Archive for July, 2009

Paul David Mckay | Create Your Badge
Paul David Mckay

So before I can even get to my second cup of coffee after a soothing morning prayer this morning I go online to find that fear and panic have overtaken the universe, at least for the time being, as a result of the paranoid fearmongers having once again gained fraction with something to take over a few days or (Lord help us!) weeks of news cycles while the country goes a little further down the tubes from the distraction.
This time, the Prez’s health care reform plan has a line on page 425, right there in black and white in fine bureaucratic print, that makes it clear as your old crazy aunt’s Depression glass that Obama is geared up to dispatch government employees out to kill senior citizens (Lo! that would be me, myself and I–all three of us!!!) by forcing them to choose how they’re going to die and then just do everybody a favor and die.
One of my older Old Testament professors in seminary (he needs to die, by the way, as he’s now old and retired too and overpopulating the earth)  used to point out on occasion that the fearmongering zealots and crazies we find all over the Bible are always with us.

Always and forever with us.

When I was a kid, they used to have nuclear bomb drills and alerts and stuff and in case of a nuclear attack, people needed to head for shelters marked with scary black and yellow signs while the kids in schools simply ducked under their desks to be spared being melted down to biological wax or blown back to the Stone Age.
This fear was driven by the same sort of people (See the story of Sen. McCarthy and McCarthyism for fearmongering institutionalized) who claimed that one of the greatest Americans who ever lived and was President at the time–the General and Prez Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower, was a secret communist bent on taking over the universe with his secret librul agenda. (Way at the top of librul jitterbugger’s most admired and still vastly underrated American Presidents and class acts, by the way, is Ike and if he was librul and in many ways he was then I’m proud to be one but proud to be one anyway.)
I kid you not, people who may not be old enough or seriously educated enough to know how weird and wacky conspiracy theorists can get.
These are the same people who insisted that Pres. Bush the Elder, in more recent times, was in cahoots with wealthy David Rockefeller to take over the world with the “New World Order” secret agenda, the same people who to this day think Obama’s weapons of mass destruction are still preserved in a refrigerated cave somewhere, the same people who struck fear and loathing into the hearts of people all over the country (but mostly in places like rural Georgia, Alabama and Florida) that a hospice in Florida was in cahoots with the right-to-die leftists and Terri Schiavo’s husband to torture poor Terri to death by denying her food and water.
What’s bad is that the same politicians encouraged by the usual suspects with names like Limbaugh and Hannity and, so disappointingly this time–Fred Thompson (did we mention rural Tennessee?)–have gained enough traction with this conspiracy plot about health-care reform to detract once again from the serioous debate that needs to be had over health care in this country, which, as a HOSPITAL CHAPLAIN who sees upclose and personal every day how broken the health care system is and how it’s already killing old folks like me and oh …. I just don’t know what to say.
Except, you should know that the whole 911 Twin Towers things was part of a plot by a cabal of twisted architects in New York who were in cahoots with Rudy Gulliana (who’s seeing Sarah Palin when Todd goes to bed–I’ve heard that rumor and I have it on good authority that it ain’t no lie, wink, wink) to get contracts for some towers that were to replace the old with something newer and more dazzling than the old towers, which were really never very pretty.
This is all God’s truth, people.
And I, a minister and man of God, will never lie to you, believe me.
So pray for strength to resist the forces of left wing evil, then call your Congressman or, if in Texas, Rick Perry, who we’re sure is going to be on top of this issue.

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Ode to the Tiffany Lamp, by Rev. Jitterbug




O lamp of Tiffany you are pretty, functional, a trifle mystic and very New Orleans in that nocturnal way . . . .
You endure like . . . .
Joan Baez

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War is Hell on warriors and families

andrew photo
Laura Smith, wife of U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Charles Smith, hugs the father of a fellow soldier after the 293rd Military Police Company deployed to Afghanistan July 28, 2009 in Fort Stewart, Georgia. More than 130 soldiers from the company, attached to the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, will spend the next year in Afghanistan training the Afghan National Police. By Stephen Morton/Getty.

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‘Beauty will save the world’ — Doestevsky

For Anne Lamott

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Word by Word with Anne Lamott
Dave Weich, Powells.com

“I’ve heard someone say that our problems aren’t the problem; it’s our solutions that are the problem,” Anne Lamott reflects. “That tends to be one thing that goes wrong for me—my solutions.”
Lamott’s readers will attest that she writes cleaner than she’s lived. Her younger, occasionally reckless years are documented at length in Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year (one of very few end-of-the-century works included on the Modern Library’s list of the 1900s best nonfiction) and Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith.
The San Francisco Chronicle points out, “Anne Lamott is walking proof that a person can be both reverent and irreverent in the same lifetime. Sometimes even in the same breath.”

Dave: A few days ago I lent Operating Instructions to a friend at home with her seven-month-old son. As you can see, it fell into the bathwater. She was very embarrassed, returning it in this condition, but she loved the book.
Anne Lamott: I actually get a lot of those, the book returned after it’s been in the bathtub. They’re all about an inch taller by then.

Dave: She read the whole book in one night. What she most appreciated, she said, was having another woman express some of the less dignified thoughts in her head. For example, you write, “One of the worst things about being a parent, for me, is the self-discovery, the being face to face with one’s secret insanity and brokenness and rage.” I think it was that degree of honesty that drove her to read the book straight through, and I imagine that must be part of what drove you to write it.

Lamott: What drove me to write it was a desire to record my son’s life. It was the first year, and it was just so amazing to have this little unit around. A surprise at every turn.

Also, I couldn’t find books to help me because the ones I found weren’t about being honest or dishonest; they were helpful, but they just offered solutions to calm the baby or help the baby get to sleep. No one talked about the exhaustion and the boredom and the frustration, how defeating it is but also how funny —it struck me as being funny at the same time. I would have loved to find a book like that, so I wrote one.

Dave: In Traveling Mercies, you share your private—and often unconventional—ideas about faith. Was the motivation similar?

Lamott: I was writing pieces at Salon.com; that’s where I try out most of my material. The pieces tend to be about faith. They tend to be spiritual, but they’re about very, very ordinary life. I was gathering them together, and I realized pretty soon I had a book there.

It was a really inoffensive way to write about spiritual stuff, from the point of view of somebody who doesn’t have a clue but who knows that if I pray my prayers are answered and who knows there’s a lot of help out there in the world for me. There just is. There’s a huge amount of love and support: people making me laugh about my drama, people that will listen. I guess it’s the missionary thing inside me. I wanted to carry the message that there’s a solution.

I’ve heard someone say that our problems aren’t the problem; it’s our solutions that are the problem. That tends to be one thing that goes wrong for me: my solutions. That’s what I tend to write about spiritually in both of those books.

Dave: I wrote down a line from Operating Instructions that seemed to be entirely representative of your perspective. Upon considering how much you suddenly stood to lose, now that you had a son to lose, you wrote, “Now I’m f—– unto the Lord.”

Lamott: I think I’ve said that in all my books. My last few, anyway.

Dave: So many assumptions about what it means to be a Christian in America in 2003, you just turn them inside out. You don’t argue, exactly; that’s not your approach. But you mentioned “the missionary thing” a minute ago, and this recasting of traditional spirituality would seem to be part of your mission: to make room for a different kind of faith.

Lamott: My sense of mission has to do with having one or two things that I can offer a world that seems as needy and hungry as I sometimes feel. Sometimes it’s about writing, if it’s Bird by Bird, and sometimes it’s about just trying to help other parents know that we’re all in the same boat.

There’s that terrible feeling of isolation when things are going badly as a parent. Or in the case of Blue Shoe (which is about a woman who is a Christian in the same way I am; that is to say, she has a colorful way of expressing herself), Mattie has a mother with Alzheimer’s, but Mattie also has two little kids. I have information about being able to survive in that position: being a mother to some children and being the daughter of a parent who really didn’t effectively parent you at all, who you are still mad at; and at the same time trying to live on a spiritual path of loving kindness.

I feel a mission to write about the real stuff, the stuff that people and I talk about when we’re finally getting down to business, when we’re not just socializing.

Dave: Do you encounter much resistance from Christians with more conservative views?

Lamott: Mostly people that are strict, right-wing Christians know not to read me. Most of the people that are aware of my books know that I’m going to be approaching God from a different angle than, say, Pat Robertson is. If I’m on the radio, if I’m on a Christian station especially, but not even necessarily, sometimes just on any old station, fundamentalists will call in and just try to expose all the errors in my thinking and in my faith, which you really can’t do.

Some people are horrified that I have such an accepting sense of Jesus: that He would accept someone like me, who talks like me, that He would love and accept everybody bar no one. My politics tend to be those of a progressive with certain radical leanings. I come to my Christianity from that point of view. The character in Blue Shoe, her mother is an old-time left-wing activist, and is kind of horrified by her daughter’s Christianity—more actively so than my own mother was. My mother, I think she just rolled her eyes about it and thought of it as my little blind spot. Mattie’s family thinks her Christianity is just a phase and that it will pass. So I guess I get that to some extent.

I don’t try to convert anyone. I don’t think it’s my business, and I don’t think I would be able to do that anyway. I just want to tell people what it’s like for me and what a wreck I was and how much less of a wreck I am now that I’ve found a spiritual community. Sometimes I tell it in drama, in fiction, and sometimes I just tell stories from my own life.

Dave: There’s a scene in one of the books where you’re talking with your therapist, drawing meaning from various knickknacks on the shelves. Rereading that, I thought of the blue shoe in this new novel: an otherwise insignificant item that takes on a great deal of meaning. And there really was a blue shoe in your life, right?

Lamott: There was. Almost twenty years ago, I was living in Petaluma and I split up with this man I’d been living with. I told a friend in the town where I grew up that I needed to come stay with her for two weeks. I stayed forever, but we were walking into town one day, I was very depressed, and I just put a quarter in a gumball machine because I was bored. This stupid little turquoise rubber shoe came out. And I just loved it. I could wrap my fingers around it? It tethered me to the earth or something. It felt like I was holding hands with someone, or something like that. Pat, whom I was staying with, would make fun of me, but I couldn’t put it down.

When her situation changed in life and things got hard for her, one morning I left the blue shoe for her to have with a little note that said I would walk her through these challenges; she didn’t have to worry, but I thought she needed the blue shoe. And she couldn’t put it down. It was so nutty. She was very fancy and much older than I was, and yet the same thing happened for her: Once she held it, she couldn’t put it down. Six months later things changed in my life and she gave it back to me. We did this back-and-forth for years.

It struck me as being a really nice and unusual way to tell the story of best friends over time. Mattie is obviously in love with this man, and he’s just a wonderful guy, but he’s married. It’s about five years in their life with the blue shoe being exchanged back and forth.

Dave: Most fiction writers haven’t put their own story out there in such detail. Because people know so much about you, is it more difficult to write fiction?

Lamott: People think they know so much about me. The stuff that I choose to write about in my books is stuff I’m comfortable with. It’s not secret stuff anymore. I tell the people I’m closest to what’s really going on in my deepest parts. By the time I share stuff, whether it’s in fiction or nonfiction, I don’t have any worry about it at all.

There’s nothing in Traveling Mercies or Operating Instructions or Bird by Bird that I think is shocking. In Blue Shoe, Mattie is obviously very much based on me, not the facts of her life, but her emotional and spiritual and political life. Because it’s fiction, I could have her do stuff or think stuff I’d only have said to a couple people.

I’m exhilarated by the truth. If somebody writes a book that is incredibly honest, even what people would call confessional, I’m just exhilarated by it.

Dave: When you’re struggling to get words on the page, would you say that it’s because you’re not connecting to that truth?

Lamott: I think writing is just really hard. I don’t deconstruct it, and I don’t have any interesting theories about it. I really don’t. I just think it’s hard. Blue Shoe is my ninth book, and it was just as hard as any of the others. I don’t have that much more confidence than I ever had. It doesn’t matter how they do. It’s such a lonely, odd business.

Most writers I know have a combination of self-loathing and great narcissism. It’s very easy to think that everything you’ve thought or done or heard is really interesting, and it’s obviously not. Everything I write, I write many drafts of. Even a Salon piece probably takes five drafts to make it sound natural. Then people say, “Oh, you write just like you talk.” But it took me five drafts to get it to sound that way.

Anne Lamott visited Powell’s City of Books on September 26, 2003.

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I caught the glitch on the Betty Perry article below and have cleaned it up and no, I haven’t forgotten it’s Anne Lamott Appreciation Month at Jitterbuggingforjesus.com, the blog site that will humble Rush Limbaugh with God using jitterbugger as God’s agent and all that.
(Newcomers note: we at JFJ have a hard time mustering God’s love and grace for Rush but we pray and we know God is using us to lead him to God who by the way has no gender or race or ethnicity or anything but is just God and is still mightier–this may come as a shock to some–than Rush Limbaugh. Or mightier even than Sarah Palin who, like a bear, spits in the woods and that’s just not our kind of woman here at JFJ is it, jitterbuggers?)

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A personal message to Sir Paul

Enough already, Paul

Enough already, Paul

We know we know you eat your vegetables, Sir Paul.
Like World War II, your vegetarian obsession was in ALL THE PAPERS the past 30 years.
As much man love as I have for you, ol’ bud, I WON”T GO VEGETARIAN for you, OK?
Unless you want to have me backstage for the buffet and us take pictures as we pal around or something.
I could go with some carrot patties if you insist.
You and me, bud.
In fact, seeing as how I’ve had to sell the farm in order to be there in order for you to entertain me and someone else on the night of August 19 at the New Jerry Jones Palisades, I don’t think me back stage to pal a bit would be unreasonable, do you really think?
Who will still need me, who will still feed me, when I’m 64 and penniless as a result of buying two tickets to see you, a Beatle?
I know two people who don’t even know who you are anyway so you’re not all that special, really.
Of course, one was that woman in Madison, Wis. who emailed and said she’d be my friend because I seem friendly and she said, “Who’s Paul McCartney anyway?” but I think she’s like all the other con artists out there who just know I have two tickets to your show and they just want to befriend me and say they’re my friend because they think I’ll take them to see you but boy, they must think I’m stoopid.
that woman in Madison I bet knows who you are and she’s just more cleverer than most of them but I still stoopid not so much.
I’ll tell you who’s planning to feed ME when I”M 64, and that’s my three kids who already have a nursing home picked out for me in College Station, Texas, like I’m ready for a nursing home.
Would you like to have three extra kids?
You’re welcome to mine.

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