read their picks at this online link, as the Chronicle will allow if few views for non-subscribers.

Ben Foster and Chris Pine channeled Paul Newman in Hud and James Dean in Giant in their grade-A performances as a pair of Texas brothers seeking to justice from callous bankers.

As a movie fanatic and a nationalistic, patriotic Texan, I like the Chronicle’s picks, even though it’s not the list I (or you anyone else) would have compiled.

All in all, however, I’m OK with their Top 10 Texas picture shows.

I’ve always thought Hell or High Water, which I’ve watched at least six times as it’s frequently shown on cable movie channels, should have picked up a wagonload of Oscars in 2016.

I really like the Chron’s terse, “Notable Texas Moments” they included with their picks. Their notable moment for Hell or High Water: “When the brothers rob a bank and find they aren’t the only ones who are armed.”

Indeed, there were a LOT of notable, pucker-up Texas moments in this movie.

Jeff Bridges, one of the three or four greatest actors alive, and the excellent Gil Birmingham as Indian partner in the gritty (and oh-so wonderfully politically incorrect) Hell or High Water.

Movies like Hell or High Water, which tell powerful stories about broken-up human beings seeking and finding hard-won grace and redemption, are out of fashion in Hollywood now.

If the filmmakers had made Jeff Bridges’ Texas Ranger a Marvel Comic character, with him able to leap whole West Texas towns in a single bound, it would have would won 15 Oscars and broken box-office records. (Note that the ever-great Jeff Bridges is in the Chron’s Top 2 movie picks, btw.)

In addition, the entire cast of Hell or High Water would have made group appearances on every late night show on TV* and yapped (lied?) about what a GREAT TIME THEY HAD WORKING TOGETHER!!!!

Hell or High Water is the kind of anti-establishment, anti-hero movie that’s a throwback to great films in that genre like Hud and, for that matter, Giant.

And that’s a pretty high commendation in this Texan’s book.
*(Jimmy Fallon never had a guest on his show who wasn’t a dear friend he loved like a brother or sister and knew to be one of the world’s greatest human beings. David Letterman, please come back and save late night TV!!!)

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Chances are, your mom or grandma or whatever nurturer you had growing up rubbed you with Vicks® VapoRub. Just as healing as the menthol aroma was the healing touch of your caretaker’s hands.

(For all those brown-skinned children and their nurturers suffering in America.)

In researching my book about the healing (and potentially destructive) power of touch, it occurred to me that Vicks® pharmaceuticals are as iconic as the great American products invented by Henry Ford or Steve Jobs.

Yet chances are you don’t know the name of the Greensboro, N.C. druggist who, in 1890, concocted Vicks® VapoRub in his pharmacy–it and a lot of other healing Vicks products marketed today by Procter & Gamble.

That Greensboro pharmacist was named Lunsford Richardson. His name wouldn’t fit on his famous menthol balm, so he named it after a brother-in-law — Dr. Joshua Vick.

Chances are that when you were a child, your mom or grandma or primary nurturer gave you fast-acting relief from your cold and cough by laying some of that wonderfully gooey Rub on you.

Chances are good that you have it in your medicine cabinet to rub on your children or grandchildren or your spouse or significant other even now.

I don’t know much about the science of how the aromatic, menthol goop works to promote relief of the sinuses and respiratory system. I just know that, to this day, when anybody rubs it on me when I’m laid low with congestion and coughing, the rubbing motion of the hands full of Vicks VapoRub is just as relieving as the menthol aroma.

I’m sure you’d agree that rubbing it on your own chest and neck and facial areas when you’re struggling to breathe just doesn’t have nearly the same relieving effect as someone laying those menthol-cool hands on you.

I moved to Belize six years ago this month. I lived at that time in the ancient Mayan village of Succutz, home of the world famous Xunantunich temple. The temple compound is a full mountain mile above the mighty Mopan River and only five miles from where I live now.

That oil-and-herb concoction in the cosmic-blue jar is so perfect that Mayan healers in Mexico and Central American keep it on hand.

On my first day in old Succutz, I was walking down a trail in the bush and passed by a typical clapboard house with kids and dogs running around a yard that sloped down to a stream.

Beneath a shady mango tree just outside the house, a boy about age 8 was lying flat on his back in his underwear on a blanket. His mother, clad in Mayan threads, was bent over him on her knees and rubbing him. Being the incurably curious creature I am, I strolled up the slope and said hello to the woman, curious about what she was doing.

It turned out she was slowly and methodically massaging the child’s chest, neck and head with that not-so-ancient Mayan salve called Vicks VapoRub.

Mind you, this was a Mayan bush woman who had all kinds of healing herbs and ancient remedies at her disposal to relieve a child’s deep cough and congestion.

And yet she had a jar of the same Vicks VapoRub, with its simple but perfect mix of oils and herbs, that has given me and you and people around the world healing relief since we were babies.

I see the blue Vicks jars in even the most remote villages everywhere south of the U.S. border for three reasons: 1) it’s so effective and 2) it’s oh-so-affordable for even the poorest people I meet and 3) it has a long shelf life.

Such is the power of that great American balm that the nerdy pharmacist Lunsford Richardson stuffed into a now iconic jar that was and is and always will be a soothing cosmic blue in color.

And such is the divine, healing power of touch in a body rub, appropriately rendered.

Read more about the nerdy pharmacist who invented the world’s most famous healing ointment in Greensboro, N.C.

This is also a good overview if you’re a fellow history buff.

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