Archive for February, 2011

Heading down to College Station, Texas, today to see the McKay offspring, Meggles, Ames and Mo, and the grandson and other loved ones on an extended weekend off from hospital duty.

And so, for the Friday Night Special (Early Bird Ed.), I need some Texas-style road rock from two great Texas boys Ray Benson and Junior Brown, two reasons why Texas is the greatest nation on earth.

(Click here for more on Junior.)

See you down the way, fellow travelers . . .

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Personally speaking, I’m opposed to the legalization of medicinal coconut-and-lime.

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who knows? these two might be kin!

Yesterday’s “Noon Wine’ (Ode to the Wheelbarrow & the Pusher) posting here at the blog that is saving the world with its wit, wisdom, provocations and stimulations while possibly (probably!) alienating whole towns, cities nations and states sparked 10 email responses from you of the Jitterbug cult.

Some of them were longer than the actual posting itself, and some so good that I do want to post them here, and I will post some of your responses here in the days and maybe weeks ahead, you all.

Meanwhile, here’s one brief response from one of the longtime readers of this blog, whose name is John and who lives in the city of Milwaukee where there is lots of cold beer, especially in winter:

“Paul, As you know I have had a longstanding interest in geneology and I know that you know that we are now coming to the realization of just how connected we as a human race are in terms of blood lines. It turns out that Obama and Dick Cheney are related after all!!! My own blood line runs to royalty as well as all kinds of unsavory characters.”

Excellent point that. The blood of everybody living can be traced to both blue bloods and riff raff, and you don’t have to go back 2,000 or more years to find yourself connected to unsavory ancestry as well as royalty. Jesus himself, of course, was connected to the great King David–who committed murder and adultery in one fell swoop, BTW–and also connected to Tamar, a Gentile who tricked and seduced her father-in-law and had illegitimate twins (Gen. 38). Rahab, also a Gentile, was a prostitute (See Joshua 2:6). And then there are all those male ancestors who were total dawgs, some of them. (See Matt. 1 for the Jesus geneology.)

Another reader named Joan emailed me (revpaulmckay@gmail.com is my email address and you’re always welcome to email me or post a comment at the bottom of a posting) to say:

“As a “country dweller” and gardener I use a wheelbarrow a lot. In fact I’ve used and been around wheelbarrows all my life, and I have pictures of my big brothers pushing me around in a wheelbarrow around our old home place when I was little. So [the posting] brought back fond memories for me. I never stopped to think though, of “the beauty and utility” of a wheelbarrow. It takes a poet to make us see the beautiful things all around us.”

Indeed, William Carlos Williams had the poet’s great gift for making us see the beauty and utility of commonplace items we take for granted. Poets and painters and creative/artistic types all make us notice and think about the things that we don’t normally stop to observe or think about.

Here’s what our research assistant and sometimes blog contributor here at JFJ.com, the mystic, contemplative Christian librul (Joan Baez Libruls Div.) Linda K sent in response to the posting’s mention yesterday of appreciating the interconnectedness of things:

When I pray over my food, I always try to include prayers for ALL the people who helped to put the food in front of me.

Sometimes I’ll start off with the farmer and move on to thank the (most likely poorly paid) workers who picked the food, then on to the people in the factories who cleaned and packaged the food and then to the truckers who drove late into the night to deliver it to the stores for the workers there to display it for my good pleasure.

And I’ll admit that most of the time I don’t even want to think about those people who did the dirty work of slaughtering the animals for me. Knowing how much trouble I would have doing that myself, I am especially thankful that, unlike my grandmother, I do not have to wring the necks of chickens or slaughter pigs and am VERY grateful and thank those folks who do it for me.

OK. Those are the I think of first. But then one can go deeper. In order for the truckers to get the food to me, I also have to thank the people who made the trucks….nuts, bolts, tires, etc. And then the people who searched for and drilled for the oil and the folks who turned that oil into gasoline to fuel those trucks and planes.

Then, of course, the folks who sweated under the hot sun to build and pave the roads to allow the trucks to get anywhere easily. And all the people who made the equipment that did it.

Closer to home, I am grateful for the people who made the pots and pans that the food was cooked in and the folks who made the knives, spoons, forks and dishes that I ate the food from.

The people who worked on hybridizing the seeds and animals so more people could be fed. The folks who make the fertilizer for the plants and the feed for the animals. The people in the factories who made the equipment to irrigate the crops.

One can go on and on with this, but it is so wonderful and humbling to think about the innumerable people whose work went into putting the chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, and greens on my table last night!

It makes me very happy to think that when I pray over my food and thank all the people who did this, that prayer covers a VERY large number of people.

That’s a lot of bang for my prayer buck!!!!

It’s mind boggling to think about all the literal blood, sweat, and tears of so many people went into each and every one of our meals. We, the church, ARE the body of Jesus in this world so I try to remember that each meal is a communion, in many variations of that word.

We truly should all have “so much appreciation for the interconnectedness of things”!!

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Why has mobile social computing affected church attendance? Well, if church has always been kind of lame and irritating why did people go in the first place? Easy, social relationships. Church has always been about social affiliation. You met your friends, discussed your week, talked football, shared information about good schools, talked local politics, got the scoop, and made social plans (“Let’s get together for dinner this week!”). Even if you hated church you could feel lonely without it. Particularly with the loss of “third places” in America.

But Millennials are in a different social situation. They don’t need physical locations for social affiliation. They can make dinner plans via text, cell phone call or Facebook. In short, the thing that kept young people going to church, despite their irritations, has been effectively replaced. You don’t need to go to church to stay connected or in touch. You have an iPhone.

Sure, Millennials will report that the “reason” they are leaving the church is due to its perceived hypocrisy or shallowness. My argument is that while this might be the proximate cause the more distal cause is social computing. Already connected Millennials have the luxury to kick the church to the curb. This is the position of strength that other generations did not have. We fussed about the church but, at the end of the day, you went to stay connected. For us, church was Facebook!

— Richard Beck, Abilene Christian University

Here’s more of this interesting take on the decline in church attendance.

There’s probably some validity to this guy’s theory, but the flip side is that Facebook and such has been a great tool for pastors and churches to stay connected with their flocks and one another. I see Facebook, like this blog, as an extension of my own ministry, in fact, and the blog postings here automatically feed onto my FB page.

Social computing is like TV and every other technology ever created–it’s got its of upsides and downsides and its good and its bad.

As to why church attendance has been steadily declining–this is just one of many arguments out there being hashed out by pastors and theologians and other academics. A friend of mine and his wife told me last year that they quit going to church because “the kids are gone and we’re just too lazy to get up and go anymore; we like our Sunday mornings in bed.”

That’s actually an age-old reason, but like the Bible says, there’s nothing new under the sun. I’ve always known lots of people who did church with their kids so that, if nothing else, their kids could get some moral training–only to get too lazy for church with the kids gone.

But as soon as I figure out the primary and most ultimate reason out of so many reasons for declines in church attendance I’ll get back to you, assuming I live long enough to pinpoint it.

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Nothing exists for its own sake but for a harmony greater than itself which includes it.”

Wendell Berry


A Methodist friend of mine in Tomsk, Siberia, where I’ve been on a couple of church mission trips, once visited the U.S. and stayed in the rural home of a United Methodist couple near Tyler, Tx. He’s a hilarious and perceptive young man who speaks excellent English and serves as a guide and translator for Methodist mission teams. I once asked him what kind of culture shock he experienced in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

“I can’t believe that people in America pay real money for junk,” he said.

Understand, he visited East Texas, which has got to be the flea market and junk capital of the world.

“I can’t believe that people will drive 20 miles to go to a restaurant to eat catfish,” he added. (And mind you, East Texas is the catfish eatery capital of the world, no doubt.)

“And I can’t believe that people have wheelbarrows for decorations on their lawns.

“Of course, in Siberia, most of us don’t have lawns anyway,” he observed. “We just have piles of shit.”

Indeed, the Siberians, especially those outside the few cities, are rustic and resourceful and no-nonsense people who are very good at planting and preserving food from their incredible gardens. (And they know how to layer a compost pile that won’t stink a bit.)

I became keenly aware of the utility of a wheelbarrow when I was traveling the beautiful Siberian hinterlands–Siberia is not all a frozen wasteland but a land of enchanted fields and forests and extremely hospital people, BTW–and seeing so many men, women and children pushing wheelbarrows around. I saw people pushing wheelbarrows up and down steep, almost mountainous roads to get to far-flung stores or wherever they were heading. Being the agrarians that they are outside the cities like Tomsk and, to a great extent in the Siberian cities too, they value their wheelbarrows.

We once landed in an airport in the middle of Siberian Nowhere and discovered we’d taken the wrong flight. But what I remember about that airport is having to circle around it while kids chased herds of pigs off the runway — and one little kid who was running around the airstrip pushing a wheelbarrow and having a blast. (I also remember the cleaning lady who stood by with a mop and a bucket staring sternly at me while I used the airport bathroom. In Siberia, you quickly learn not to get shook up by such potentially cultural shocks and just go with the, uh, flow.)

Even before my Siberian experience, I always loved this masterful little ode of a poem to the red wheelbarrow. And notice the shape of the stanzas.

The Red Wheelbarrow”
by William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

There’s a ton of truth and beauty packed into the simplicity of that little poem about the utility and beauty of a red wheelbarrow. Any serious gardener and certainly anyone who ever spent 10 minutes growing up in rural environs can appreciate it.

How vital is a wheelbarrow, and the rain, and the chicken to a farmer?

How vital is it to us all?

Anyone who grows up in the country grows with a much more keen appreciation of how food is made and harvested. One appreciates fire and rain and sun and shade and soil and still waters for the cows to ease into, and one appreciates work. More and more environamentally aware people are speaking of so much appreciation for the interconnectedness of things, starting with an appreciation of the locally made produce and the people working in the farms and fields. And that’s a good thing, because whatever you eat today–whatever you’re wearing and, for that matter, whatever roof you’re under–can probably be traced back to some overworked slug pushing heavy loads around in a red wheelbarrow that’s a lot more to him or her than lawn decor.

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You know quite well, deep within you,
that there is only a single magic,
a single power, a single salvation…
and that is called loving.

— Herman Hesse

(Art, Temenos IX , , ,
by Kathleen Holder)

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Her Greatness the Victorian Chick Elizabeth B. Browning

In which Bill Withers teams up with Grover Washington who finds his greatest chops on the sax in this song, Rod Stewart covers Van (The Belfast Cowboy) Morrison’s ultimate love song, and one of my all-time faves does his most fabulous love song ever . . .

And, as an extra added Jitterbuggingforjesus.com Valentiny Weekend Ed. bonus–a great love poem from that great Victorian chick Lizzy Browning . . .

Nice pix with this Withers vid too. . .

And Rod Stewart poured all he had into this performance–and then some . . .


How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

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I can see clearly now that the snow has stopped falling and the sun has hung around here in Dallas for a few days . . .

Read on and have a Happy Saturday, cultists of the Jitterbug.

Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

— Gen. 2:7

Like I’ve said before and say often, the fuller, deeper and more relaxing presence of God is as close as your next breath. My Buddhist friends understand the divinity of a single breath much more keenly than my Christian brethren, since Buddhism hinges on mindfulness and especially mindful breathing.

Just breathe, people, and thank God Almighty for the gift of breath and life you have as you read this on your computer.


IN THIS WORLD of onrushing events the act of meditation—even just a “one-breath” meditation—straightening the back, clearing the mind for a moment—is a refreshing island in the stream.

— Zen Buddhist, Beat Generation poet, eternal environmentalist Gary Snyder
— And if you’re up for a heavier dose of Gary Snyder on meditation and breathing click here

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I couldn’t have imagined that I would live long enough to see Egypt emanicpated from decades of repression.

“It’s the greatest day of my life. Every Egyptian now feels a sense of hope. Every Egyptian is a different Egyptian today.”

— Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohamed ElBaradei speaking NPR’s Robert Siegel.

We can only hope and pray that Egypt’s peaceful fight against repression and oppression will hold against those who can’t stand peace and those who are all about power and control over the sharing of power and control.

But my guess is that this is going to be a lasting peace and that real change for a democratic Egypt is going to transpire and hold and, better yet, spread around. To a great extent this was a new sort of “social networking” revolution. With cell phones and cameras and videos in the hands of peaceful demonstrators to shed the light on forces of darkness and violence, the revolutions for good not only will be televised from now on, but also Tweeted and networked throughout the world in ways that will keep the bright lights shining and exposing the vampires of violence and tyranny.

Again, we can only hope and pray that the light is going to continue to overcome the darkness in the world. But we as Christians and other peoples of faith and good will and peace put all our chips on the wager that the eternal light does shine and expose the truth that sets us all free.

Today’s events are a testament to everything that MLK Jr. and Gandhi and so many others who believe in peace stood for and died for.

And speaking of the light overcoming the darkness, did we mention that this is a testament to that fella Jesus who believed so steadfastly in peacemaking at the cost of fearlessness and self sacrifice?

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I’ve always marveled at how sensitive and tender, how romantic and spiritual and poetic, how mystic and astral, how bluesy and jazzy and devilish and, of course, how insanely pentecostal the Wild Irishman Van Morrison can get. (Watch him go totally pentecostal at the end of his performance with The Band at their fabulous “The Last Waltz” concert in the first video below.)

His career and influence has now spanned over something like a hunnerd years but who’s counting . . . .

And of course for one of the greatest classics of classic rock click here. Or better yet, click here.

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