Archive for July, 2010

Justify my soul, O God, but also from Your fountains fill my will with fire. Shine in my mind. . . occupy my heart with Your tremendous Life. Let my eyes see nothing in the world but Your glory, and let my hands touch nothing that is not for Your service.

Let my tongue taste no bread that does not strengthen me to praise Your glory. I will hear Your voice and I will hear all harmonies You have created, singing Your hymns.

. . . . Give me the strength that waits upon You in silence and in peace. Give me humility in which alone is rest, and deliver me from pride which is the heaviest of burdens. And possess my whole heart and soul with the simplicity of love. Occupy my whole life with the one thought and the one desire of love, that I may love not for the sake of merit, not for the sake of perfection, not for the sake of virtue, not for the sake of sanctity but for
God alone.

— From Thomas Merton’s Seeds of Contemplation

(Art at top, “Pentecost: Fire and Breath,” is by the artist, UM preacher and very creative person (and newlywed) Jan Richardson from her Web site “The Painted Prayerbook.”)

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This blurb about the vulnerability of New York City was writ by the late and the great–and I mean one of the most gifted of American writers who ever lived–E.B. White—-in 1948:

The city, for the first time in its long history, is destructible. A single flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges, turn the underground passages into lethal chambers, cremate the millions. The intimation of mortality is part of New York now; in the sounds of jets overhead, in the black headlines of the latest editions.

All dwellers in cities must live with the stubborn fact of annihilation; in New York the fact is somewhat more concentrated because of the concentration of the city itself, and because, of all targets, New York has a certain clear priority. In the mind of whatever perverted dreamer might loose the lightning, New York must hold a steady, irresistible charm.

Mr. E.B. is best known for his classic children’s books, which have taken on new life and sales with their movie renderings. But White was one of those gloriously skilled and renowned writers at the venerable New Yorker magazine, even though he wrote for 50 years out of an old farmhouse in Maine where he lived.

The best way for any aspiring writer to learn to write is to learn to read high-quality writers and read them with a listening ear to their “voice” that comes across in the written word. White’s voice was full of quiet and calming energy–as powerful and forceful as it was quiet and calming. That was his genius. His style was clean and simple–you’ll never find a word wasted in anything he ever wrote. His wit was subtle and low key, which may be the best wit of all.

And if you do any kind of writing and you want to improve your writing 180 percent or so, or learn finally to write with clarity instead of writing in blizzards of words that signify nothing, you must have this book close at hand and read it no less than four or five times a year. It can be read on a few lunch breaks, but I’d recommend you read it in one quiet, meditative sitting so that it sinks it, you who wish to be students of real good writing.

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It’s one thing for a 27-year-old young man to sustain a lead for days and win one of PGA Golf’s four major, pressure-packed tournaments–the one at the birthplace of golf, no less–but to win it by such a decisive margin as he did makes it all the more impressive. A classy performance from a class act in the classiest game in sports. Neither wind or pressure nor John Daly’s pink paisley britches were able to rattle this kid.
He should change his name to something flashy and sexy though.
Like Tiger.
Here’s the NY Times take on him:

Oosthuizen Wins by Seven Strokes
Once a truly unusual final round of the British Open was over Sunday, once the fans had stopped filling the fairways of the Old Course at St. Andrews with applause for the feat of Louis Oosthuizen winning his first major and only his second high-level tournament at 27, it was hard to figure the most amazing part of it. Not only had Oosthuizen defied every expectation by ignoring any pressure to win, but he also won by an astounding seven strokes.

As the fans rose to cheer their unlikely champion, Oosthuizen, an affable 27-year-old from South Africa, continued to amble the Old Course’s fairways with all the apparent cares of a tourist. He flashed his gap-toothed grin throughout the day and kept playing the same unflappable game that got him here.

He finished at an eye-popping 16-under-par, needing to do little but not fall apart on the back nine as his competition fell away. Lee Westwood of England finished second at nine under. Paul Casey of England, Henrik Stenson of Sweden and Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland tied for third at eight under.

While the players within striking distance of his lead either sputtered or just plain fell apart in the final round, Oosthuizen passed every test put in front of him. He sprayed his first disastrous shot on No. 5 so far wide of the fairway he had to wait for a group playing on No. 13 to move out of his way, but calmly recovered for par. He had his first bogey on No. 8, then promptly drove the green on the par-4 No. 9 and drained a 15-foot putt for eagle. By the time his nearest pursuer, Casey, self-destructed with a triple-bogey on 12, Oosthuizen sat at 17-under and had an eight-shot lead. It was up to nine after 15 holes, a potentially scary final stretch of holes that was turned into a pleasant stroll on a lovely summer afternoon.

Oosthuizen had taken the lead on the seventh hole of the second round on Friday and since then, people have fixated on how to pronounce his name (WEST-high-zen), learned his nickname (Shrek, stemming from the gap in his front teeth) and found out how his career had been launched by the financial support of Ernie Els’s foundation, which supports young golfers in South Africa. He won his first European tour only this year, in March in Malaga, Spain.

He also seems to have captured the hearts of his fellow golfers, one of the few groups of people that had heard of him before this week.

“He’s a great kid, quiet, very softly spoken, confident kid,” said Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland, who won his first major at this year’s United States Open but could not pull himself into contention here. “We’ve known for a long time that he’s extremely talented. He’s just been one of these guys that seems to underachieve somehow He’s got all the tools, and it would be great to see him do the job out there today.”

McDowell was not alone in rooting for Oosthuizen once his round was over. McIlroy has played a tournament round as well as practice rounds with him and said, “he’s one of the nicest guys out here, he genuinely is.”

The entire leader board had lined up like a first-timer’s convention on Sunday, a list of hopefuls vying for their first major title and having survived Scotland’s nastiest winds to put themselves in position for it. And while Oosthuizen was the unlikeliest on that list, he was the one handling the pressure the best, while the long list of players waiting to pounce as soon as he faltered instead faltered themselves.

Casey could have applied pressure quickly, but he missed a short birdie putt on the first hole and then bogeyed No. 2. He got his shot back with a birdie on No. 6, but he left an eagle putt on No. 9 15 feet short. That came as prelude to his disastrous No. 12.

Oosthuizen had bombed a terrific drive, which set him up for another birdie. That prompted Casey to strive for something big. Instead he sent his drive into a patch of snarling bushes. He took a penalty stroke, sent his next shot over the green and in one hole Casey’s major-championship hopes were dashed.

The only player high on the leader board who had any major titles was the two-time United States Open winner Retief Goosen, who shot a 70 to finish at seven under. Goosen had managed only two birdies in his round, another player finding it hard to put pressure on Oosthuizen.

After Goosen was done, he was clearly rooting for his fellow South African. “He is just one of the nicest guys on tour,” Goosen said.

Although the course was docile in the early going, the winds began to howl out by the loop, although nothing like the gusts that had turned Friday’s second round into a test of golf survival.

All the early buzz around the Old Course involved Tiger Woods’s change back to his old Scotty Cameron putter after three days — and 99 putts — with a new model made for him by Nike. Woods got off to a fast start, holing a medium-length birdie putt at No. 1 and a short one at the third hole to get to five under. But the success would not last. He carded double-bogeys on both No. 4 and No. 7 to lose contact with the leaders. He shot a 72 to finish at three under.

He did not elaborate much after his round on the putter debate.

“I putted well the first day and didn’t putt well the last two days,” he said. “I knew what this putter does and I just decided to go back to it.”

With Woods out of the picture and Mickelson playing another of his bafflingly poor British Opens — his final-round 75 left him one over for the tournament — it left the stage to Oosthuizen. To the surprise of many, he took full advantage.

Larry Dorman contributed reporting from St. Andrews, Scotland

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At the Very British Open Golf Wingding at the venerable old St. Andrews Course in Scotland, from where all my McKay ancestors came from on big boats full of Scottish Whiskey–old St. Andrews chewed up the world’s best golfers today. The world’s Bad Boy of Golf John Daly (see posting from earlier today and one from last night) had a most impressive first round yesterday at the Wingding but he stunk up St. Andrew severely today.

Big John’s strategy for another win at the Brit–which along with the Masters, the PGA and the U.S. Open is one of the four “major” golf tournaments in the world of elite Golf–was to wear ridiculously loud and distracting paisley britches and shirts and stand in the peripheral vision of his fellow pros while they putted. Any great golfer like me or Tiger Woods will tell you that putting requires such intense concentration that the slightest distraction before and during a putt can cost a golfer a win and about a kazillion dollars in PGA prize money–these guys do pretty good in terms of compensation which is why they all drive Porshes or big ol’ SUV’s like the one Tiger wrapped around an unsuspecting tree back at Christmas time. That’s why Tiger, when he gets distracted while standing over a putt from someone in the gallery, steps back and gives the distractor a stare so icy that it could kill.

Although, we now know that when blondes distract him . . . well, that’s a way different story.

Anyway, John Daly’s strategy obviously was to distract other competitors on the St. Andrews greens and make them miss those 400 yard putts. Yes, a putt can be about 400 yards long at St. Andrews because the greens there are bigger than battleships.

Anyway, today’s second round was brutal because the winds blew in with such Pentecostal force (See Acts 2 in your Holy Bible for how violent the wind blew in at Pentecost) that play had to be suspended for a while!!!!!!

This is golf blasphemy! No one can remember when a pro golf wingding was ever suspended because the wind was violent. Golfers have to play in violent winds and what you want to do when you’re faced with a violent wind on the golf course is tee the ball lower on your drives to keep your drives low to the ground against the wind because is you don’t, the wind will catch the ball and mail it back to you via express mail and you could get hit with it right between the eyes. And if you’ve ever been hit right between the eyes by a high-speed golf ball, it’ll require Scotch vapors to revive you.

Anyway, play resumed when the wind calmed down to about 150 miles an hour and at the end of the round, this kid who has a name that nobody can spell or or pronounce held a right-smart lead, and he came by it honestly—didn’t do anything squirrely like wear pink paisley pants to distract the other competitors.

In more sentimental Very British news, the great Tom Watson, a very old man who is my age and who made a serious run at winning the very British Open last year which was unheard of for a man our age—he gave a traditional fare-thee-well to long-sustained applause after his round today because this will be his last time to compete in a Very British Wingding. It was a touching scene that brought to mind Watson’s great friend and sometimes rival Jack Nicklaus’s Brit Open fare-thee-well years ago.

Finally, we’re sure John Daly is sipping copious amounts of Scotch as we speak because he’s nothing if not a golf rebel and has been known to get tooted on strong drink and remove his shirt before reaching the 18th hole in PGA golf events. Seriously–the man has been know to REMOVE HIS SHIRT when drunk on the golf course, causing the pioneers of the golf game like Dallas’s own late and great Byron Nelson to spin around in their graves.

In fairness, John Daly has lost a lot of weight and cleaned up his act a good bit and stabilized his personal life since divorcing a woman who went to prison, as I recall, or came close to it on serious criminal charges (she pleaded innocent but they always do). Daly has almost matured into a respectable citizen, if you can call anybody who wears paisley britches respectable.

Come to think of it, Daly–whose middle name might as well be “Bad Boy of Golf”–has now lost his bad boy crown to Tiger.

For all his notorious carousings and rebellion, even Daly never wrapped his SUV around a tree and gave Hugh Hefner a run for his money. As far as I know, anyway.

Yes golf fans, only here at jitterbuggingforjesus.com will you get this kind of colorful golf commentary–coverage more colorful than John Daly’s britches, so come back often to JFJ.com, the blog site that is whipping the world with its wit, wisdom, provocations and stimulations while possibly (probably) alienating whole towns, cities, nations and states.

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Yes, as promised, we here at the Jitterbuggingforjesus.com world headquarters off of the perpetual traffic jam known as LBJ Freeway in Dallas, Texas will be keeping you updated on the news from the Very British Open in Scotland, the cradle of golf.

The current leader by a wide margin is some dude whose surname is an impossibility to spell or pronounce and so, we’re hoping he doesn’t win this thing.

We’re also hoping Tiger doesn’t win because he’s just such a dawg and we’re just still a little sore about him disappointing us and his legions of other fans around the world (I’ve been corresponding online with friends in somewhat remote cities of China and they keep up with Tiger’s golf as well as his personal life; we’re all broken sinners in need of God’s grace–Tiger just happens to be a sinner on an international scale).
Read on for more, golf fans. . . .


The big news out of the Very British Open continues to be a former Very British Open champ John Daly and his threads. He chose pink paisley britches for today’s round, and we’re not suggesting any connection between his threads and his golf, but his game today is stinking up the entire country of Scotland. He should have worn yesterday’s clothes, pictured above, again today.

He’s the kind of guy who wears all his clothes multiple times before washing anyway.

Of course, that would be most guys but let’s not get off COURSE here, OK? *

Speaking of Daly’s yesterday clothes, here is fashionista reporter Jean Peterson’s take on Daly, complete with some history of Paisley.

Why is golfer John Daly hiding his face?
Wouldn’t you, if you were wearing Paisley-print pants, petal-pink shirt and baby-blue vest at the oh-so-proper British Open Championship — which is being played on Scotland’s venerable Old Course at St. Andrews, no less!
Apparently, they’re Daly’s lucky pants. And so far in this tournament, his luck appears to be holding. So I guess he’s not going to switch to plain black or tan or khaki any time soon. (Theyre from the Loudmouth Golf line, and if you dare to dazzle, you can buy some just like them at http://www.loudmouthgolf.com.)

John Daly, trendsetter!
Then again, the Paisley pattern does have strong ties to Scotland, so perhaps Daly’s giving those dour Scots something to smile about.
A snippet of history: the Paisley pattern is a droplet-shaped vegetable motif, possibly inspired by the shape of the mango. It is thought to be of Persian or Indian origin.
Its English name derives from the town of Paisley, in Central Scotland. By the mid-19th century, weaving had become the town’s principal industry — and the paisley pattern all the rage. The town still is well-known for the Paisley shawl. And the Paisly pattern has enjoyed many moments of fashionability, including among the hippies in the 1960s and ’70s, and the bo-ho bunch in the early 2000s.
So maybe I shouldn’t be making fun of Daly’s outfit — but congratualte him as the latest in a long line of trendsetters. Though the thought of a golf course populated entirely with paisley-wearing players is too awful to contemplate! I’d love to know what you think of his outfit.

(*A pretty good pun if we may say so ourselves.)

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In this photo of John Daly at the opening ceremony of the very British Open: Former Brit Open Champ and official incorrigable werewolf of Golf John Daly fires up a weed and says to Tiger, “So how are things, Don Juan?”

In this baby picture of bad-boy golfer John Daly: Young John strikes his Mel Gibson pose as he announces to the world, “I’ll be one of golf’s greats on MY terms, dammit!”

Note to Jitterbuggers: We would show you pictures of Mr. Daly in the icky paisley britches he wore for the first round of the Very British Open today, but we wouldn’t want to shock you seeing as how it is supper time and you need to digest your food before bedtime.

It’s gonna be a very interesting Brit Open featuring a 21-year-old snot-nose kid Rory McIlroy–who’s on everybody’s short list to be the next Tiger and who at 21 years old shot an opening round 63 on the greatest golf course in the world in one of the four major tourneys in PGA golf.
And any time you have John Daly in the hunt–especially after the dry spell he’s had for years now in his golf game–those who say golf is boring will be relegated to the back of the gallery.

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I need me a fix of world beat music now and again, and here’s my favorite singer, songwriter and entertainer of all time, he who unleased world music upon the world, doing my favorite all time Paul Rhymin’ Simon world beat song . . .

If you remember “David,” the boy in the bubble, BTW, you’re getting up in the years.

If you don’t remember him click here.

And for good measure, Paul and his old buddy on friendly terms — which is sort of a rarity for S&G to be on friendly terms seeing as how they’ve famously had, uh, creative differences more often than not . . .

Their tour has been postponed, BTW. . .

Believe it or not, “The Boxer” was banned by a lot of radio stations from being played back in the day because of the allusion to the boxer being so lonely he hung with “the whores down on 7th Avenue.” As if impressionable teens were going to hear this incredibly sensitive and poignant story about a boxer down on his luck and go find them some women of questionable virtue. Those were, in the words of Paul and Artie’s friend John Lennon, “strange days indeed.”

And well, OK–one of their most beautiful of songs for your listening pleasure too, circa 1969 . . .

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A sculpture of John Chrysostom in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, New York City

One of the venerable preachers in Christian history was St. John Chrysostom, the 4th century preacher, theologian and liturgist. He was quite brave and best known for being such an eloquent preacher. He was all about charity and giving to the poor, and quite outspoken about the abuse of wealth and personal property.

He noted that many people love to point to 2 Thessalonians 3:10, which says, “Anyone who would not work should not eat.”

Now, how many times in the course of a week do I hear some industrious American Christian cite that scripture these days. Many people, and sadly way too many Christians, hate poor people–I really believe that–and take self-satisfied delight in that one scripture from 2 Thessalonians. Where they get the idea that that one sentence, out of the millions of biblical verses on the poor and marginalized, is the last word on poor people is beyond me. But all too many Christians see it as Paul’s condemning lazy, shiftless poor people to starvation. In fact it shows that those very Christians are lazy in their Christian journeys, if you can say they are on Christian journeys at all. They in fact are stuck at the starting line of the journey.

Christian discipleship is a journey in which we keep moving, delving deeper into the Word of God for greater depth and understanding so that the Word can transform us into humble and Christlike beings. There’s nothing humble whatsoever about a Christian who clicks his heels and justifies himself and his likeness in Christ by asserting at every turn that “anyone who would not work should not eat.”

And lest anyone accuse me of promoting laziness as some kind of Godly virtue, please consider that the way to get someone off their lazy butt is not to condemn them or bang them over the head with a Bible. For guidance on how to inspire or motivate or lead some able-bodied person to work for food, read the Bible beyond 2 Thessalonians 3:10. There’s a whole other Bible to be reflected on beyond that one verse.

Also, please don’t think for a minute that I’m for a welfare state. I hate welfare and the welfare system. I hate paying taxes for it as much as the Tea Party neighbor down the street who, by the way, don’t want Obama meddling with his Medicare. But I don’t think the welfare state is a failure of we the people.*

I think the welfare state is a failure of we the Christians, the dominant religion in this country. If each and every one of us who proclaim to be Christians gave as Christ and Paul would have us to give to support a “safety net” for the poor, we wouldn’t need government welfare. As it is, we have non-government food banks–which rely on churches and other faiths for their very existence–hurting for enough money and beans most days.

“But the laws of Saint Paul are not merely for the poor,” St John C. said. “They are for the rich as well. . . . We accuse the poor of laziness. This laziness is often excusable. We ourselves are often guilty of worse idleness.”

Indeed, anyone who would condemn the lazy bums among God’s children might want to remove the logs from their own eyes and look in the mirror and look long and hard at their own sins and shortcomings. Paul the Apostle, from whom they cull eight words to condemn the poor, would never condemn anyone, even the lazy, to starvation. Paul loved Christ too much and understood Christ too well — and understood himself to be the most horrific of all sinners even after his conversion — to condemn the poor so heartlessly.

“Do you wish to honor the body of Christ?” St. John Chrysostom asked. “Do not ignore him when he is naked. Do not pay him homage in the temple clad in silk, only then to neglect him outside where he is cold and ill-clad. He who said: ‘This is my body’ is the same who said: ‘You saw me hungry and you gave me no food,’ and ‘Whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did also to me’ . . . What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden chalices when your brother is dying of hunger? Start by satisfying his hunger and then with what is left you may adorn the altar as well.”
*What I hate more than anything is paying taxes for America’s perpetual war machine and the perpetually bloated defense and military budget that keeps defense contractors and retired military brass and a lot of politicians, Dems and Repubs alike, fat and happy while making the world safe for hypocrisy. . . . or was it democracy.)

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Woodie Guthrie

rumi's tomb

Been a while since we heard from our assistant and occasional contributer and deep-water Christian mystic and contemplative L.K., who is just back from a whirlwind tour of Turkey.
Speaking of whirling—L.K. writes:

One of the MAJOR highlights of my trip (and there were many) was going to Rumi’s grave. I actually twirled around a few times in the mosque/museum!!!
I’ve been a lover of his poetry for so many years now and I love his peace/love/tolerance philosophy of God. Did you know that there are now female dervishes too? I don’t think I can twirl my way to ecstasy though. I can’t even read in the back seat of a car without getting sick. I’m dizzy enough as it is!
I have decided that I am a Sufi Shinto Christian. Buddhism is nice, but too cold for me. I love the respect for nature of the Shinto philosophy and I love the heat of Persian poetry!!!!
I think I mentioned once before about how I am always interested in exploring not only differences in how different cultures relate to God, but the differences between how men and women relate to God. . . like, how do you, as a man, feel about being the “Bride of Christ”? It’s easier to think of yourself as a warrior, or Sampson, or the hot blooded Peter, isn’t it? And I think a woman’s nature/nurture makes it easier to be submissive to God. Most men would rather wrestle with God till their hip gets put out rather than submit.
Back to Turkey. . . .
I got to explain to the folks in my tour group about Rumi and how some folks think that his poetry is erotic and that it is between a man and a woman, but he is really talking about the love between man and God. I was surprised at how many people have not heard of him. Some of them thanked me and bought some books of his poems while we were there. I hope I helped spread some of his God love.
I also was able to tell people how Christians, Jews, and Muslims are religious cousins. Allah is our God too. They were surprised when I told them that Muslims believe that Jesus will be coming back at the end of time to clean up this mess. More on all that at another time, but I really felt that God was using me and I was humbled by the experience.

Lord—that blurb will set off all the paranoid Muslim haters who lump all Muslims into the terrorist category and would rather live in blissful ignorance about Islam and Muslims than learn about them or get to know some Muslims (like the many of them I work with at the hospital)—I can see the flood of hateful emails I’ll get now before I trash them.
Anyway, L.K. also sent this blurb about Woody Guthrie, saying, “It seems kind of appropriate that he was born on Bastille Day.”

It’s the birthday of the singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie, born in Okemah, Oklahoma (1913).
He was in his 20s when Texas was hit by the same drought that created the Dust Bowl in the mid-1930s, and Guthrie followed workers who were moving to California, where he began to write songs about the people who’d lost their farms and their homes.
His songs grew increasingly political and became more and more sympathetic to the plight of people facing hard times during the Great Depression. Like many people at the time, he thought the Depression was a sign that capitalism had collapsed. He wrote a column for the Communist Party newspaper the People’s World. But he never officially joined the Communist Party. He said, “I ain’t a Communist necessarily, but I been in the red all my life.”
Guthrie went on to write thousands of songs, including “This Land is Your Land,” “Union Maid,” “Hobo’s Lullaby,” “Hard, Ain’t it Hard,” “Pastures of Plenty,” “This Train is Bound for Glory,” “Sharecropper Song,” and “Someday.”

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I was so proud of myself for swearing off bottled water to cut out my plastic consumption–and then I read this piece below about this couple and decided I could easily eliminate a lot more plastics from my life. Actually, I’ve been cutting a good bit of plastic out of my life for a good long time, since hooking onto the “No Impact Man” Web site mentioned in this article below. It’s writ by the mighty fine Dallas blogger Teresa Gubbins at pegasusnews.com.

The cafeterias at the hospital where I’m employed sell and use enough plastic alone to do damage aplenty to the environment. I’m, uh, gently raising some consciousness about alternatives to all those plastic fruit cups and plates and dish covers at the aforementioned place of employment. (There are recycling bins around the hospitals in the hospital system I work for, but they’re hard to find sometimes, stoopid people think they are trash bins or use them for trash, less plastic is far than piles of plastic for recycling anyway.)

The oil gusher in the Gulf has inspired me to examine all the environmental impact I’m making — and my employer and my beloved Methodist churches are making. For sure, I’m finding that cutting plastics out of my personal life is not as daunting a challenge as I thought it would be. (And spare me emails about the need for water bottles in places like Haiti or or our military’s war zones, which is another story for another day.)
I’m going for it. It’s way past time for all of us in this country to become what used to be dismissed as “extreme environmentalists,” lest our kids and grandkids end up with dead rivers and seas. We’ve already got way too dead spots in God’s good, green creation as it is.
I think I mentioned in another posting here recently that it’s certainly way past time for Christians and churches to lead the way in environmental protection. As Martin Luther King once said, church always tends to be the tail-light instead of the headlight in progressive and just and moral causes. I have to say, though, that churches and a lot of faith leaders — even the conservative evangelicals among us — have been taking up the environmental cause in vastly growing numbers in recent years. Without a vision, the people perish, Proverbs tells us. And it’s way time to re-envision Eden.
Can I get an amen people!

Here’s Teresa’s article and here’s the link to the Plano couple’s Web site:

You might not spot what’s different about the lifestyle of Mark and Melanie Rummel right away. The young newlyweds live in an apartment in Plano that’s filled with the usual modern conveniences, family photos, and so on.

But if you peek in their pantry, you see rice and beans stored in old OJ bottles. Popcorn in an old wine bottle. Produce in a hand-made linen bag.

And then you realize: Hey, where’s all the plastic?

Part of a growing group of consumers dismayed by the mountains of plastic garbage in the world, the couple has embarked on a mission to buy no new plastic at all for one year.

No bottled water. No laundry detergent in a plastic bottle. No box of Triscuits (since Triscuits have a plastic bag liner inside the cardboard box).

To share tips from their journey, they created No New Plastic, an inspirational blog that documents their obstacles and how they’ve overcome them. The couple was always somewhat eco-friendly. Mark lived across from a supermarket so he could walk to it instead of drive, and Melanie brought canvas bags to the store so they wouldn’t have to accept plastic.

But then they watched “No Impact Man,” the documentary about the New York couple who tried to minimize their effect on the environment. Melanie saw photos of baby albatrosses whose stomachs were filled with bottle caps and other plastic crap. She became determined to do more, starting with no more plastic. But saying it and doing it were two different things.

“If you go to the grocery store and try not to buy plastic, it’s difficult,” she says. “Almost everything comes in plastic. You have to modify your diet. It became this consumerism pause button. Instead of getting more, you shop much more slowly. I ask, Is this something that is useful? Would it bring beauty into our home? Will we have it for a while?”

Mark had a childhood filled with toys and whatever else he wanted. But he also witnessed the example of his grandparents, so frugal they would put their ZipLock bags in the dishwasher.

“I remember growing up, thinking, ‘What are you doing? Why are you rinsing out that tin can before you throw it out?’ Now I see myself doing the same thing. If we get a bag from someone else, I wash it out, because we don’t buy them, and now I have a ZipLock bag.”

That said, they’re the only ones in their family pursuing this goal.

“It is definitely another ‘There go Mark and Melanie’ project,” Melanie says. “We both eat vegetarian, and that was our first ‘OK, you’re a little different’ discovery for them.”

She remembers feeling some early discomfort, as well.

“I remember using our cloth produce bags for the first time at the grocery, putting apples into it, and feeling like a freak,” she says. “It’s one thing to be excited, but it’s different in the outside world. You want to say, ‘I am not weird.’

“But then this wonderful gentleman came up and asked where we got the bags, and it was a sign from the universe that was what we needed to be doing,” she says. “We ended up having this great conversation, and we gave him one of our bags. One of the things that Mark loves about our project and what we’ve realized is that we meet the coolest people everywhere we go. Because we make somewhat of a spectacle of ourselves, it creates the greatest friendship and opportunities.”

Melanie says she’s also felt the occasional spell of despair.

“I went through a time of seeing everything I was doing that was not good for the earth and feeling overwhelmed where I didn’t want to do it anymore,” she says. “We don’t want to encourage that. On our blog, we write about things in a way that we hope is inspiring, rather than leading to the idea that the world is crap and there’s nothing you can do. We try to explore other options and hopefully people read our stories and see our attempts.”

They’ve become connected to a network of people and blogs with like-minded goals: to stop the consumption of plastic that’s filling the oceans with a plastic “garbage patch” that’s killing life, poisoning the environment, and getting worse every day.

“I don’t think people go out and want to hate the earth, they don’t have that mindset,” Melanie says. “What I think is that so much of our media, TV and advertising, repeats the message that we need to buy more stuff, get more things. Disposable is what our economy is based on. It’s drilled into us. A lot of people don’t seek out or hear the other side.”

Mark & Melanie’s five tips to get started on consuming less plastic:
1. Use reusable drink containers instead of buying plastic bottles.
2. When you go to any store to buy something (even the mall), bring your reusable shopping bags or just carry your purchase without a bag. You can also use reusable bags for produce at the grocery store. Keep your bags in your vehicle (if you drive a lot) so you always have them with you for last-minute shopping trips.
3. Buy fresh produce and bulk bin food instead of buying packaged food. This not only dramatically reduces your trash, it is also one of the best things you can do for your health.
4. Use reusable containers instead of one-time-use ZipLock bags or other plastic storage bags. Use a towel or lid to cover food instead of plastic wrap.
5. In general, be more aware of the the products you purchase. Consider the impact the product and the packaging has on the environment and whether a more environmentally friendly option is available.
Shannon Sutlief contributed to this story.

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