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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.

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!!!)


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.


In spite of the deaths of their comrades, two working-slug journalists put their grief on hold to spend the night doing the unappreciated jobs they do for a living. Josh McKerrow, left, a staff photographer, and Pat Furgurson, a staff reporter, worked Thursday on the next day’s newspaper from a pickup truck in a mall parking garage in Annapolis. (New York Times photo by Nate Pence)

I left the journalism profession in the year 2000 because I was called to serve God and the church in ordained ministry.

But my first calling in life, at age 16 or so, was to journalism. I even worked my way through the first two years of seminary at SMU working full-time as an associate editor for The United Methodist Reporter.

Nobody loves reporters and editors except other reporters and editors, people like myself who were called into a profession in which you won’t ever win any popularity contest–not if you do your job with honesty and integrity.

Even though I left journalism a long time ago, I’ll always miss the camaraderie unique to the news profession.

I’ll always stand in solidarity with journalists around the world who slug away every day seeking the truth in the face of enormous resistance from people who want very much to keep people in the dark and can’t stand the light that journalists are trying to shine on them.

Journalists are definitely not perfect people and sometimes they blow it. In fact, resisters work hard sometimes to make sure they blow it so they can bash them. It’s a hard, tricky profession where a lot of people are out to get you.

Yet contrary to what some shamelessly corrupt, lying American leaders want you to believe–and you may believe it yourself–they (we journalists!) are not “enemies of the people.”

Gosh, you’d be surprised to know how many of them love the God and feel like they are doing God’s work in speaking truth to power.

See the profiles of the dead journalists here and pray for their families if you will because Journalist’s Lives Matter just like yours.


With respects to Monty Python…

“JUST AS WELL … WHAT’S HE GONNA DO WHEN ALL THOSE DOUBLE POOPS START PILING UP?”

AND BY AGE 65 YOUR ATTIC WON’T HOLD ANYMORE OF THESE AND THEN WHAT?

WOCKA! WOCKA!

SHOULD HAVE GONE WITH THE CHARMIN, MOM.

What he learned to say first day in medical school.

But they could probably go $1.4 and survive.

FOR YOU WINE SNOBS: From his greatness James Thurber back in the day.

AND SPEAKING OF COFFEE AND WINE … MAKE MINE A DOUBLE.

IT’S CALLED KARMA, DUDES


I mentioned in my last post — written in a fit of righteous indignation or what may have been, Lord help me, just sanctimonious self-righteousness — that I’m researching and writing a book about the theology of touch.

The abiding reference point of this book — or the touchstone (pun intended) — will be the Gospel of Mark, where Jesus is constantly touching or being touched.

That makes it a book about God’s gift of the healing power of touch — touch appropriately applied. “Appropriate” is a word that will show up repeatedly in the text in a time when people are scared to touch anybody in a loving, consoling way.

I will of course, uh, touch on what is appropriate and not in this age of the me-too movement.

But drawing on research and interviews with all kinds of experts on the skin and physical human contact, the book will delve into matters like how the body, mind and immune system react to human touch.

Just as important, it will delve into the potential lethal danger of touch deprivation in young children and anybody else, like so many old folks who are trapped in the darkness of loneliness in homes and nursing homes and places like VA hospitals.

God only knows how many sick and old folks in this broken, sin-sick world– and in the USA alone — are starving and dying of thirst for someone to hug them or hold their hands and just be a quiet, listening presence to them.

And of course, today we’re seeing even babies in diapers dying for the maternal and paternal touch that’s been lost — or any other touch at this point from any consoling caretaker that they can get.

Touch deprivation: it’s potentially lethal. (photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

I hope this border crisis will go down in history as the time when the American church united to be the church, a time when church people stepped up and stepped in to help the poor and vulnerable innocents who are now being spread out in shelters all over the country. It’s going to be a long and very long time before the issue is resolved regardless of whether a win-win political solution for all sides concerned is hammered out.

A star is born. July 12, 2013. My brown, Central American daughter Paulita McKay was born into Central American poverty. Yet she’s been blessed to have an enormous amount of loving touch from me, her mom, sister, brother–and many people in Cayo, Belize, who are drawn to her magnetic personality.

So the book wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t include a chapter on this political crisis and the response to it from political leaders and everyone else — especially the response of the American church which is just as divided as the political tribes and so desperately needs to unite and just be the church to the poor and vulnerable whomever and wherever they are in this world, our border included.

Still, the book I’m developing will be not be a political polemic but a theology book on the theology of (appropriate!) healing touch.

It so happens that on a hot June day outside the Vatican two years ago, Pope Francis had something to say about how Jesus invites us to touch the untouchables, as follows (with my italics for emphasis):

    (ADAPTED FROM: Vatican Radio Online) Pope Francis on Wednesday held his weekly general audience. …. During his catechesis, the Pope focused his reflections on the Gospel story of the leper who was healed by Jesus as a sign of God’s mercy and forgiveness.

    As Jesus reached out and touched the unclean man, he said, so we must never be afraid to reach out and touch the poor and those most in need. At the same time, he said, the Lord invites each of us to feel our own need and to ask for his healing touch.

    Please see below the English summary of the Pope’s words at his Wednesday General Audience.

    Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis for this Holy Year of Mercy, we now consider Jesus’ healing of the leper (Lk 5:12-14). As we know, lepers were considered unclean and bound by law to avoid contact with others.

    Saint Luke tells us that one leper, moved by faith, did not fear to pass among the crowds and beg Jesus to cleanse him. If this leper broke the law, Jesus did likewise by touching the man and cleansing him of the disease.

    The Lord’s example teaches us not to be afraid to reach out and touch the poor and the needy in our midst.

    Significantly, the encounter does not end there. Jesus tells the healed leper to present himself to the priest to make the prescribed offering, and as a testimony to his healing. In this way, he shows us that his miracles of healing aim at the rehabilitation of sinners and that true faith bears fruit in witness.

    The Lord invites each of us to feel our own need and to ask for his healing touch. Like the leper, may we turn to Jesus in faith and let our lives proclaim his gifts of mercy, forgiveness and spiritual rebirth.

Reach out and touch someone — the health you boost may be your own.