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Malcolm Mitchell, a Super Bowl receiver, avid reader and best-selling author of The Magician's Hat.

Malcolm Mitchell, a Super Bowl receiver, avid reader and best-selling author of The Magician’s Hat.

Back when Malcolm Mitchell of the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots arrived the University of Georgia on a football scholarship, he read at the level of an 8th grader.

Before he graduated in December 2015, Mitchell was the author of an award-winning children’s book and a member of two Book Clubs, including one headed by fellow Georgia native Reese Witherspoon.

His book, The Magician’s Hat, also earned him an invitation to the Savannah Book Festival.

NFL wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell with his mom, Patrina Woods, who survived a 2-year battle with breast cancer.

NFL wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell with his mom, Patrina Woods, who survived a 2-year battle with breast cancer. When he wanted to quit football in 6th grade because he couldn’t get playing time, his mother told him to stick to it and try harder. Now he’s a Super Bowl star.

Go here for Five Fascinating Facts about this classy jock

It’s the kind of story that’ll make you go “Wow!”–in a good way!!!

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@realDonaldTrump wake up this morning to see you’ve used my Son murder to further your campaign of hate, how dare you. You are a disgrace.

— tweet from Australian parent Sandra Jackson over Donald Trump exploiting her son’s murder in what was NOT a terrorist attack as Trump wants the world to believe

Speaking of god-awful lack of shame (see today’s previous post about Mitch McConnell and his Republican cronies in the Senate)…

The headline over the Washington Post story about an angry Australian couple says it all: Parents furious over Trump’s false terrorism claim.

It’s a hard fact of life that there is nothing more painful than losing a child.

So leave it to Donald Trump, whom God has supposedly placed “back in the White House” according to so many of Trump’s Christian supporters, to intensify the pain of Australian parents whose children were killed by a madman last year.

Not a Muslim terrorist, mind you. The young woman and another young man were killed by a mentally ill madman in a hostel.

(And what if he had been a mentally ill man who happened to have been a Muslim: Are all murders committed by those who claim to be Christians who are members of churches plain murders while all slayings committed by Muslims are acts of global terrorism?)

Both grieving families woke up to their children’s murders on a White House list of terrorist attacks that the Trump Administration claims were neglected by the media.

Read the story here.

Les Jackson, father of a young woman NOT killed by a Muslim terrorist, and his wife are angry. As our great friends the people of Australia.

Les Jackson, father of a young woman NOT killed by a Muslim terrorist, and his wife are angry. As our great friends the people of Australia.

And here’s the response of the grieving mother from the young woman’s family:

A mother's grief has been intensified because of the typical recklessness of Donald Trump and his band of mindless, steamrolling friends and family members in the White House.

A mother’s grief has been intensified because of the typical recklessness of Donald Trump and his band of mindless, steamrolling friends and family members in the White House.

Will Trump–who supposedly is “a changed man” since supposedly giving his life to Christ (which never happened) do the Christian thing and make a public apology to the grieving families in Australia and the entire angry continent of Australia?

No way.

People who get hurt every day by Trump’s language and behavior are just so much “collateral damage” in Trump’s war on anyone anywhere who doesn’t bow down to him in this world.

He’s a sick, sick man.

Truth telling is a rigorous spiritual practice.”

— Lama Surya Das

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If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

— you-know-who

Republicans like Sen. Mitch McConnell are always and forever strict about upholding the United States Constitution–except when they aren’t.

Above is the 1986 letter from Coretta Scott King that Sen. Elizabeth Warren was in the process of reading on the United States Senate floor yesterday when Mitch McConnell did an unbelievable full-frontal assault on her constitutional right to speak.

McConnell and his conservative colleagues who joined in the censorship should be ashamed of themselves.

But then, the truth is that they have demonstrated time and again that they have no shame when it comes to cherry-picking the United States Constitution to suit their far-right agenda.

The only part of the United States Constitution they are committed to upholding is the Second Amendment, which they consider more Holy than the Ark of the Covenant.

God help us in the pursuit of your Truth and your truths.


I’ve been busy for a couple of weeks writing captions and placing the artwork into the manuscript of my book The View From Down in Poordom: Reflections on Scriptures Addressing Poverty.

As I promised here at the blog in an update a few weeks ago, the book will be on the market sometime this millennium, and in fact some months before summer comes around (Lord willing and if the creeks don’t rise).

My friend the Rev. Keith Head, a retired preacher whose multiple gifts and talents include artistic talent, came to the book project in December, further delaying publication.

But I was perfectly willing to wait for Keith’s artistic contribution, which will dress up the book considerably. Readers do like books that come dressed up with pictures to go with the words.

Anyway, this being Super Bowl Sunday, I decided to share a blurb from the manuscript with you.15400496_958498570950544_6582278835081293174_n

What follows is an excerpt of a chapter titled “Poverty: A Synonym for Suffering.” The chapter is a reflection on John 5:2-9, in which Jesus healed an invalid who had been suffering from pain and neglect for thirty-eight years beside the healing waters of a pool. (See Chapter 5 from Eugene Peterson’s Message Translation here.)

So with no further ado, here’s a timely Super Bowl-related snippet from The View From Down in Poordom:

    Years ago, the makers of a best-selling beer premiered a long-running TV commercial during the Super Bowl. The ad opened with an overweight (wouldn’t you know it) character sitting alone in the bleachers of a football stadium, crying into his large cup of beer. This set the scene for the announcer to explain that the poor football fan was “suffering” because his beer lacked flavor. The ad ended, of course, with the poor “victim” of bland beer relishing the taste of the advertised brand and being relieved—praise God, America!–of his “suffering.”

    The list of ways in which the suffering of people in the world is diminished by advertisers and other forces in popular culture would be a long one indeed. When I saw the ad for the first time, I wondered what people suffering from terminal cancer thought about it–or the old folks in nursing homes suffering from neglect and isolation.

    Or, for that matter, the poor people in America who buy cans of cheap dog food for themselves every week because they can’t afford cans of corn or beans.

    I suppose on one level, the beer ad was as cute and harmless as it was intended to be. Yet on a deeper level, I’m thinking it was so awful and tasteless that it probably managed to desensitize millions of people around the world to the real suffering of hurting people–that is, people whom we’d rather not see or deal with.

    As long as we sports fans have our sports, plenty of tasty cold beer, and snacks enough for an army, all is right with the world.

    Or so we’ve been programmed to believe. It’s far easier to reduce genuine suffering to a cute joke to sell beer than to care for and comfort someone who is truly in misery.

    But somehow I don’t think Jesus would be amused.

Again, that’s only a snippet from the book’s essay about poverty being another word for suffering.

So wait till you’ve read the whole chapter–and the whole book–before you react to this teaser.

And I do hope you’ll be reading the whole book as eagerly as you, like me, may be watching tonight’s Super Bowl with a few beers, chips and dips.

In sweet moderation, of course.

A Toxic Weed

From my friend Dr. Emily.

When she speaks, or writes, I listen.

Barnstorming

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It was 1978 and I was a third year medical student when my friend was slowly dying of metastatic breast cancer.  Her deteriorating cervical spine, riddled with tumor, was stabilized by a metal halo drilled into her skull and attached to a scaffolding-like contraption resting on her shoulders.  Vomiting while immobilized in a halo became a form of medieval torture.  During her third round of chemotherapy, her nausea was so unrelenting that none of the conventional medications available at the time would give her relief.  She was in and out of the hospital multiple times for rehydration with intravenous fluids, but her desire was to be home with her husband and children for the days left to her on this earth.

Her family doctor, at his wit’s end, finally recommended she try marijuana for her nausea.  My friend was willing to try anything at that point, so one of her…

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Why I live where I live in Cayo, BZ: One reason is because the lazy Macal River runs through it, and merges with the mighty Mopan River on the outskirts of town. I love rivers.

Why I live where I live in Cayo, BZ: One reason is because the lazy Macal River runs through it, and merges with the mighty Mopan River on the outskirts of town. I love rivers.

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.

From A River Runs Through It*, By Norman Maclean

Aerial view of the Macal River, which runs through the rustic twin cities of San Ignacio-Santa Elena, known as "Cayo," where I live.

Aerial view of the Macal River, which runs through the rustic twin cities of San Ignacio-Santa Elena, known as “Cayo,” where I live.

I live where I live in Belize in the twin cities San Ignacio/Santa Elena, commonly known in Belize as “Cayo.”

Of all the places in the world I could live and the places I could reside in Belize, I live in Cayo partly because a beautiful, scenic, usually tranquil and lazy river–the Macal–runs through it.

I love the Macal even at times during the rainy season when it’s roaring and the water is muddy after torrential downpours that come and go sometimes for a week or more at a time. I especially love it this time of year, though, during “dry” season when it can appear pristine.

Just outside of Cayo the Macal River merges with the mighty Mopan River to form the Belize River which winds down the length of Belize into the Caribbean Sea.

Tourists chilling out on the Macal River below the high, iron bridge that spans in Cayo.

Tourists chilling out on the Macal River below the high, iron bridge that spans in Cayo.

I love rivers. As Norman Maclean said in his concise and oh-so-beautiful and one and only novel, “A river, though, has so many things to say that it is hard to know what it says to each of us.”

Rivers speak to me and I love rivers. They are tranquilizers with no dangerous side effects. In fact, they are like vitamins–they empower the mind, body, soul and spirit and keep them healthy.

I’ve been feeling so distressed by the news back home in the States lately–and a little stressed trying to get my book manuscript and the pictures that will illustrate The View From Down in Poordom ready for production–that I’ve neglected to get back to nature where I can breathe.

Today I did just that—took the time to walk four miles along the river with my binoculars to look at the birds and butterflies and magnificent greenery and water currents.

It was like getting a booster shot for the soul.

His greatness Norman Maclean wrote:

    Many of us would probably be better fishermen if we did not spend so much time watching and waiting for the world to become perfect.

I’m not much of a fisherman and never have been, except in the sense of being “a fisher of men (and women) in the biblical sense.

But we’d probably be better people if we stopped waiting for the world to become perfect, amen?
————-
* In his review of Maclean’s instant classic of a novel, Alfred Kazin wrote in the Chicago Tribune:

    There are passages here of physical rapture in the presence of unsullied primitive America that are as beautiful as anything in Thoreau and Hemingway.”
The walkway on the high and very high iron bridge that spans the Macal River and connects San Ignacio and Santa Elena. Another wood-plank bridge, called the "low bridge," rises only a few feet above the river.

The walkway on the high and very high iron bridge that spans the Macal River and connects San Ignacio and Santa Elena. Another wood-plank bridge, called the “low bridge,” rises only a few feet above the river.


Many who claim to be Christian want The Ten Commandments prominently displayed on school and courthouse lawns, in courtrooms and elsewhere. Sometimes I wonder if they've ever read and thought about the Then Commandments in trying to justify and defend Donald Trump's propensity for lying and bearing false witness.

Many who claim to be Christian want The Ten Commandments prominently displayed on school and courthouse lawns, in courtrooms and elsewhere. Sometimes I wonder if they’ve ever read and thought about the Commandments in trying to justify and defend Donald Trump’s propensity for lying and bearing false witness. However much they’ve read them, they haven’t internalized the meanings of them.

I will say one thing for Donald Trump, from whom lies fall from the lips like hard rain you can’t see but definitely can hear in astonishment.

In just under a week’s time in office he has managed to give the whole of God’s world a massive nervous breakdown and damaged relationships with our best friends and allies in the world, starting with Mexico.16194965_1810948269158506_702026115572902689_n

In his first full weekend on the job he created a constitutional crisis with his signature on a most unconstitutional order banning anybody from Muslim countries excepting the countries in which he does HUGE business. (Saudi Arabia, for example, which gave us Bin Laden and the 911 psychos.)

(In addition, his counselor added a new term to government arena: “alternative facts.”)

That’s a huge accomplishment, however dubious.

I’m still trying to process the brazen lies he told in one week on duty.

His insistence against all empirical evidence that he had the largest turnout at his Inauguration, for example.

That is simply an astounding lie that anyone with two eyes and one reasonably object mind can see and know.

Also, his insistence that 3 to 5 million immigrants committed voter fraud, and that that’s why he lost the popular vote.

That’s a lie.

Period.

(Trump did have an overwhelming victory, county-wise. But he still lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes. And his electoral college victory ranked 46th out of 58 presidential elections.)

And the investigation he seems hell-bent on having into allegedly massive fraud into his own election promises to be a huge–huge!–waste of taxpayer time and money. (Gotta love that Republican fiscal responsibility.)

As some of the more sensible Republicans in D.C. like Sen. Lindsey Graham have maintained, this new President is simply undermining his own credibility, hurting no one but himself and the country.

But the fact is that he’s hurting Christianity big-time.

I can’t repeat this enough: Christianity is The Truth and Christianity is about the pursuit of truth.

Setting aside the Truth that our Lord Jesus embodied, consider that whole Ten Commandments thing.

For years and years and years we’ve been hearing fundamentalist Christians insist on having The Ten Commandments posted in school classrooms, on courtroom walls and even carved in stone on courthouse or school lawns.

So what is it about “thou shall not bear false witness” (i.e., lying against another) they don’t understand.

Trump has so intensely and unceasingly borne false witness against so many of his critics and enemies that the list of all those he’s lied about, hurt, and assaulted with his verbiage wouldn’t fit on a 50-foot-long scroll.

Consider also the idolatry of the sort we’ve seen attached to this President from the time he was a new candidate. It’s clear to me that many Christians (they who practice the bastardized version of Christianity that is Trumpianity) worship at the altar of this President in a way that amounts to worship of a false god.

They are convinced that God actively placed President Trump in his position of world power in order to save America first and in doing that, saving the world.

The kind of God that would actively place a pathological liar and character assassin in the White House would be a God that has nothing to do with truth.

But that kind of god is not God the Almighty, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.

The Redeemer was the walking, talking Truth.

Donald Trump is a walking, talking Lie.

And that’s the Truth.