Archive for February, 2012

Hat Tip: Beth at Louie, Louie

I live in the woods out of necessity. I get out of bed in the middle of the night because it is imperative that I hear the silence of the night, alone, and, with my face on the floor, say psalms, alone, in the silence of the night.

“It is necessary for me to live here alone without a woman, for the silence of the forest is my bride and the sweet dark warmth of the whole world is my love, and out of the heart of that dark warmth comes the secret that is heard only in silence, but it is the root of all the secrets that are whispered by all the lovers in their beds all over the world. I have an obligation to preserve the stillness, the silence, the poverty, the virginal point of pure nothingness which is at the center of all other loves. I cultivate this plant silently in the middle of the night and water it with psalms and prophecies in silence. It becomes the most beautiful of all the trees in the garden, at once the primordial paradise tree, the axis mundi, the cosmic axle, and the Cross. Nulla silva talem profert [No tree brings forth such].

“It is necessary for me to see the first point of light which begins to be dawn. It is necessary to be present alone at the resurrection of Day, in the solemn silence at which the sun appears, for at this moment all the affairs of cities, of governments, of war departments, are seen to be the bickerings of mice. I receive from the Eastern woods, the tall oaks, the one word DAY, which is never the same. It is always in a totally new language. “

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From the fine folks at celebrateurbanbirds.com and Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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So today, I’m running a full 10 miles at beautiful White Rock Lake, that oasis of nature in the big middle of the bustling city of Dallas, in training for that March 25 Rock N Roll Half Marathon Foot Race I told you about the other day. (To raise awareness of the killer epidemic that is diabetes, a disease that can mostly be prevented with a healthy diet and regular exercise and it doesn’t have to be 10 or 13 mile runs for exercise. Just get up and move a half hour a day and preferably get the heart rate up some. Check out the Kenneth Cooper (click here) video at bottom.)

Ten miles is a long run, and I run these Saturday long distances at mostly mellow paces in order to have plenty of gas left in me for the last couple miles.

Which calls for some mostly mellow music to run by, but also some to keep the heart rate at a nice high rhythm.

A few songs that will be on today’s running playlist.

And if you see Troy Aikman around town tell him I’ll see him on March 25–and that I got his number this year.

And now a word from Dr. Cooper who revolutionized health and fitness from the beautiful Cooper campus right here in North Dallas. When he was 29 he was 40 pounds overweight and had a scare while skiing–he thought he was about to die of a heart attack. What a wakeup call that was.

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Man, the Jitterbugger's all over the place with his blawg posting today. And how about those names he drops? Whatever.

A posting in which we ramble on about this and that like we’re Led Zeppelin’s Rambling Man or something before we finally get to a
Dan Fogelberg video.

Read on . . .

I met the late and great Dan Fogelberg at a party once, and a nicer man I never met in what was, albeit, a brief encounter with him. The party was after one of his shows. I was dating someone at the time who knew him so well that we were welcomed backstage and attended this party later. I don’t even remember that date’s name but I remember I became a bigger fan of Dan after meeting him because he was so gracious, and a suave kind of guy for one who was in so tight with so many fast-living rockers in those days who were pretty grungy when you look back at those old album covers.

I always thought it was so cool that I partied with Dan Fogelberg. But my friend and colleague in United Methodist clergyness, Eric (click here for his blawg) Folkerth, and Rusty King, another clergy colleague who like Eric is also a musician, were invited by Dan’s widow Jean to perform at a special Fogelberg event in which musicians who keep Fogelberg’s music alive were invited (see down below for more on that from Eric who I messaged on Facebook and asked him to refresh my memory about). How cool is that????

Eric is a fine and mighty fine preacher but also a really good musician who has shared the stage with everybody from the angelic Joan Baez to the gritty James McMurtry (that’s Larry McMurtry’s son, of course, who I saw perform in Dallas not long ago. James is still one angry and cynical young man but it’s a good kind of anger at the injustices and inequities in the world. I met Larry McMurtry once in Houston (not an iota of anger in him, who has the gift of stillness), and actually have a letter he sent me on his stationery which has a couple of cute little pigs illustrated on it, and if you remember the opening scene of Lonesome Dove you know what that’s about. I’d written him and told him I’d met him years before and asked him to look at a short story I’d written and to give me some feedback and he did. He really liked it and said he thought the story was good to go and he wouldn’t change anything. He noted, however, that “the short story is just not my genre. I was never very good at it.” The story, about a guy who was given the wrong key to an already occupied San Antonio motel (which actually happened to me once) and walks in on a robber with a pistol on the bed who was in his underwear counting cash, won me a cool $1,000 prize in the writing contest and was published in a now defunct online literary journal. It was titled “Heavy Lunch,” the robber character’s nickname. McMurtry loved that. I’m sure the note he sent me on the distinctive McMurtry letterhead could bring a pretty penny on EBay or whatever it is where you can sell stuff like that. But there ain’t enough money that I would sell it. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure where it is; it’s in a box somewhere here in my man cave where I keep letters and articles I wrote and old pictures and stuff; I probably should find it. . . And BTW, I warned you this would be a rambling blawg posting today; should have mentioned that I shamelessly drop famous names in it.)

So anyway . . . The Fogelberg video below has old film clips with Cary Grant and Fred Astaire among others. I think Cary Grant and Fred Astaire are the two coolest guys who ever lived, speaking of really suave guys. I’m a clothes horse and pay way too much money for nice suits to work in sometimes, but if I could wear a suit as well as Cary Grant did, and could carry myself with that kind of grace and style, I would shamelessly steal Catherine Zeta Jones from Michael Douglas. Or steal young Charlize Theron from that guy she’s with now. That’s what I’d do.

Hey–I just speak my truth here.

Love this Dan song.

*Eric, who tells me he never met Dan Fogelberg but “almost did,” sent me this reply about he and Rusty’s performances at the Fogelberg thing:
Rusty and I were invited to the unveiling of the Fogelberg Memorial in Peoria, Illinois. It’s a lovely monument down by the river, with three stones etched with some of his lyrics.

His widow, Jean, thought that it would be cool to invite some of the bands around the country who keep Dan’s music alive to come play at this event. So, we got to play a show for his Mom, brothers, wife and all his friends, about 300 folks on Friday night of that weekend. Fans had come from all over the country.

It was an amazing night.

We all played two or three songs, solo … then a bunch of us just formed a pick-up band at the end of the night. I was playing “Run for the Roses” while Dan’s Mom walked in the room … it was like the Queen Mother entering.

Then, at the end of the night, a bunch of us who are each in bands in totally different parts of the country, got on stage and jammed for about 30 mins, until the hotel kicked us out.

My favorite moment was as we played “Phoenix” looking out over the crowd and seeing Jean Fogelberg (Dan’s wife) grinning ear to ear, and bouncing up and down with the crowd.

It was an amazing moment.

Speaking of dropping famous names, I once was talking to some staffers at the hospital about all the famous people I met in my reporter days and bragged that Linda Rondstadt winked at me after I interviewed her before a concert.

One of the young nurses said, “Who’s Linda Rondstadt?”

Another said, “Who’s Dan Fogelberg?”

Am I a sad old man or what?

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For Catholics who purport to care so deeply and passionately for the sanctity of life–for Catholics who claim to be all about the Catholic Church’s teachings–the Rick Santorums and Newt Gingriches of the world sure do talk casually about nuking people.

Pope John Paul II and the Catholic Church were adamantly opposed to the mere invasion of Iraq, remember? So much so that the Pope dispatched an old Bush family friend and Catholic clergyman to try to persuade Bush that invading Iraq could in no way be justified on any Christian or moral grounds whatsoever.

At least President Bush heard out the old family Catholic friend before dismissing him with that typical Bush absolutism. (Absolutely to the right on war and peace.) Bush, a United Methodist (who left the Episcopal Church largely because of Laura’s Methodist ties and because “the Episcopalians kneel too much! he! he!”), turned a totally deaf ear to the United Methodist Bishops who joined every other mainline Protestant denomination in virtually begging him not to go venturing off on an unjust and unnecessary war.

Now, the Santorums and Gingriches of the world talk casually about dropping bombs–nuclear, no less–on Iran with no evidence to justify such draconian action (Ron Paul is right about that–walleyed crazy Ron Paul is right about a lot of things, not that I could ever vote for him except as a protest vote).

It seems to be lost on these Catholic politicos that their own Catholic Church, which they say they love and they defend so vigorously, extends the sanctity of life to all life–not just to life in the womb. It’s why the Vatican predictably speaks out loud and clear and justifiably every time there is a scheduled execution of a death row inmate in this country. It’s why the Vatican consistently opposes torture which Santorum and Gingrich have no prob with.

For all their problems and all the weird and twisted theology they have, in my humble opinion–as I noted in a recent posting, the theology of “every sperm is sacred” ain’t my deal–the Catholics at least are consistent on the sacredness of life and viewing a life as created in the very image of God. Santorum and Gingrich seem to think a lot of lives are born in the image of a literal Satan that doesn’t even literally exist (again, that opinion is my own humble and theologically informed opinion–send your nasty disagreements to revpaulmckay@gmail.com and put your name on your nastiness if you want to tell me how misguided a Christian I am because I don’t believe in a ridiculous literal Satan).

The Santorums and Gingriches speak as if they have no respect for their own church’s teachings and preachings whatsoever when they start fanning the flames of war. They speak of bombing without so much as any moral perspective. You won’t hear them say, “As much as I hate war, as much as I would tremble at the heavy responsibility of taking lives and wreaking havoc in the world, I would do it out of moral concern for the greater good of saving other lives.”

Nope, you won’t hear that kind of moral and Christian equivocating, acknowledging that people will suffer and die—living, breathing human beings outside of wombs–will be maimed if not killed and killed in the most gruesome way possible with nukes melting their bodies down. They won’t approach their violent positions on countries like Iran with any perspective on of the scores of innocent men, women and children who will be left starving, without shelter or clean water to subsist on.

And of course, they are clueless as to how kids growing up in Iran will see the U.S. as maybe being “the Great Satan” that their crazy ass dictator loud mouth clowns portrayed.

Kids in Iran want American Apple gizmos and cool blue jeans.

Bomb the country and kids in Iran will hate America’s guts because the Santorums and Gingriches didn’t give a shit if they and their loved ones lived or died.

I’m sorry, but Santorum and Gingrich are some really twisted sisters and haters.

And we can’t let the haters win.

Speak your voice.

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He knows how we are formed,
He remembers that we are dust.
Psalm 103: 14

LENT: a time for penance, reflection, spiritual disciplines, preparation, prayer, quiet time with God and more

The 40 days of Lent, Good Friday and Easter all make for my favorite time of the Christian year, spiritually speaking.

Looking forward to doing one of several Ash Wednesday worship services we chaplains will conduct at the hospital today, crossing the ashes on the foreheads of the worshippers. I’ll also get requests all day and night, while on hospital duty, from patients and families and staffers requesting ashes, which I’ll be glad to do, even if it does make for an exhausting work day on top of regular pastoral calls.

This is also the day, inevitably, every year, that I encounter people who look at me in strange ways, wondering what in the world the smudge of “dirt” on my forehead is. Many people even tell me, “Uh, you have something on your forehead, sir.” That always makes for a bit of an awkward moment, having to explain that it’s a Christian church thing.

For the edification and education of those who may not know:

— Ash Wednesday ushers in Lent, a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten, which means “spring.” The forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting and praying before going public with his ministry. And his 40 days connects back to the time when his ancestors wandered the wilderness lo those many years. (Never forget, Jesus, a rabbi, was Jewish to the bone.)

— Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something in a fast, or volunteering and giving of themselves for others, or practicing some other spiritual discipline. Sundays in Lent are not counted in the forty days because each Sunday represents a “mini-Easter” and the reverent spirit of Lent is tempered with joyful anticipation of the Resurrection.

— The ashes on Ash Wednesday are an outward symbol of the inward purification and penitence we are seeking in the Lenten journey.

— Lent provides an opportunity to teach our children the necessity of self-denial in our permissive and consumer-society. A spirit of fasting can include restriction of luxuries such as television watching, shopping or some such habit.

— Observance of Ash Wednesday and Lent is by no means only a Catholic or Orthodox Church tradition. My own beloved United Methodist Church provides all kinds of Lent services, studies, resources and such, starting with Ash Wednesday observances.

I love this life God has called me to, and relish every step of the journey.

My main man the mystic Thomas Merton wrote in that greatest and ever-bestselling autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain:

In one sense we are always traveling,
Traveling as if we did not know where we are going.
In another sense we have already arrived.
We cannot arrive at the perfect possession of God in this life:
That is why we are traveling and in darkness.
But we already possess God by grace.
Therefore, in that sense, we have arrived and
Are dwelling in the light.
But oh! How far have I to go to find You
In Whom I have already arrived!”


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So back on New Year’s Eve I went temporarily insane and signed up to, uh, “compete” in the Rock N Roll Half Marathon Foot Race here in Dallas March 25.

I use the term “compete” loosely, mind you, since my primary goal is to complete the 13.1 miles without having to be dragged across the finish line with an oxygen tank in tow.

My other, more serious goal is to raise awareness and money about the epidemic that is Diabetes–a disease that is killing and crippling even young people in this country, even though the event itself is for Komen and breast cancer funding and awareness.

Longtime readers of the Jitterbug Cult know that I had issues with Komen long before the recent Komen fiasco, but I’m not so critical of it that I’m not supportive for all the good that it does for women with breast cancer. And I would have no problem running in a Komen event someday even though it’s not one of my favorite charities. (I might be more inclined now that it’s getting the scrutiny and greater accountability it needed.) It’s just that my time as a hospital chaplain has raised my own awareness of the well-known epidemic that is diabetes.

It breaks my heart every day on hospital duty to see patient after patient after patient laid low by the crushing effects of diabetes. I also know first-hand how it’s keeping the cost of health care in this country spiking. And it all is such needless devastation because it mostly all can be prevented with eating properly and exercising.

I’m not about to get all preachy (well, not too preachy) about the need for you and everybody else to eat healthy and exercise for the salvation of your body and health and the health care system, so relax and read on.

For the record, since I’ve started running and training for the big race against Aikman and thousands of others next month, I’ve lost 13 pounds–poundage that I never could shake off working out an hour a day at the gym, at least four days a week for years. The weight loss I’ve had this year isn’t so much from the running, I don’t think–even though running 9 miles like I did Saturday will burn up nearly a thousand calories, and the 10 miles I’ll do on my weekly “long run” training this weekend will send a lot more calories up in flames.

Most of my weight loss can be attributed to eating the right foods to fuel my runs. I haven’t had any Tex Mex and margarita therapy on my nights off from hospital duty this whole year–or not very much at all–because it makes the runs, which are now actually pleasurable now that I’m in such good shape, a lot less pleasurable. All those bad Mexican food calories will put the damper on a “runner’s high” on the next day’s run.

I’m not going to deny myself any simple pleasures in life entirely, mind you, and will have a little Tex Mex are other fun foodstuffs now and again on a Saturday night, but I’ll do it without stuffing myself and then trying to work it off at the gym on Monday.

Because I’m in “training” for the run against Aikman (be afraid, Troy, be very afraid), I’m eating mostly organic food and a lot of stuff like turkey loafs–red meat and greasy foods and gobs of sweets are out of my life for the rest of my life.

And the best thing is, I’m not even missing all the fun but bad foods; I was told by a trainer and a doctor who is a runner that this would happen, that I wouldn’t even miss the kind of eating I used to do once I reached a certain level of fitness.

But I hear ya–organic groceries and other ultra healthy foods are budget busters.

But to that I say–so is eating out at a Tex Mex restaurant with your enchiladas washed down with a couple margaritas. Not to mention all those chips and salsa and (gad!) quesa. It’s expensive having that second big beer at a Mavericks or Rangers game with that big pile of high-dollar nachos. Eliminating a lot of that stuff enables more shopping at Whole Foods Market.

Look, I never dreamed in a million years I’d be one of those “runaholics” you see breezing down the running trails, but I am that now. And–again–relax, because I’m not going to be a reformer now, preaching that everybody should start running miles a day and eating groceries from Whole Foods and going all drastically radical in a change of lifestyle.

That said, I do just wish we all in this country would become more mindful of the often toxic stuff we’re stuffing our bodies with.

Speaking of which– way to go with that “MacRib is Back” campaign, McDonalds! You can’t sell enough salads to redeem yourself for that kind of stuff.

My only motive for running against diabetes next month is to make you more mindful of how even the mildest exercise done on a regular basis could curtail this epidemic that is killing us in such massive numbers.

And if you don’t believe what a lethal and crippling epidemic diabetes is, come follow me around the hospital for a couple of hours and see the dying patients in ICU, or the ever younger people having limbs amputated, or the constant flow of diabetics into the ER.

Allow me to preach this: All the diet crazes and expensive diet programs in the world can’t beat the bottom line–you lose and maintain a healthy weight and body if you take in less calories every day than you burn, even though the calories you put in have to be reasonably healthy. And there’s no getting around a good 30 minutes of just walking down your street every day–or 20 a good 20 minutes on a treadmill or stationary bike.

So more to come on all this in the weeks before I take on Troy Aikman in the Annual Rock N’ Roll Half Marathon Foot Race here in Dallas, Texas, the headquarters of the blawg that is saving the world. And meanwhile, here’s Rod Stewart and the Faces with a song that is great for getting the adrenaline flowing for the last mile of a run–especially with that great clashing of drums at the end.

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My favorite all-time Sting song, not only for the beautiful guitar and the melodic harmonica and the soulful singing but the great lyrics that happen to define the shape of my own heart.

He deals the cards as a meditation
And those he plays never suspect
He doesn’t play for the money he wins
He doesn’t play for the respect
He deals the cards to find the answer
The sacred geometry of chance
The hidden law of probable outcome
The numbers lead a dance

I know that the spades are the swords of a soldier
I know that the clubs are weapons of war
I know that diamonds mean money for this art
But that’s not the shape of my heart

He may play the jack of diamonds
He may lay the queen of spades
He may conceal a king in his hand
While the memory of it fades

I know that the spades are the swords of a soldier
I know that the clubs are weapons of war
I know that diamonds mean money for this art
But that’s not the shape of my heart
That’s not the shape, the shape of my heart

And if I told you that I loved you
You’d maybe think there’s something wrong
I’m not a man of too many faces
The mask I wear is one
Those who speak know nothing
And find out to their cost
Like those who curse their luck in too many places
And those who fear are lost

I know that the spades are the swords of a soldier
I know that the clubs are weapons of war
I know that diamonds mean money for this art
But that’s not the shape of my heart
That’s not the shape of my heart

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Today, I am 83, the same age Dr. King would be were he alive. Over time I have increasingly treasured memories from that historic era, and most especially, the privilege of chatting and laughing with Dr. King. Let us be ever grateful that he had the vision, the talent and the courage to lead our nation along the road toward “liberty and justice for all.”

— Rev. Ralph Lord Roy, a white Methodist preacher who was jailed with MLK and many other clergy in Albany, Ga.

Rev. Ralph Roy: On the Front Lines with MLK

Thought this was an interesting remembrance (see link below) of the Civil Rights days from a white preacher who put his life on the line with MLK and others in the civil rights days.

Also thought it interesting that Rev. Roy makes note of Dr. King’s sense of humor and laughter. I’ve talked to a lot of people who knew King well who have have noted note of King’s sense of humor and playfulness–including a retired United Methodist Bishop (Hearne) who attended Boston University with him when they were pursuing their PhD’s.

Martin Luther King Jr. always presented himself as extremely ernest and serious in public since fighting for civil rights was about as serious a cause as there ever was.

Click here for the article by Rev. Roy from the United Methodist Board of Church & Society:

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Every picture tells a story.

So does a chart.

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