Archive for October, 2009

Yes, we Methodists like our pumpkin pie. Check out this blurb from United Methodist News Service:

A UMNS Feature
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Oct. 27, 2009
What’s orange and round, grows on the ground and for one month a year is worth a few million bucks?
If you live near a United Methodist church that turns into a Halloween wonderland every October, you know the answer: pumpkins.
For 684 of those churches, the only place to get the magical gourds are from Pumpkin Patch USA. Grown on a Navajo reservation in Farmington, N.M., the pumpkins are sowed and reaped with tender loving care by the Pumpkin Man, Richard Hamby, and his loyal crew.
More than 5 million pumpkins were plucked from their warm, green New Mexico homes this year. The 1,300 church and civic organizations that sell them will probably make around $4 million because, Hamby said, “This was a really good year.”
United Methodist churches sell the pumpkins so youth can go on mission and choir trips, houses can be built for Habitat for Humanity and people in need can be fed and clothed.
Hamby and his wife started growing and selling pumpkins over 30 years ago. After a few set backs they ended up in New Mexico, which as it turns out, has the perfect conditions for growing miles and miles of pumpkins.
Pumpkin harvesters toss the gourds into the back of an 18-wheel truck to be delivered to churches and civic organizations in 41 states.
Hamby said he never wanted to sell his pumpkins to commercial outlets. United Methodists were his first and most loyal customers but he also supplies other denominations and civic groups.
“This has been a really good season for our partners,” he said. During the peak picking time 70 18-wheel trucks drove up to the farm daily and left with loads of pumpkins which were delivered to 41 states.
The secret to a successful sale is in the coordinators who work long, hard hours during October, Hamby said. Another piece of the puzzle is churches who work on their “curb appeal,” he added.

Oceans of pumpkins
“This is a big outreach for us,” she said. It is also something the entire community has come to expect. The patch features an outdoor classroom and more than 2,800 schoolchildren have been to the church since their patch opened Oct. 1.
“It’s amazing, people start calling in July to reserve a spot for their school group,” Cooper said. In addition to an ocean of pumpkins, the church has a huge maze, which the youth design and build every year, and a smaller maze made out of hay bails for toddlers.
The outdoor classroom has curriculum designed for preschoolers through 5th grade. On the weekends they sponsor car shows, craft fairs, fun runs and other activities designed to provide a fun, safe and free place for families to come and “enjoy a beautiful fall day,” Cooper said.
Sanlando United Methodist Church in Longwood Fla., has had a pumpkin patch every year for the past 15 years. They have many repeat customers and hold a fall festive during one weekend in October for the community.
“We probably have from 5,000 to 6,000 people come through, it is a huge outreach program for our church,” said Gayle Hamilton, pumpkin coordinator. “It’s probably the biggest ‘in-reach’ program we have all year because it is an awesome way to build relationships.”

Pumpkins and sugar cookies
Congress Street United Methodist Church, Lafayette, Ind., has also had a pumpkin patch for the past six years and this year has a goal of raising $8,000 for three charities supported by the church. Congress Street also converts a garage into “Hughes’ Barn” and sells homemade goodies and crafts.
Patsy Krieg, pumpkin coordinator for the church, said the members bake about 600 dozen sugar cookies decorated with orange and white smiley faces to sell in the barn.
“We are known as the pumpkin and sugar cookie church,” she said.
Other homemade goodies include pumpkin bread, pumpkin rolls, noodles, salsa, pickles, jams and candy. The money from the store goes to the church’s general fund but all the proceeds from the pumpkins go to a domestic violence program at the local YWCA, a drug rehab program and to local food pantries. The church also asks for donations of dog and cat food to give to local animal shelters.
Krieg said it takes “the whole congregation” to run the pumpkin patch from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. daily. She says it has been especially cold and rainy this year but everyone just “huddles around a heater.”
“The pumpkins have been extra beautiful this year,” she added.
At Owasso United Methodist Church, the members of the congregation who help keep the pumpkin patch open and running every day are called servants, not volunteers, Cooper said.
“It takes hundreds of servants to run it. Our hope is that people feel God’s love while they are here.”

* Gilbert is a news writer for United Methodist News Service in Nashville, Tenn.

****Set on a “gorgeous piece of land” near a lake and visible from the highway, the Pumpkin Patch for Missions at Owasso (Okla.) United Methodist Church brings in thousands of people, said Carol Cooper, director of youth ministries at Owasso. She has been coordinating the month-long fundraiser since it started in 2001. A UMNS photo by Buffy Boatman.

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Watching some daytime teevee this afternoon–what else you gonna do in sick bay?–and I have to ask: what’s not to love about Ellen. She’s cute and funny and generous and charitable and has stood up to vicious attacks with grace (remember when Jerry Falwell referred to her as “Ellen Degenerate”?).
And watching her dance is to feel her joy.

Five fun facts about Ellen:
1. She turned down a role in Friends before starring in Ellen.
2. Before she got her start in comedy, Ellen worked as a vacuum cleaner saleswoman, TGIFriday’s waitress and an oyster shucker in New Orleans.
3. There is a ride featuring Ellen DeGeneres at Walt Disney World’s Epcot park – Ellen’s Energy World.
4. Oprah Winfrey played Ellen DeGeneres’ therapist on the 1997 “coming out” episode of Ellen. DeGeneres’ friends Laura Dern, Demi Moore, Melissa Etheridge, k.d. lang and Billy Bob Thornton also made cameos.
5. Ellen DeGeneres used to love Hot Sox – tall, glittery socks popular in the early ’70s. But after moving to small-town Atlanta, Texas, she decided to give them away: “I’m going to a place where they have gun racks on the back of the pickup trucks…I just have to get rid of anything weird,” she told The New York Times in 2001.

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Richard Foster, Our Appreciatee of the Month

Below is an excerpt from Richard J. Foster’s book Freedom of Simplicity, complete with quotes from the earliest Christian documents outside of the Bible. You’ll see that those who kept the Christian faith and the church going left us this legacy of putting faith into serious action in a world that was hostile to them.
You’ll see that even their enemies marveled at the behavior of those early Christians.
Again, this is from Richard J. Foster, and October, of course, is Richard J. Foster Appreciation month here at jitterbuggingforjesus.com, the blog that is saving the world with its wit, wisdom, provocations and stimulations while possibly (probably!) alienating whole towns, cities, nations and states:

“In the period following the Apostolic Age, there was an exuberant caring and sharing on the part of Christians that was unique in antiquity. Julian the apostate, an enemy of Christianity, admitted that “the godless Galileans fed not only their (poor) but ours also.” Tertullian wrote that the Christians’ deeds of love were so noble that the pagan world confessed in astonishment, ‘See how they love one another.’ Exactly what is it that these Christians did which elicited such a response from their enemies?

“There was, first of all, an exceptional freedom to care for the needs of one another in the believing community. The Didache admonished Christians: ‘Thou shalt not turn away from him that is in want, but thou shalt share all things with thy brother, and shalt not say that they are thine own.’

“By A.D. 250 Christians in Rome were caring for some fifteen hundred needy people. In fact, their generosity was so profuse that Ignatius could say that they were ‘leading in love,’ and Bishop Dionysus of Corinth could note that they were sending ‘supplies to many churches in every city. . . . ‘

“We gain a helpful glimpse into the caring Christian community from I Clement, ‘Let everyone be subject to his neighbor. . . Let the rich man provide for the wants of the poor; and let the poor man bless God, because He hath given him one by whom his needs may be supplied.’ Tertullian catalogued a long list of groups that were cared for by the Christian believers. . .

“Christians also provided for those who lost their jobs because of their faith in Christ. It was assumed, for example, that an actor who became a Christian, and had to give up his profession because of its involvement in pagan mythology, would be cared for by the church. . .

“But their joyful sharing was not confined to Christians. . . . Bishop John Chrysostom witnessed: ‘Every day the Church here feeds 3,000 people. Besides this, the church daily helps provide food and clothes for prisoners, the hospitalized, pilgrims, cripples, churchmen and others. When epidemics broke out in Carthage and Alexandria, Christians rushed to aid all in need. . . .

“These Christians genuinely believed that God was the owner and giver of all good gifts. Their generosity was an imitation of God’s generosity. They were free from anxiety because they knew that tomorrow was in God’s hands. They lived in simplicity.

“Perhaps no one has captured the exuberant spirit of simple caring and sharing better than the Christian philosopher Aristides, whose words (written in A.D. 125) are so moving that they are best quoted in full:

They walk in all humility and kindness, and falsehood is not found among them, and they love one another. They despise not the widow, and grieve not the orphan. He that hast distributeth liberally to him that hath not. If they see a stranger, they bring him under their roof, and rejoice over him as if he were their own brother: for they call themselves brethren, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit of God; but when one of their poor passes away from the world, and any of them see him, he provides for his burial according to his ability; and if they hear that any of their number is imprisoned or oppressed for the name of their Messiah, all of them provide for his needs. . . .

“And if there is among them a man that is needy and poor, and they have not an abundance of necessaries, they fast two or three days that they may supply the needy with their necessary food.”

“This model of simplicity speaks to our condition. How desperately we need today to discover new creative ways of caring and sharing with any in need.”

— Richard J. Foster

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Jitterbugger is at home in sick bay today, but it’s OK because we got Ray Price doing Bob Wills swing music to get us through. (You don’t want Ray Price blues music when you’re sick, believe me. He does such blue blues you’ll go suicidal if you hear it when you’re sick or in a funk.)
About Ray Price . . . .
He was a roommate and running buddy of Hank Williams.
His C&W band “The Cherokee Cowboys” included very young talents in fifties by the names of Willie Nelson, Roger Miller and Johnny Paycheck.
No less a musical institution than Frank Sinatra marveled at his voice and his talent.
He was so innovative that he changed country and pop music, more than once.
He was one of the first country artists to give Nashville the sort of sign language that Johnny Cash was famous for giving record companies, deejays and anybody else who ever got on his fightin’ side. Ray just quietly left Nashville for Texas, fed up with Tennessee.
Do you like Steely Dan my rock-pop-jazz friends? Listen to the Steely boys on “Deacon Blues” or “FM,” then listen to Ray Price sing “Night Life,” the song that the young Cherokee Cowboy Willie Nelson wrote for Ray. You’ll hear the influence of the so-called “Ray Price beat” in everyone from Steely Dan to U2. Just as nobody ever sang “Amazing Grace” as great as Judy Collins did (acapella), nobody ever sang “Danny Boy” like the original Cherokee Cowboy.
When I was in high school and sometimes home from college in the late sixties in Navasota, Texas, Ray Price and the latter-day Cherokee Cowboys would play in the hometown VFW hall–a great dance and C&W venue that attracted lots of great country stars from the era. The VFW had a small, inconspicuous door right behind the bandstand so that the stars who sang there could step right off their buses and go through that door and appear on stage as if they’d suddenly been beamed onto it and the place would go wild.
I saw lots of great acts at the VFW but nobody gave me goose bumps like Ray Price, who’d come onto stage and just stand still and look like a million country-music dollars in his Western suits and shiny, shiny boots.
He was, and remains, not only a great singer and charismatic entertainer–charismatic in a cozy club or dancehall setting, I mean–but a true American Original. Like Sinatra, he made music his way, always.
(He’s performing at the Bass in Fort Worth tomorrow night, BTW; see the official Ray Price fan club website for other Texas dates. You can also hear him and Willie sing Faded Love when you go there–have your hankies ready, though. Willie & Ray on Faded Love will rip your heart right out of your chest cavity as you hear them watch the mating of that old lonesome dove.)
He’s also a great gospel singer and you never know when he might show up at a Methodist church to sing, especially during the holidays.
Yes, he’s Methodist.
I told he’s a great man.

The Ray Price Story (Adapted from the Country Music Hall of Fame bio):


The Cherokee Cowboy: simply the best

When Ray Noble Price was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996, many noted that the honor was long overdue. Such feelings weren’t based so much on the longevity of his career or on the number of major hits he has recorded, for in those regards Price was no different from many other deserving artists awaiting induction. More importantly, Price has been one of country’s great innovators. He changed the sound of country music from the late 1950s forward by developing a rhythmic brand of honky-tonk that has been hugely influential ever since. As steel guitarist Don Helms, a veteran of Hank Williams’s Drifting Cowboys once put it, “Ray Price created an era.”

Born near Perryville in East Texas, Price moved with his mother to Dallas after she and his father split up. He was four years old at the time and would spend most of his childhood moving between his mother’s house in Dallas and his father’s farm. He joined the U. S. Marines during World War II, then afterward enrolled at North Texas Agricultural College, intent on becoming a veterinarian. But while in school, he started singing at a place called Roy’s House Cafe. He eventually made his way to Jim Beck’s recording studio in Dallas, where Beck hooked him up with Bullet Records. Price recorded one single for Bullet in either late 1949 or early 1950.

The Bullet record wasn’t successful, but Price began singing on various Dallas-area programs, including the Big D Jamboree. He caught the attention of Troy Martin of the Peer-Southern music publishing firms, and behind Martin’s strong recommendation Price was signed to Columbia Records in March 1951. His first Columbia release was “If You’re Ever Lonely Darling,” written by Lefty Frizzell.

Price had little success on Columbia until a fortuitous introduction to Hank Williams in the fall of 1951 changed his fortunes. Williams took Price with him on the road and wrote a song, “Weary Blues (From Waiting),” which he gave to Price to record. Though not a major hit, the song did fairly well for Price, and in January 1952 he moved to Nashville to join the Grand Ole Opry. There he roomed with Williams and used the Drifting Cowboys as his backup band. Many of Price’s recordings from this period show him self-consciously adopting Williams’s style. This trend would lessen, though, as Price allowed his natural voice more sway on such early hits as the 1954 double-sider “I’ll Be There (If You Ever Want Me)” b/w “Release Me.”

The pivotal record of Price’s career, however, was “Crazy Arms,” recorded March 1, 1956. Introduced by Tommy Jackson’s searing fiddle (“I whistled the sound I wanted Tommy to play,” Price recalled), and driven by Buddy Killen’s 4/4 bass line, “Crazy Arms” introduced a novel, modernist intensity to what was still an essentially classic honky-tonk sound. The record spent twenty weeks at #1 and established Price as a full-fledged star. For the next several years, he continued to tinker with his sound, most importantly emphasizing a shuffle rhythm that was barely perceptible on “Crazy Arms.” The 4/4 shuffle, which many artists soon adopted, became so closely identified with Price it was known in country circles as the “Ray Price Beat.”

During this time, Price also gave a career leg up to many young musicians and songwriters. Willie Nelson, Roger Miller, and Johnny Paycheck all passed through his band, the Cherokee Cowboys, while Nelson, Harlan Howard, and Hank Cochran wrote for the publishing company of which Price was part owner, Pamper Music. Price’s 1959 rendition of Howard’s “Heartaches by the Number” helped establish Howard in Nashville, while Price’s 1958 smash “City Lights” did the same for its writer, Bill Anderson. Yet as dominant a hard country artist as Price had become, by the early 1960s he had begun to move into a more pop-oriented direction. This trend culminated with his 1967 hit “Danny Boy.” Recorded with full orchestration, the song alienated many of Price’s old fans, even as it brought many new ones in from a different direction. Three years later, both sets of fans responded favorably to Price’s “For the Good Times.” Written by Kris Kristofferson, the song was a #1 country hit in 1970 and just barely missed the pop Top Ten.

Price’s long association with Columbia ended in 1974, as did his years of chart dominance. Disgruntled with Nashville, he had moved back to Texas by then. Subsequent recordings for Myrrh, ABC/Dot, Monument, and various other labels were often musically unsatisfying, though a 1980 duet album with Willie Nelson showed off Price again in fine form. Through the latter half of the 1980s, Price recorded for the Nashville independent Step One, and in 1992 he returned to Columbia for a one-off album that went undeservedly unnoticed. Price issued albums on Justice (Prisoner of Love, 2000) and Audium (Time, 2002), but his 2003 duet album with Willie Nelson for Lost Highway, Run That by Me One More Time, was his first to register on Billboard’s country album chart in fifteen years. As of the mid-1990s, yet another generation of young country acts—many of them stars of the burgeoning hillbilly music underground—were trumpeting Price’s work. To this day, the 4/4 shuffle is so deeply embedded in country music as to be second nature to many. – Daniel Cooper

– Adapted from the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum’s Encyclopedia of Country Music, published by Oxford University Press.

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I don’t know why, but I was thinking just the other day, that if I could make three wishes and have them all come true, I suppose I would wish for:
(1) World peace,
(2) An end to poverty, and
(3) Happy Hour with Emmylou Harris.

Her bio in brief:
Emmylou Harris is truly a modern innovator. For over 30 years, Emmylou has flowed effortlessly between genres achieving popularity in pop, folk, country and now alternative. The common bridge is an exquisite vocal style and a gift for discovering the heart of a song.
Born in Birmingham, Alabama on April 2, 1947, the daughter of Walter and Eugenia Harris grew up near Washington, D.C. As a college student in the late 60’s, she sang with a local folk duo and eventually moved to Greenwich Village. (She was a child when her father, a U.S. Marine spent time in a prison camp in the Korean War.) She played the clubs on the local folk scene occasionally sharing the stage with Jerry Jeff Walker and David Bromberg.
Discovered in 1971 by Chris Hillman, Hillman brought Gram Parsons to hear her sing in a small club in the Washington D.C. area. In 1972, she answered the call from Gram to join him in Los Angeles to work on his first solo album, “GP.” After Gram died in 1973, Emmylou went back to the D.C. area and formed a country band, playing with them until her 1975 major label debut, Pieces of the Sky, when she formed the first version of the legendary Hot Band. Over the years the Hot Band included world class players such as Albert Lee, Rodney Crowell and Hank DeVito.
Emmylou has been called by Billboard Magazine a “truly venturesome, genre-transcending pathfinder.” Throughout her career, she has been admired for her talent as an artist and song connoisseur, but it was with her 2000 album, Red Dirt Girl, for which Ms. Harris was awarded her tenth (out of eleven total to date) Grammy, that she revealed she is also a gifted songwriter. Continuing the trend with her September 2003 album, Stumble Into Grace, Emmylou wrote ten of the album’s eleven tracks. Though Emmylou is the most admired and influential woman in contemporary country music, her scope extends far beyond it. She has recorded with such diverse artists as Ryan Adams, Beck, Elvis Costello, Johnny Cash, Lucinda Williams, Bob Dylan, Tammy Wynette, Neil Young, The Chieftains, Lyle Lovett, Roy Orbison, The Band, Willie Nelson and George Jones.
A longtime social activist, Harris has lent her voice to many causes. She is active in cultural preservation issues, notably the Country Music Foundation and the Grand Ole Opry. As an animal rights activist and the owner of several dogs and cats, Emmylou also supports PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and the Humane Society. Since 1997 she has been the most visible spokesperson for the Campaign for a Landmine Free World, drawing public attention and notable musical artists to the cause.

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OK, you clever jitterbuggers. Write a caption for this picture–which we pulled from the Jitterbuggingforjesus.com Weird Theatre archives–and if we at Jitterbuggingforjesus.com select your clever caption as the best, you will be the recipient of our Piggly Wiggly grocery coupons this Wednesday.
Good luck.

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***photo ©2009 by Geoff Stamp
Karen Armstrong, the one-time nun turned world religions scholar and prolific author, has been highly visible defending God in recent months while promoting her latest book, The Case for God (New York: Knopf, 2009). Whatever anyone may think of Armstrong and her arguments, she’s a formidable and tough-minded apologist.
Here’s a sampling from an article of hers in Foreign Policy:

“God Is Dead.”
When Friedrich Nietzsche announced the death of God in 1882, he thought that in the modern, scientific world people would soon be unable to countenance the idea of religious faith. By the time The Economist did its famous “God Is Dead” cover in 1999, the question seemed moot, notwithstanding the rise of politicized religiosity — fundamentalism — in almost every major faith since the 1970s. An obscure ayatollah toppled the shah of Iran, religious Zionism surfaced in Israel, and in the United States, Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority announced its dedicated opposition to “secular humanism.”
But it is only since Sept. 11, 2001, that God has proven to be alive and well beyond all question — at least as far as the global public debate is concerned. With jihadists attacking America, an increasingly radicalized Middle East, and a born-again Christian in the White House for eight years, you’ll have a hard time finding anyone who disagrees. Even The Economist’s editor in chief recently co-authored a book called God Is Back. While many still question the relevance of God in our private lives, there’s a different debate on the global stage today: Is God a force for good in the world?
So-called new atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens have denounced religious belief as not only retrograde but evil; they regard themselves as the vanguard of a campaign to expunge it from human consciousness. Religion, they claim, creates divisions, strife, and warfare; it imprisons women and brainwashes children; its doctrines are primitive, unscientific, and irrational, essentially the preserve of the unsophisticated and gullible.
These writers are wrong — not only about religion, but also about politics — because they are wrong about human nature. Homo sapiens is also Homo religiosus. As soon as we became recognizably human, men and women started to create religions. We are meaning-seeking creatures. While dogs, as far as we know, do not worry about the canine condition or agonize about their mortality, humans fall very easily into despair if we don’t find some significance in our lives. Theological ideas come and go, but the quest for meaning continues. So God isn’t going anywhere. And when we treat religion as something to be derided, dismissed, or destroyed, we risk amplifying its worst faults. Whether we like it or not, God is here to stay, and it’s time we found a way to live with him in a balanced, compassionate manner.

“God Breeds Violence and Intolerance.”
No, humans do. For Hitchens in God Is Not Great, religion is inherently “violent … intolerant, allied to racism, tribalism and bigotry”; even so-called moderates are guilty by association. Yet it is not God or religion but violence itself — inherent in human nature — that breeds violence. As a species, we survived by killing and eating other animals; we also murder our own kind. So pervasive is this violence that it leaks into most scriptures, though these aggressive passages have always been balanced and held in check by other texts that promote a compassionate ethic based on the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like them to treat you. Despite manifest failings over the centuries, this has remained the orthodox position.

In claiming that God is the source of all human cruelty, Hitchens and Dawkins ignore some of the darker facets of modern secular society, which has been spectacularly violent because our technology has enabled us to kill people on an unprecedented scale. Not surprisingly, religion has absorbed this belligerence, as became hideously clear with the September 11 atrocities.

But “religious” wars, no matter how modern the tools, always begin as political ones. This happened in Europe during the 17th century, and it has happened today in the Middle East, where the Palestinian national movement has evolved from a leftist-secular to an increasingly Islamically articulated nationalism. Even the actions of so-called jihadists have been inspired by politics, not God. In a study of suicide attacks between 1980 and 2004, American scholar Robert Pape concluded that 95 percent were motivated by a clear strategic objective: to force modern democracies to withdraw from territory the assailants regard as their national homeland.

This aggression does not represent the faith of the majority, however. In recent Gallup polling conducted in 35 Muslim countries, only 7 percent of those questioned thought that the September 11 attacks were justified. Their reasons were entirely political.

Fundamentalism is not conservative. Rather, it is highly innovative — even heretical — because it always develops in response to a perceived crisis. In their anxiety, some fundamentalists distort the tradition they are trying to defend. The Pakistani ideologue Abu Ala Maududi (1903-1979) was the first major Muslim thinker to make jihad, signifying “holy war” instead of the traditional meaning of “struggle” or “striving” for self-betterment, a central Islamic duty. Both he and the influential Egyptian thinker Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966) were fully aware that this was extremely controversial but believed it was justified by Western imperialism and the secularizing policies of rulers such as Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser.

All fundamentalism — whether Jewish, Christian, or Muslim — is rooted in a profound fear of annihilation. Qutb developed his ideology in the concentration camps where Nasser interred thousands of the Muslim Brothers. History shows that when these groups are attacked, militarily or verbally, they almost invariably become more extreme.

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