Saturday, January 09, 2016


John answered and said, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Christ, but that I was sent before him. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease.”  John 3:27-30

Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people's approval
and you will be their prisoner.
Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.
(The Tao Te Ching, the Chinese Book of the Way)

We are in the midst of the second and final episode where Jesus and John are side-by-side. The first was at the Visitation.  Yet John knows that his mission is to decrease while Jesus will shine over John and all the earlier prophets.

Just like at a wedding, there is no competition between the groom and the best man, John is happy to fade into the background while Jesus takes center stage.  Others are not able to let go as easily.  Some of the Jews are a little jealous that Jesus has taken up a baptism station so close to John.  It’s almost like they don’t want another team playing on their home field.  John will have no part in fomenting any rivalry.

National Geographic Fellow Paul Salopek is retracing on foot our ancestors’ migration out of Africa and across the globe. His 21,000-mile odyssey began in Ethiopia in 2013 and will end at the tip of South America in 2020.  A web site ( serves as a lab for social media and other purposes.  Near the beginning of his journey, Paul wrote about the things that refugees leave behind when they are fleeing oppression in Somalia or a harsh life in other countries. 

In Afar Triangle, three walking days from the Ethiopian border, his findings were basic:
Dead flashlight batteries.
Two discarded Ethiopian coins.
A green plastic comb.

Paul’s description of the people is chilling:
They are refugees fleeing the ruinscape of Somalia. A few are deserters from the Eritrean army. Young men. A few hardy women. They have to be strong. Because the desert crossing is harsh, pitiless. Some die here of thirst. At the Red Sea, scores drown every year taking passage in rickety open boats. Yet still they come.  One hundred thousand people a year, at least, evacuate the continent this way. They trek mostly at night, guided by smugglers. This barren, godless plain crawls with an army of walkers after dark. Under starlight, the out-of-Africa migration continues.

These are refugees who cannot decrease any more…they started with little power, money or status.  What few possessions they began the journey with get discarded along the way.  You can read more of this 2013 dispatch here.

Look at your surroundings as you read this.  Computer, smartphone, furniture, car.  Food, clothing, shelter. “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven.” What are we doing with all that we have?  

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