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Archive for May, 2009

Dear Miss Caleefornya (as your governor calls it),
You’re now waaaay beyond your 15 minutes of fame and if you are sincere about your high-minded morality and Christian faith, then please get out of the public eye now because the public has seen enough of you preening across the stage in that string bikini and causing us to be exposed nonstop to your nekkid pictures.
And by the way, just because Dr. James Dobson has seen fit to really, really stretch to justify your high-minded morality and the Christian faith you purport to have, in spite of a whole lot of your actions and behaviors to the contrary, that does not mean you are up to being the high-minded, courageous young warrior for Christ and good American hero that he so desperately has anointed you to be.
I’m terribly sorry that some mean-spirited clods so viciously attacked you for exercising your freedom of speech over gay marriage and I respect you for the answer you gave in the pageant that ignited a near nuclear meltdown in the culture wars even though I disagree with you myself, but if you have the Christian integrity that you claim to have, and the Christian courage of your convictions that Dr. Dobson– the self-appointed, national Forgiver-in-Chief has stretched to assign to you–you will get out of the public eye now (again, the eyes of America and the world have seen pretty much all of you and your “enhanced” breasts many times over now), pray to God to deepen your mind and spirit and faith, and come back into the public arena someday when you have grown and matured in something like a closer walk with Christ, He who would probably, maybe, have something to say about your immodesty and borderline exhibitionism.
For now, you, along with the Forgiver-in-Chief, are feeding all the overwhelming cynicism that makes people so skeptical about faith and religion and me’s had all me can stands me can’t stands no more.
And if you end up selling yourself to Playboy for lots of cash and more national uh, exposure, I’ll have to do an Elvis on the TV next time the nonstop, nonnews channels flash pictures and films of you.

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Me & my bud, Bud Shrake

I read in the paper today that the venerable old Sports Illustrated writer, novelist and screenwriter Edwin “Bud” Shrake has died.
Shrake was one three Sports Illustrated superstar writers–the others being Frank DeFord and Dan Jenkins, who are still churning out great journalism and books independent of SI, of another era.
Shrake also wrote some classic literary novels and movie scripts but is best known for having published Harvey Pennick’s classic and longtime bestselling little golf books.
I was terribly saddened to read of his death because I met him in the 1980s when, during my very brief turn as a sports journalist myself, I was covering the Cotton Bowl festivities back when Jackie Sherrod put the Aggies in their first Cotton Bowl in something like 250 years against Auburn and Bo Jackson, he who went on to become the GREAT Bo Jackson of football, baseball and “Bo Knows” TV commercials fame.
I happened to meet Shrake in the break room where sports writers relaxed over all the free beer they could guzzle between interviews and writing stories, and all the fine Cotton Bowl free food they could gluttonize (if that’s not a word I apologize).
Sports writers like their beer, their food, and their beer.
And by the way, I wasn’t always a minister if you know what I mean and I think you do.
Anyway, I recognized Shrake and told him I admired his work and had really studied his writing style and techniques and pointed out that I had read a great piece he once wrote about Ohio State Coach and Grizzly Bear Woody Hayes. I told him I had studied that article from the first word to the last wondering how he got Hayes to open up and divulge things that only a great and extremely skilled and talented interviewer and researcher like Shrake could achieve and Shrake said to me, “Aw, that’s sweet.”
And the next thing you know, I’m sitting down in a corner with Bud Shrake, picking his considerable brain about his interviewing techniques, how he developed such a graceful writing style and how he developed his writing techniques, and I’ve always said I learned more about journalism in that two-hour sit down with Bud Shrake than in all my college journalism classes in and all of my early years of learning to write and report from seasoned editors and from trial and error in finding my own writing style and techniques and all that.
And the amazing thing is that this much-admired, innovative, ground-breaking journalist who influenced sports writing for all time with two other guys at SI sat down with me and graciously and patiently let me go to school on him.
And of course, he could have blown me off and shot pool or joined the poker game with the boys in the back if he’d wanted to, or just left. Turned out he wasn’t even in town to cover the game but just to watch it and to visit his old Dallas pal, the great sportswriter Blackie Sherrod.
But I wanted to learn something from a master in his field and Shraek took two hours of HIS time to so graciously accommodate me and show a genuine interest in me, where I was from, why journalism appealed ot me, what readers to read to learn how to write—all that and more.
Bud Shrake was a first-class man, a grace-filled man, a kind and generous man, whom I knew for all of two hours but will never forget and will always be grateful for having encountered in a chance meeting, and I’m sad that he’s gone but just take it from me that he was a really, really good, unpretentious, unassuming giant in the world of sports writing and a high-quality human being.

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Jitterbugging to Ordination (Part 3)

Hard to describe the feelings I’m having these days about my impending ordination date with God and the bishop and all those ordained Methodist clergy who will be laying hands on me the night of June 8 when I get on my weak knees at the altar.
Not even sure what I feel about it most days these days, because it’s been such a long time coming, and I still can’t believe that after nine years of seminary, chaplaincy training and a stringent, years-long candidacy in which I had to prove myself worthy of ordination so that the church could affirm that my calling from God is a true and sound calling, that, well. . . . I’m not sure it has sunk in that it’s going to happen, FINALLY, God willing and Twin Creeks don’t rise before I can get across said creeks to Custer Road United Methodist Church in Plano, Texas.
Not that flooded creeks of biblical proportions could stop me from being there on time.
Make that very early.
Methodism’s connectional system, in which we’re ordained into lifelong ministry in covenant relationship with all the other ordained ministers of the regional “conference” to which we become members, is as simple as it is complex, and certainly confusing to the good lay people of the world.
But those covenant relationships with your ordained sisters and brothers in Christ, coupled with the powerful Wesleyan tradition that binds us, are bound up in some tight bonds indeed.
The beauty of the Methodist connection is that all of Methodism’s ordained ministers don’t have to agree with each other on everything under the sun theologically. They don’t even have to like each other necessarily.
They just have to love each other and uphold that covenant relationship with each other, and be there for each other in good times and bad.
It’s a beautiful thing and thank you for it, John Wesley you eccentric, holy genius you.
I know I feel overwhelmed by the sheer power of the mere anticipation of that night of June 8 in which I make the deepest commitment imaginable to serving God and my beloved United Methodist Church with all of my being for as long as I live, amen.
It’s been grueling at times, like every day for nine years grueling.
But worth it, because the power of a calling from God to ordained ministry is so overwhelming, so powerful, that I would dare say no one but another ordained minister who’s experienced it can possibly begin to comprehend why, when God calls you, you drop everything–successful first career in anything else, for example, as so many of us do these days, at great costs to our families–and just do the Abraham thing (no questions asked; just go and don’t keep God waiting), and go where God and the Spirit lead you on the strange, exciting, grueling journey.
The test is always this: If you can see yourself doing anything else but being an ordained minister in devotion to serving God for the rest of your natural born days, then by all means do anything else, because a true calling means that God is not going to allow you peace until you commit to God’s having set you apart for this holy and whole and wonderful and demanding life that awaits you.
Demanding.
You don’t hold up to it without God’s grace and Holy Spirit at your back.
I still think in the back of my mind some days, “God, you can’t be serious. ME? You want me of the misspent youth in sin and entire lost weekends?”
And the resounding answer from God is, “Don’t worry; it’s you; I’ve got your number and that was me that dialed; and I’ll be with you every step of the way.”
And this I know to be absolutely God’s truth.

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I always remember the most youthful and vigorous you, Goldie, and how you and dad used to love to hold the “summer smokers on the ground” in the backyard on Elm Street, with everybody circled in lawn chairs in the green grass under the pecan tree while we kids played “greasy pig” and caught lightning bugs in the Mason Jars. You so loved to be the hostess, making sure Deanie and the men had plenty of cold beer and you and the ladies had your Sherry wine that you kept chilled to perfection, and remember you intermittently easing into the house (you eased into every step you ever took, of course) and coming out with platters full of salty nuts. You always said that in heaven the water will be as Sherry wine, and I know that’s right. Love.

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“We oppose abortion.
“Our culture, however, countenances every form of self-indulgence and then we expect average people to practice heroic virtue in carrying a child through a difficult pregnancy.
“The economy that is collapsing has been based on ‘barn building,’ and on individual and corporate self-interest.
“Jesus said his gospel is not about building barns (or bigger banks). It is about giving rather than receiving.”
— Another brilliant insight published in the Jan-Feb. 2009 edition of the Houston Catholic Worker by two of the greatest and most radical disciples of Christ I ever had the privilege of knowing and admiring, the Zwicks of Houston, Texas.

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Jitterbugging with the Great Dave

You most loyal jitterbuggers–you who are, as they say in the silly world of politics, “my base,”–say to me, “Paul–or Jitterbugger–when are you gonna give us that review of the Dave Matthews show you’ve been promising?”
And I have to correct them right off the bat and say, “Whoa there, jitterbugger! Did you say Dave Matthews show?”
First of all, we’re all intelligent adults here, most of us, right? So let’s be frank and get one thing straight.
The great Dave Matthews doesn’t do a show, OK?
Yes, a Dave Matthews show is technically a show, yes, of course, and you could even say it’s an Event, like a lot of great rock shows by special bands that are Big Events, but a Dave Matthews show and Event can only be described as something that is rare and truly extraordinary like a Stones show or U-2 gig.
A Dave Matthews Band show, like a Stones or U-2 performance, is an EXPERIENCE.
A bit of a LOUD one when you’re the second oldest guy in the audience (my daughter pointed to some guy with more gray hair than I and said excitedly, ‘Look, dad–you’re not the oldest person here tonight after all!!!”)
But good, high-quality, smart rock and roll–that kind that I’m convinced is so smart and sophisticated that combined with truth, beauty and God will save the world if we all just relax and stop arguing over stoopid politics and stuff–is meant to be loud.
But back to Dave.
It was a great Experience and Dave Matthews and his band are truly special musicians who obviously love and care about the music—-and care about their always-expanding following of loyal fans.
Precious few performers in rock or any other music field who have the special gifts and graces and enormous God-given talent and quietly raging charisma that Dave Matthews has have ever come across as so totally unpretentious and lacking of anything like an egotistical or arrogant bone in his body.
Dave–you feel like you know him and can call him Dave–comes across as warm and caring and loving and gracious because it’s obvious that that’s who and what he is to the core of his being. Dave Matthews can’t be faking Dave Matthews or can’t be puffed up with false humility because — well, you just have to have been one of his fanatical followers and fans, like I’ve become, for a while to know he’s the real deal.
And besides, Jitterbugger don’t like phony people (People who Bore Me Div.) and can smell one from 200 yards which is why my career in political reporting lasted about five minutes before I went back to reporting on stuff that actually matters back when I were a proud and unapologetic member in good standing of the librul news media.
So because Dave’s so real and genuine and comfortable in his own skin, as they say–with no apparent, pathological insecurities that drive people who are as driven as he obviously is in his commitment to making great music and truly entertaining his audiences– the music comes across as real and honest and passionately felt.
What’s more amazing is how loyal and loving he is to his bandmates who’ve been with him–and who all appear to be equally as unpretentious but are also each one equally gifted with musical abilities and faculties.
It says something about their grace and love of what they do together and what they are and who they are that when their longtime, multi-talented band mate LeRoi died last year after being in a freak accident–they reached out to their fans asking for prayer but also promising to take the Dave Matthews Experience to an even higher and more entertaining and more deeply felt level than ever before in honor of the fallen one.
This is a high standard group of musicians who would run through a brick wall and probably pay us the fans to share their music with us if it was the only way they could get on stage and have all the joy and fun and passion they are experiencing among themselves and allowing us the followers and fanatics to share in.
In short, here’s the bottom line in this review of the Dave Matthews Experience:
A large time was had by all. Even getting rained on in a downpour of biblical proportions was fun, especially when I got home hours later and removed my soaking wet attire. My daughter and son-in-law to-be, (who’d both experienced the Dave Matthews Experience before) shared an Experience with me that we will rave about till we bore those around us who weren’t there to tears.
All this at a time when I really needed the healing power of great music.
Thanks Amy and Jorgy and especially you, Dave, for an Experience that in no way disappointed.

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