Archive for July, 2011


With Bobby (“Don’t Worry/Be Happy” guy) McFerrin, a true original him:

Or, if you prefer a straight version of Ave Maria, music that can quickly get you re-centered,
anytime the crazy world is too much with you–give this a listen (with Mirusia Louwerse and Andre Rieu):

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“I have decided to default on my lunch check today.”

Steve Martin”

He’s not the wild and crazy absurdist of yore, of course–especially the days of the 60’s when he did his one-man standup routines on college campuses night after night and killed every college crowd he ever played with his uncontrollable “happy feet” and his casually picking the banjo with an arrow through his head, in his then-trademark white suits to go with the prematurely gray hair.

Nor is he the wild and crazy guy of so many classic Saturday Night Live skits when SNL was must-see TV in his early years.

But he still has his funny moments, albeit with comedy that runs more to the cutesy brand of a man who’s matured into a serious literary writer, artist and art collector, and a much-respected banjo player who can hang with the big boys of bluegrass–a true Renaissance man.

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Jim Wallis's Sojourners Magazine (also available online)

Forty-eight hours after President Obama mentioned corporate jet tax deductions, and suggested they might not be as important as scholarships for low-income kids going to college for the first time, a headline appeared in the New York Times reading, ”Industry Set for Fight to Keep Corporate Jet Tax Breaks.” Wow. That was pretty fast. The ones who will win the current battle over the budget and deficit are the ones who are watching. As the book of Proverbs teaches, the poor are shunned, but the rich have many friends.

Rev. Jim Wallis in Sojourners”

And here’s the rest of the story from which the quotable quote was culled:

The markets are watching, the Republicans are watching, the Democrats are watching, the media are watching, the pollsters and pundits are watching. The public is watching and is disgusted with Washington, D.C.

When it comes to the bitter and ultra-partisan battles over the budget, the deficit, and the fast-approaching deadline for America to avoid defaulting on its financial commitments, the whole nation and even the world is watching.

But God is watching too.

Others are watching to see how their self-interests will benefit in the final deal. Or they are watching to see who’s up and who’s down, who will get the political win, and whose election chances will be better afterward.

Forty-eight hours after President Obama mentioned corporate jet tax deductions, and suggested they might not be as important as scholarships for low-income kids going to college for the first time, a headline appeared in the New York Times reading, “Industry Set for Fight to Keep Corporate Jet Tax Breaks.” Wow. That was pretty fast. The ones who will win the current battle over the budget and deficit are the ones who are watching. As the book of Proverbs teaches, the poor are shunned, but the rich have many friends.

Agribusiness is ready to respond if anyone challenges the subsidies that go to millionaire “farmers” living in Manhattan. The oil and gas industry reacts to questions about whether $2.5 billion in offshore drilling subsidies might be less needed than $2.5 billion slated to be cut in home heating oil assistance for low-income families. The Pentagon is watching and ready to invoke national security interests, or question the patriotism of anyone daring to cut its budget. A bipartisan commission came up with $1 trillion in military cuts over the next 10 years that wouldn’t hurt our national security, but it is unlikely that more than a fraction of their recommendations will ever be taken.

Republicans are watching and are ready to push the nation even closer to the brink of default if anyone suggests that revenue from the wealthy be a part of the solution. Democrats are watching, but, with a few notable exceptions, they don’t say the word “poor” out loud anymore. Anyone who could end up paying more in taxes is watching, even though taxes as a percentage of GDP dropped from 20 percent in 2000 to just over 14 percent in 2010. The average effective tax rate for the wealthiest is now only 17 percent of their income, and many corporations do not pay any taxes at all.

At the same time, nutrition programs for low-income mothers and children are at risk of being cut, as well as children’s health programs, education for low-income students, early childhood development, and the most effective initiatives in the world, which are dramatically reducing both disease and hunger. These programs are at the risk of being cut because nobody has been watching out for them.

But the religious community is changing this: It formed “A Circle of Protection” to defend the most effective anti-poverty efforts both at home and around the world. Today, Sojourners has a full-page ad in Politico with the message “God Is Watching” as a part of our series of print ads on the budget. This week our radio ads, recorded by local pastors, are playing in Nevada, Kentucky, and Ohio to remind politicians of the moral issues at stake. Faith leaders say God is biased in such matters, and prefers to protect the poor instead of the rich, and instructs the faithful to do the same. This is class warfare now, and when it breaks out, the Bible suggests that God is on the side of defending the poor from assault.

In the past, our country has successfully reduced deficits and poverty at the same time. There were bipartisan agreements to defend the means-tested programs for low-income people against cuts. And for the past 25 years, every automatic budget cut mechanism has exempted core low-income assistance programs. But not this time. Neither the Republican House, the Democratic Senate, nor the Obama White House has clearly and publicly committed to protect the poor and vulnerable, even though religious leaders have persistently pressed them all to do so. It’s a moral imperative that we do so again today. So now, faith leaders are watching the political leaders. And we believe God is watching us all.

Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: A Guide for Economic and Moral Recovery, and CEO of Sojourners. He blogs at http://www.godspolitics.com. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

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Missy Buchanan, a good United Methodist and author of many fine and mighty fine Christian books about aging (click here for her blawg), posted this on her Facebook page:

“Yesterday my 98 yr-old friend said, ‘I’m tired of people complaining about the hot weather. People are just softies these days.'”


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That would be Dr. John with some Boogie Woogie” that’ll put the bug in you Jitterbug feet.

(For Amy Winehouse, little girl lost, R.I.P.)

And him in an oldie vid with the great Jools Holland; it’s as if Boogie got together with Woogie and together they burned the house down.*

*Julian Miles “Jools” Holland is an astoundingly talented pianist, bandleader, singer, composer, and TV personality who has his own show in his native England. He was a founder of the band Squeeze, and is known for his work with Sting, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, The Who, David Gilmour and Bono. In 2004 he collaborated with Tom Jones on an album of traditional R&B music.

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But how small is our faith compared with that of the early Church! To the early Church it must have seemed, from all human accounting of things, as though there were little chance of the Church surviving, let alone winning.

If you had seen Pilate on the marble steps of his palace and you had seen Jesus, pale and wan and weak, and you had been asked, ‘Which name will last?’–would you have said ‘Jesus’? Would you really? Wouldn’t you have said: ‘Don’t be silly. Pilate is the representative of the all-powerful might of Rome. This man is the leader of an insignificant sect. He is a carpenter himself. His followers have no power. They were customs’ clerks and fishermen, and they have all run away. Don’t be silly, if one name lasts it will be that of Pilate. He represents imperial Rome.’

But history has judged. You would never have heard of Pilate had it not been for Jesus. The true royalty was the Prisoner.

Leslie Weatherhead
in The Autobiography of Jesus, a book of the great but controversial London preacher’s 1954 lectures at First Methodist Church in Wichita Falls, Texas. He was among the most librul of librul Protestants, but always admired for being such a skilled, Christocentric writer, compassionate pastor and courageous leader of the Congregationalist City Temple in London that was bombed in World War II.

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“It’s just a flesh wound.”

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A sense of place: Photo of a lonely stretch of West Texas road by Larry Landolfi

Longtimers of the Jitterbug cult may have noticed that yours truly is drawn to poets, novelists, artists and photographers who have a strong sense of place and nature and solitude, if not a sense of raw beauty and all things earthy. And oh yeah–poets who make us think about life its own self in new and inspiring and challenging ways.

Among the poets and nature writers that appeal thusly to me, that would include the likes of Wendell Berry–the gentlemen farmer of Kentucky; Annie Dillard–whose sublime book “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” transformed even the ugliest of insects and beasts into creatures of raw beauty that we could see so vividly with her word pictures; and Robert Frost–who made his New England landscape a landscape that we could all love and appreciate through his poetry.

Even my main man the mystic Mr. Merton–as I call my main man Thomas Merton who takes up a big part of my library–made us see the whole of God’s raw and beautiful creation, not to mention God’s love for us and His will for justice and peace and purity of hearts–from the vantage point of his monastery and his lonely hermitage outside Louisville.

I like the all-too-neglected poetry of the another New Englander, Robert Francis, a minister’s son who lived in a cabin he built himself. He had the misfortune of being overshadowed by the aforementioned giant of American Poets Robert Frost.

But Francis was a good and mighty good poet (click here for bio)
who wrote some good stuff of the sort I like so much with the qualities of nature, solitude, earthiness, bittersweet beauty and a sense of place–like that which follows:

“Remind Me of Apples”
When the cicada celebrates the heat,
Intoning that tomorrow and today
Are only yesterday with the same dust
To dust on plantain and on roadside yarrow—
Remind me, someone, of the apples coming,
Cold in the dew of deep October grass,
A prophecy of snow in their white flesh.

In the long haze of dog days, or by night
When thunder growls and prowls but will not go
Or come, I lose the memory of apples.
Name me the names, the goldens, russets, sweets,
Pippin and blue pearmain and seek-no-further
And the lost apples on forgotten farms
And the wild pasture apples of no name.
I follow Plato only with my mind.
Pure beauty strikes me as a little thin,
A little cold, however beautiful.

I am in love with what is mixed, impure,
doubtful and dark and hard to disencumber.
I want a beauty I must dig for, search for.

Pure beauty is beginning and not end.
Begin with sun and drop from sun to cloud,
From cloud to tree, from tree to earth itself,

And deeper yet down to the earth-dark root.
I am in love with what resists my loving,
With what I have to labor to make live.


Dark Sonnets

A formless shadow from a far-off light.
Then in the sand the sound of moving feet—
And we have passed each other in the night
On any sandy, dark, deserted street.
Whether you turned your head trying to peer
At me, also a shadow and a sound,
I cannot tell. Or whether out of fear
You passed, then after passing looked around
How can I say, I who could only see
Against the night something a deeper black?
This, this is the one dark certainty:
There was no touch, no word, no turning back.
One certainty: the sound of moving feet
And shadows passing in a sandy street.


We are the lonely ones, the narrow-bedded.
Our last “good nights” are interchanged below.
Then up cold stairs alone—the odd, the unwedded.
What do we know of night? What do we know?
What do we know except that night is blindness,
That on a bed one sleeps, or lies awake,
That after too long waking sleep is kindness,
That for the unsleeping, day will sometime break?
Oh, we know more. We can tell you how wind sounded
On windy nights, and how the writhing rain
Hissed on the roof, mice gnawed, and something pounded
Over our head—or under the counterpane.
We are the lonely ones. When we are dead
We’ll be well suited to a narrow bed.

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Dallas Cowboys great Michael Irvin is on a gay crusade.

He not only came “out” in Out magazine last week about his gay brother (see AP version of that story below), but told TMZ that Almighty God is ok with our choice in who we love.

The man’s as fearless off the field as he was on it–especially fearless for being so openly introspective and honest to God about his own formely reckless behavior being compensation for his fear of being like his beloved gay brother.

For several decades he’s been one of the most loved and sometimes loathed but always plainspoken of Dallas Cowboy legends.

But now he–along with the always equally outspoken Charles Barkley–are standing up against the rampant homophobia in sports.

And none too soon–but good for them and God bless them their integrity.

DALLAS (AP)—Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin says his womanizing may have stemmed from seeing an older brother whom he idolized dressed as a woman and learning the brother was gay.

In the latest issue of Out magazine, Irvin said he was 12 when he discovered his older brother Vaughn’s secret life. He said his father told him: “Yes, that’s your brother. And you love your brother.”

The former Dallas Cowboys star now appears on the NFL Network and on his own radio show in Miami. He has supported same-sex marriage on his radio show and has said he’s waiting for an active player in the NFL, MLB, NBA or NHL to declare publicly that he is gay.

“Until we do that, we’re going to be stuck in the Dark Ages about a lot of things,” Irvin told the magazine. “When a guy steps up and says, ‘This is who I am,’ I guarantee you I’ll give him 100 percent support.”

Irvin said carrying the burden of Vaughn’s secret gives him a hint of how tough it must be for a homosexual athlete to hide his orientation in a locker room.

“If I’m not gay and I am afraid to mention it, I can only imagine what an athlete must be going through if he is gay,” Irvin said. “I would like to see players come forward and be happy with who they are. Hopefully, as we move forward, we’ll get to a place where there’s no way it’s even considered; it just is what it is and everybody can do what they do. That’s the ultimate goal.”

Irvin said he believes the fast life he’s led was to accentuate his heterosexuality. He said he wanted everyone in the locker room to see him have the most women and the nicest car “so that everybody says, ‘Michael’s the man.”’

“Maybe some of the issues I’ve had with so many women—just bringing women around so everybody can see—maybe that’s residual of the fear I had that, if my brother is wearing ladies’ clothes, am I going to be doing that? Is it genetic?” Irvin said. “I’m certainly not making excuses for my bad decisions. But I had to dive inside of me to find out why I was making these decisions, and that came up.”

Irvin said Vaughn’s cross-dressing was never discussed among the family, which included 17 children. Throughout his career, he said, he feared that Vaughn’s sexual orientation would become publicized and shame the family. It wasn’t disclosed until the Out article.

Irvin said he remained close to his brother, a bank manager, until his death in 2006. He was 49 when he died of stomach cancer.

“He was the smartest, most charismatic man I’d ever seen in my life,” Irvin said.

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Jesus was right. Paul was right. John was right. The Buddha was right. Even the Beatles were right. It all comes down to love. You know God by loving God. You know God by loving others.

— Brian McLaren, Naked Spirituality


In an environment of grace, avoidance of sin stops being the focus, and other things — generosity, creativity, fun, learning, whatever — can occupy our attention, so we sin less by thinking less about sinning. We can now yield to the good temptation of better things.

Started reading the latest book by the provocative but even-handed Brian McLaren Friday and chewed it up–it’s tasty and spiritually nutritious and a good source of Christian Vitamin C, B-12 and potassium.

One of the high profile voices in the “Emerging Church” movement who is feared by some who feel threatened by his ideas as being (eek!) a heretic, McLaren always has something to say that ought to be said and discussed, and he does get discussed, not to mention cussed.

For a serious interview with him click here.”

Or check out his

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