This painting “Omran, Angels Are Here! is by Salt Lake City artist Judith Mehr.

Omran Daqneesh is the Syrian 5-year-old Syrian who was injured and shell shocked in an airstrike believed to have been by the Russian Air Force.

Omran’s 10-year-old brother Ali died in the attack while the rest of the family was rescued from their apartment building that collapsed shortly after the rescue.

Chinese and Russian media (propagandists) have dismissed the image of the child, which has had enduring viral circulation on the internet, “propaganda.”

Lord in your mercy, we pray that somehow your will for peace on earth, good will and justice for all will prevail. Amen.

Leave it to the Naked Pastor (David Hayward at http://www.nakedpastor.com) to boil it down to the essence.

Illustration by His Greatness "The Naked Pastor."

Illustration by His Greatness David Hayward, the Naked Pastor.

Jesus wasn’t born to a prosperous family in a McMansion in a manicured suburban neighborhood or gated community, much less anything like a rich family in a Trump Tower in a great New York-ish-type city.

The gospel of John tells us that Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote–Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

Nathanael balked.

“Nazareth???!!! Are you kidding me? Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (See John 1:43-51 here.)

The vulnerable Jesus was born in a no-count backwater place, far from any important trade center or route, in a barnyard, no less, to humble parents who were on the lam as homeless folks for a good long time.

That’s the essence of the birth and incarnation story. The Messiah wasn’t the sword-wielding, Roman-killing King David type that everyone was expecting the Messiah to be.

Jesus was this vulnerable child, reared by humble parents, who grew up to be a rabbi who definitely didn’t fit the strongman savior profile.

That’s not to suggest that he wasn’t strong; he was the strongest and most fearless man who ever lived.

But certainly not strong and fearless in the sense of some kind of cartoonish American action figure.

He was born in a humble and vulnerable setting.

And then, he died willingly on a piece of wood in what in his Jewish faith was considered the most scandalous and humiliating way to die. A Messiah hung on a cross was unthinkable–a scandal. The Jews regarded a cross as the Roman version of a tree and this was their law:

“Utterly cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” (Deut. 21.23).

Utterly cursed. Wow.

Anyone in biblical times tortured and crucified was not just being punished by the Romans as a criminal–he was considered a sinner cursed by God Himself/Herself.

We find strength and salvation in our weakness, our vulnerability, not in our using money or power or even the Bible like some kind of sword.

That there weren’t any armed people puffed up with power in the barnyard outside the Inn speaks volumes about the birth, life, ministry, and death of our Lord.

The poet and spiritual writer Luci Shaw, who has a gift for packing incisive theology and arresting imagery into a few lines of free verse, wrote a wonderful poem about Mary cradling her newborn son titled “Mary’s Song.”9780802829870

It’s one of the poems in Shaw’s book Accompanied by Angels: Poems of the Incarnation.

In “Mary’s Song,” the mother of Jesus sees her newborn as “a small hot naked star fallen to my arms.” She marvels at how he who was with God and the Holy Spirit in the beginning “overflowed all skies, all years.”

I love this advent poem and commend the poetry of Luci Shaw to anyone who may be unfamiliar with her beautiful writing. Go here for her website. And check out her landscape photography at the site as well.

    “Mary’s Song”
    Blue homespun and the bend of my breast
    keep warm this small hot naked star
    fallen to my arms. (Rest…
    you who have had so far
    to come.) Now nearness satisfies
    the body of God sweetly. Quiet he lies
    whose vigor hurled
    a universe. He sleeps
    whose eyelids have not closed before.
    His breath (so slight it seems
    no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps
    to sprout a world.
    Charmed by doves’ voices, the whisper of straw,
    he dreams,
    hearing no music from his other spheres.
    Breath, mouth, ears, eyes
    he is curtailed
    who overflowed all skies,
    all years.
    Older than eternity, now he
    is new. Now native to earth as I am, nailed
    to my poor planet, caught that I might be free,
    blind in my womb to know my darkness ended,
    brought to this birth
    for me to be new-born,
    and for him to see me mended
    I must seen him torn.

At the highfalutin ceremony in which the absent Bob Dylan was honored with his Nobel for Literature, Dylan’s friend and kindred spirit Patti Smith got the yips so bad in singing his masterpiece “Hard Rain” that she forgot the words.

Talk about awkward. Candidly admitting she was nervous, she repeatedly apologized to the Swedish royalty on hand for the ceremony before she hit stride with vigor and passion.

All in all, her imperfect performance could not have been more perfect. Dylan’s always been tangled up in blue imperfections, starting with a nasal-drip voice that ain’t for everybody.

A nervous Patti Smith got the yips, only to recover brilliantly with her performance of Dylan's "Hard Rain" at the Nobel Prize Ceremony.

A nervous Patti Smith got the yips, only to recover brilliantly with her performance of Dylan’s “Hard Rain” at the Nobel Prize Ceremony.

And yet it seems that most everybody, sooner or later, develops a taste for Dylan’s music and word play. Great poets and singers are irresistibly seductive (and the same could be said of Patti Smith.)

I watched the youtube of Smith, accompanied by an acoustic guitarist and orchestra with a steel guitar overlay that made me want to weep, with my 3-year-old Belizean daughter cuddled by my side. I noticed that she sat up and paid complete attention with her little mouth agape. It held us spellbound the second time as well.

Smith’s musical interpretation of “Hard Rain” definitely did justice to Dylan’s apocalyptic protest poem, which I take to be about a broken, sin-sick world in need of God’s healing power and grace, complete with the call to go out and make things right lest we all get swamped in a hard and very hard rain that seems now more than ever upon us.

    Oh, what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
    Oh, what’ll you do now, my darling young one?
    I’m a-goin’ back out ’fore the rain starts a-fallin’
    I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
    Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
    Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
    Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
    Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden
    Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
    Where black is the color, where none is the number
    And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it
    And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
    Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
    But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’
    And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
    It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

What is truth?

— What Pontius Pilate said to Jesus

Truth? What does it matter?

Truth? What does it matter? (“What is truth?” painting by Nicholas Gai

I’m starting this regular series I’ll call “Today’s Truth Alert.”

I’ll begin with a “Truth Alert” concerning something the bald-faced lying President-elect claims about the election he won via the electoral college vote only.

Let me say first that the President-elect who lost by millions of popular votes and barely squeezed out an electoral championship in three key states is a lifelong, ethically challenged businessman who was obviously never a Rotarian.

Rotary Club International is the greatest of service clubs. Its purpose is to encourage and foster service and high ethical standards in the business and professional sectors around the world.

Rotary is everywhere. It does great service projects right here in San Ignacio Belize.

In addition to local service, Rotary advances international understanding, goodwill, and peace through global fellowship.

What I like most about Rotary is its 4-Way Test applied to every action Rotarians take.

1. Is it the truth?
2. Is it fair to all concerned?
3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

* * *

Now comes the powerful Speaker of the House Paul Ryan–who like so many people had his character assassinated by Trump as recently as October–who says Donald Trump’s lies don’t matter.

In an interview with the (allegedly dishonest) media that Trump (usually but not always ) abhors on “60 Minutes,” Speaker Ryan said it doesn’t matter that Trump claims via Twitter that he won the popular vote because “millions of people voted illegally.”

Let’s get one thing straight: this is a lie. If it was the truth, Trump would have bombarded us with evidence to back up his claim.

As it is, Hillary Clinton, whether Trump or anybody else likes it or not, won the popular vote by millions.

But Ryan and other defenders suggest it doesn’t matter that Trump pulls this kind of stinking load out of his hindquarters every day and presents it as some kind of fact-based truth.

Ryan, who suggested to “60 Minutes” that the truth of a matter doesn’t matter when Trump speaks, said this specifically about the veracity of the man who will soon be the most powerful leader in this big world:

    “The way I see the tweets you’re talking about, he’s basically giving voice to a lot of people who have felt that they were voiceless. He’s communicating with people in this country who’ve felt like they have not been listened to. He’s going to be an unconventional president.

OK great! He’s giving voice to Americans who need to be heard!

Although, a tremendous number of American voices still aren’t being heard by the likes of Ryan and Trump.

And great is this–he’s unconventional! That’s the Default Excuse for every god-awful thing Donald Trumps says or does.

It’s OK–he’s just unconventional.

So is a wrecking ball, which is an unconventional tool because it destroys things the way Trump destroys the truth when the truth will do.

I mean, the guy won the election.

We can only imagine the lies the whiny little juvenile of a man would have spread had he lost.

* * *

What is it about “Thou shalt not lie” that Paul Ryan, a devout Catholic, doesn’t understand?

What is it about all that God’s truth that Jesus Christ was so passionate about fostering?

For that matter, what is it about No. 1 on the Rotarian 4-Way Test (“Is it the truth?”) that Trump … and Ryan … and all those others who defend Trump’s lies, distortions, and misrepresentations day in and day out don’t seem to get?

Somebody famously suggested that God’s truth has the power to set us free from the bondage of sin.

You don’t have to be a Rotarian or Donald Trump supporter or Christian to know that words, which are used to spread truth or lies, matter.

May God and the Truth be with us the next four years.

I know what you’ve been thinking, you all of the Cult of Jitterbug.

You’ve been thinking, “Where have you our worthy leader the Jitterbugger gone at such a time as this, a time when we need your wit, wisdom, provocations and stimulations, which are capable of possibly (probably?) alienating whole towns, nations cities and states.”

I know, you must have been wallowing in angst with a hint of despair while I was away.

So would you believe I’ve been out in the jungle living off the land with nothing but my machete, my bandana, my palm-leaf Speedo and my pet howler monkey Trump?

That’s a typical day in my sexy life, of course.

However, the unfortunate fact is that my Mac laptop, which served me so well for seven years, is barely breathing now that its heart (i.e., the internal battery), is about one or two uses away from going deader than Elvis, who contrary to rumor is plenty dead.

He speaks to me and my crazy monkey from the grave some nights out in the bush.

* * *

Fortunately, I’ve been saving all my money this year for a new Mac and aim to buy one when I’m back home in Texas Our Texas (all hail the mighty state and no kneeling during the state song) later this month.

Yes, I’ll be home for Thanksgiving and then some, visiting friends and fam, working with an artiste friend who is illustrating my book (The View from Down in Poordom: Reflections on Scriptures Addressing Poverty), drinking heavily with friends bummed by the election of the Great American Howler Monkey and eating copious amounts of real, down-home Tex-Mex food made by real Mexicans.

Some of whom I assume are good people and not all rapists and drug dealers.

I’m writing to you on this sunny Belizean day from the dynamic Belizean city of Benque on the Guatamalen border, using a computer at a combination Internet Cafe, grocery store, nail salon, nail and cosmetics supply shop, and office-school supply. It’s owned and operated by an enterprising Chinese-Belizean family, who own and operate most of the supermarkets and specialty shops all over this incredibly diverse and odd little country.

Apparently the Chinese-Belizean kid operating the Internet section today likes Joan Jett music because she is blasting from a couple of big speakers. At least she sings in English. He does play some Chinese rock now and then.


* * *

Just wanted to let you know I’m alive and well and about to flee this place for lunch at a Chinese restaurant (no kidding) next door.

I’ll be back in full blog force sometime after Thanksgiving, prepared to get this President (gag) Elect’s mind and theology right. Apparently the only scripture he knows is “An eye for an eye.”

I will fix him, that I can tell you.

Until then, keep the faith and my Howler Monkey Trump and I bid you a good day.

From a United Methodist bishop.

From a United Methodist bishop.

This is from Chaplain Mike at a heavy-duty theology site I like called Internet Monk:

    “Just as Jesus’ ministry was small and obscure, localized in a way that few appreciated it, even so people today who become new in him by grace through faith begin gathering sparks little by little, finding the lost here and there, comforting that lonely one, protecting the weak who are off the radar, and advocating for those hungering and thirsting for justice, whose voices are rarely heard.”

Indeed, it’s the obscure ministers and lay Christians in local places–people who quietly but steadfastly witness to the power of God’s healing love, power and grace–who make this world a better place every day by advancing the kingdom of God.

They aren’t the kind of ministers who pray in public in booming voices that attract TV viewers by the millions.

They are common folks who don’t have time to follow and promote self-aggrandizing politicians who wear religion on their sleeves to make political points.

They are the Christians in the local communities whose faces shine, people who bear all the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.

They’re the Christians who, rather than complain about kids today, are busy mentoring troubled kids.

They’re the Christians who, rather than rail against abortion and nastily denounce pro-choice people as “killers,” are busy with foster children or raising kids they’ve adopted, or working with single parents to show them what self-responsibility is about.

You get the picture. You know the kind of Christians I’m talking about because you have them in your towns and neighborhoods and local.

They’re busy building up people rather than tearing people down.

They’re the salt of the earth.

They’re the smallest but the greatest.

They show all of us how this Christian thing was meant to work.