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Archive for May, 2012

A SWIMMING HOLE IN BELIZE

No matter where you are in Belize–even if you’re tramping around in the jungle or living in some laid-back village or popular ex-pat retirement community like San Ignacio or down on the islands or the coastal environs–you’re never far from the sea.

And can always slip down by the water . . .

Reason enough to follow the larger voices calling me there.

It’s just the kind of place that rocking old sailors like Stephen Stills take a shine to . . .

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Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

— John 15:13

Thanks and many thanks for so many who sacrifice so much and blessings on those who have given the ultimate.

(For Adam McKay, blood of my blood; Semper Fi!)

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Let us not misunderstand the nature of prayer, particularly in Jewish tradition. The primary purpose of prayer is not to make requests. The primary purpose is to praise, to sing, to chant. Because the essence of prayer is a song, and man cannot live without a song.

Prayer may not save us. But prayer may make us worthy of being saved.”

— Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel,
from “Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity:
Essays by Abraham Joshua Heschel”
(1996 Ed. edited by Susannah Heschel)

HIS GREATNESS MR. BURT RECEIVING HIS DUE

I recorded the PBS tribute and awarding of the esteemed Gershwin Award to Bacharach at the White House and viewed it last night and Burt Bacharach, who apparently plans to live another vigorous hunnerd years in spite of finally showing some advancing age, still oozes with class and taste.

(Click here for more.)

Of all the cool guys who came out of the sixties there weren’t many cooler cucumbers than Mr. Burt, This Bacharach number is a great hymn, a great prayer, more than just a great and enduring sixties pop tune.

For me, anyway, it’s impossible to hear this without feeling hopeful, without feeling the holiness in it.

It’s been covered by countless artist but none could ever top Jackie or Dionne . . . .

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“That crazy white boy can’t help his self–he got them jitterbug legs and gotta keep moving on!”

So I know it’s now Wednesday afternoon and we’re way late with the regular Tuesday Afternoon Music Therapy featured most weeks here at jitterbuggingforjesus.com, the blawg that is saving the world with its wit, wisdom, provocations and stimulations while possibly (probably!) alienating whole towns, nations, cities and states.

That would be the blawg that is in the process of relocating its world headquarters, quite possibly permanently, to western Belize, a country famous for the best diving and snorkeling in the world, rain forests, Mayan ruins, friendly people who speak English and extremely inexpensive living for one like the leader of the Jitterbug Cult who has little money but no debt, no one to feed but himself– and wanderlust and a sense of adventure, both of which need to be quenched while he is still able to thrill-seek while also (always, of course) finding unique ways to serve Almighty God and others.

Belize is no Plano, Texas, but it’ll do.

Meanwhile . . .

People say to me, so how’s the health care in Belize, Pawl?

And having researched the matter, this video below appears to pretty much illustrate the cure-all for most maladies down there.

(And you can get hit in the head by a coconut on the noggin down there if you casually stroll under a coconut tree and then you’ll need to call de doctor.)

But people say, won’t you get bored down there after a while?

Right.

But what about clothing, people ask–being the clothes horse that you are, where will you get threads?

I know, I have a weakness for a nice, tailored, charcoal grey suits and shiny shoes, but will be mostly going all-out fishnet shirts down there, I’m thinking.

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I’m in the moment,
On the edge,
Over the top,
But under the radar.
A high concept,
Low profile,
Medium range ballistic missionary.
A street-wise smart bomb.
A top gun bottom feeder.
I wear power ties,
I tell power lies,
I take power naps,
I run victory laps. . . .
And my inner child is outward bound.

— George Carlin,
jammin’ on Jay, c. 2006

So it’s not like I was a fan of George Carlin’s pathological and militant hatred of all things Christian.

I was, however, a huge fan of his creativity and originality and amazing insights into the human condition in America, and his ability for 40-plus years to be relevant and keep it real.

I saw the wonderful documentary about the life of Johnny Carson on PBS’s marvelous “American Masters” series recently, and even Carson, by his own admission, lost his comic edge and energy and had to give it up.

Carlin never ever lost his razor sharp edge and energy.

A true American original. . . .

I’m a modern man,
A man for the millennium,
Digital and smoke free.
A diversified multicultural postmodern deconstructionist,
Politically anatomically and ecologically incorrect.
I’ve been uplinked and downloaded.
I’ve been inputted and outsourced.
I know the upside of downsizing.
I know the downside of upgrading.
I’m a high tech lowlife.
A cutting edge state-of-the-art bicoastal multitasker,
And I can give you a gigabyte in a nanosecond.
I’m new wave but I’m old school,
And my inner child is outward bound.
I’m a hot wired heat seeking warm hearted cool customer,
Voice activated and biodegradable.
I interface from a database,
And my database is in cyberspace,
So I’m interactive,
I’m hyperactive,
And from time-to-time,
I’m radioactive.
Behind the eight ball,
Ahead of the curve,
Riding the wave,
Dodging a bullet,
Pushing the envelope.
I’m on point,
On task,
On message,
And off drugs.
I got no need for coke and speed,
I got no urge to binge and purge.
I’m in the moment,
On the edge,
Over the top,
But under the radar.
A high concept,
Low profile,
Medium range ballistic missionary.
A street-wise smart bomb.
A top gun bottom feeder.
I wear power ties,
I tell power lies,
I take power naps,
I run victory laps.
I’m a totally ongoing bigfoot slam dunk rainmaker with a proactive outreach.
A raging workaholic.
A working ragaholic.
Out of rehab,
And in denial.
I got a personal trainer,
A personal shopper,
A personal assistant,
And a personal agenda.
You can’t shut me up,
You can’t dumb me down.
‘Cause I’m tireless,
And I’m wireless.
I’m an alpha male on beta blockers.
I’m a non-believer and an over-achiever.
Laid back but fashion forward.
Up front,
Down home,
Low rent,
High maintenance.
Super size,
Long lasting,
High definition,
Fast acting,
Oven ready,
And built to last.
I’m a hands on,
Foot loose,
Knee jerk,
Head case.
Prematurely post traumatic,
And I have a love child who sends me hate mail.
But I’m feeling,
I’m caring,
I’m healing,
I’m sharing.
A supportive bonding nurturing primary care giver.
My output is down,
But my income is up.
I take a short position on the long bond,
And my revenue stream has its own cash flow.
I read junk mail,
I eat junk food,
I buy junk bonds,
I watch trash sports.
I’m gender specific,
Capital intensive,
User friendly,
And lactose intolerant.
I like rough sex.
I like rough sex.
I like tough love.
I use the f word in my email,
And the software on my hard drive is hard core, no soft porn.
I bought a microwave at a mini mall.
I bought a mini van in a mega store.
I eat fast food in the slow lane.
I’m toll free,
Bite sized,
Ready to wear,
And I come in all sizes.
A fully equipped,
Factory authorized,
Hospital tested,
Clinically proven,
Scientifically formulated medical miracle.
I’ve been pre-washed,
Pre-cooked,
Pre-heated,
Pre-screened,
Pre-approved,
Pre-packaged,
Post-dated,
Freeze-dried,
Double-wrapped,
Vacuum-packed,
And I have an unlimited broadband capacity.
I’m a rude dude,
But I’m the real deal.
Lean and mean.
Cocked, locked and ready to rock.
Rough tough and hard to bluff.
I take it slow.
I go with the flow.
I ride with the tide.
I got glide in my stride.
Drivin’ and movin’,
Sailin’ and spinnin’,
Jivin’ and groovin’,
Wailin’ and winnin’.
I don’t snooze,
So I don’t lose.
I keep the pedal to the metal,
And the rubber on the road.
I party hearty,
And lunch time is crunch time.
I’m hanging in,
There ain’t no doubt.
And I’m hanging tough,
Over and out.

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Here’s the prayer that is like a lantern to my feet, from my main man the mystic Mr. Merton–the prayer that became famously known as “The Merton Prayer,” from one of his greatest of his many books “Thoughts in Solitude”:

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

– Thomas Merton, “Thoughts in Solitude”
© Abbey of Gethsemani

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My cyber friend the photographer and blogger Francine up in Pittsburgh shot this photo of hands at a wedding and is in one of those photo “challenges” that photographers have based on some theme. She submitted this pic in a challenge where the photogs submit pix of hands–and hands have long fascinated me.
I notice people’s hands, and sometimes look long at hard at people’s hands.
And sometimes study long and hard on my own hands and see wrinkles and other signs of, uh, advancing age, as they say.
Anyway, hands are much more interesting to look at than, say, feet.
Most of us don’t want to look too long at hard at our feet, do we?

Francine In Retirement

The Daily Post at WordPress.com has given us a very handy challenge for this week in the form of “HANDS”.  My selection this week is called “UNITED HANDS” in recognition of the wedding I had the honor of shooting last month.  See above link for other entries to challenge.

UNITED HANDS

“Relationships-of all kinds-are like sand held in your hand. Held loosely, with an open hand, the sand remains where it is. The minute you close your hand and squeeze tightly to hold on, the sand trickles through your fingers. You may hold onto some of it, but most will be spilled. A relationship is like that. Held loosely, with respect and freedom for the other person, it is likely to remain intact. But hold too tightly, too possessively, and the relationship slips away and is lost.”  Author Unknown

BE ENCOURAGED!  BE BLESSED!

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“That crazy white boy with them Jitterbug feet moving WHERE?”
“Down south to Baleeze where them Creole people keep it stewed up.”

Dear readers of this blawg that is saving the world with its wit, wisdom, provocations and stimulations while possibly (probably!) alienating whole towns, nations, cities and states*:

So yaw come down to Belize and see the Jitterbugger sometime–he’s moving the Cult of the Jitterbug World Headquarters from Dallas to Belize, which is no Plano, but it’ll do to dwell in a while. Meanwhile, come down to the Dave Matthews Band show in Dallas Saturday night–the Jitterbugger will be there with his gorgeous daughters Ames and Meggle and son in law Jorge. In the annals of the McKay family history it is writ large: “McKays rock. McKays got swagger like Jagger. They rave like Dave. McKays are crazy. It’s that Irish blood.”

And this McKay–if he lives to be a hundred and twenty–which he won’t do, which is another reason he’s moving to Belize–he’ll never be as crazy as Dave Matthews.

Read on, rockers. . . .

So I don’t know about you, but I have this little voice in my head that verily screams at me sometimes, and it goes like this:

Have you lost your mind? You quit your paying job without another job and you’re moving to Belize????? You think you’re Bill GATES or something? You been tossing Willie Nelson mushrooms in your toss salads or something? Why don’t you just jump out of a PLANE, without a PARAchute? Do they even get the Cowboys, Mavericks and Rangersdown there? Do they even have TEE VEE AT ALL down there? Do you know it’s a Latin country with soccer fans? Do you not always say that the only thing worse than track is field and the only thing worse than hockey is soccer????? Have you lost all your one-eye cat marbles?

Or—are you just crazier than anybody ever even thought??????

Then this other voice tunes in to me and says to me:

“That voice is annoying, ain’t it? It’s probably from some Plano Republican.”

So anyway, seriously, ladies and germs. I am leaving the security of my paying job at the hospital in order to go down to Belize, a country that, they tell me, is like a whole other country, but very pretty and the locals are nice and speak English when not speaking Spanish or Creole and sell fruits and veggies right off the organic grounds and out of the organic trees at ridiculously low prices.

It’s way cheaper than the organic fruits and vegetables at Whole Foods in North Dallas. Not to mention the cheap fresh fish.

So I’ve been breaking the news to people that I’m moving to Belize for maybe a whole year, maybe even more or maybe some less, with no job, and they say to me, “Are you serious McKay?” And some say, “ARE YOU SERIOUS MCKAY?”

The implication in that latter response being, “Why don’t you just jump out of a plane without a parachute? ARE YOU CRAZY????”

Others just speak it right out. Are you crazy?

And the short answer to that has been obvious to a lot of people for a long time, including long timers here at the Cult of the Jitterbug where we blawg. And we blawg here for no money. Which has always been in violation of my philosophy of life, which is (in the words of a long dead but great writer), “None but a blockhead would write for anything but money.”

So I’m going to Belize and write and make money at it because I’m a damn good writer–cocky but all good writers and great writers are cocky and those who aren’t cocky drink too much in all those deep insecurities that all good and great writers have.

Plano is a hard place for a writer to be inspired with all those stuffy, fussy Republicans around.

And then there’s the people in Frisco.

Lord. Deliver me.

The more adventurous of my friends and acquaintances, who don’t live their lives in the kind of fear that so many Americans live in, say to me, “Cool. Belize is Eden. Wish I was going with you.”

And my really good friends say, “Cool, can I come visit?”

And I’ll be disappointed if they don’t.

I’ve never been to Belize though (although I’ve been stuck in traffic in Plano and Frisco and the god-awful LBJ freeway in Dallas enough) but they say it’s pretty, with its pristine Caribean waters and rivers and waterfalls, lush fields and forests, Mayan pyramids, quaint villages, colorful birds and monkeyshines and all the rest.

I also know it’s a third world country where you have to adapt to the 3rd world ways of the homeboys and homegirls if you are going to live with and among them, as I plan to do. It’s not like this former reporter hasn’t done a LOT of research on life in Belize, and isn’t still up to his neck in research and planning. Why do you think he’s been absent from this blawg that is saving the world for whole weeks?

And it isn’t like he hasn’t done reporting from places in his reporter days where there was no water, much less luxuries like toilets, or not like he hasn’t built houses on mission trips in Juarez slums, where, come to think of it, there were toilets where we church missioners slept but you couldn’t flush them and a few miles away people were being killed by vicious Juarez cops and troops, not to drug gangsters, and the sewage in the ditch over by where we slept nights was bad when the breeze was blowing all wrong.

So it’s not like I’ve never done 3rd world and don’t know how to navigate, and Belize is not that dangerous and violent unless you want to walk around in southern Belize City at night. Which the embassy people tell me is not advisable and which the Methodist missionaries in south Belize City have informed me not to do.

But I have friends who are afraid to walk in their neighborhoods in Plano and Frisco and NORTH DALLAS at night.

People hear I’m moving to Belize and their first reaction is, “I’ve heard it’s paradise but is it safe to live there?”

Probably safer than PLANO, TEXAS, I say, where there’s heroin dealers but don’t tell them that in Plano because it’ll set their hair on fire.

Anyway…. here’s the plan, Stan:

I’m going down and live in Belize for six months–one can live really, really well for well under $1,000 a month. And that price includes local grown fresh fruits and vegetables, organic every day, right out of the ground and off the trees. The price includes a nice and very nice and clean house or cottage on a near a beach. The $1,000 a month for living, after the purchase of a new bicycle, includes public transportation that will get you anywhere you want to go in the tiny piece of (mostly) paradise that is Belize.

So they tell me.

I’ve never been.

But I’m going, and going there, for one reason, to get better command, if not to get fluent, with the Spanish language. And also to do some writing for money (I was a professional writer in my first life, after all). And I’m also moving to Belize to see what the Caribean Methodist churches are up to down there and offer to do what I can with or for them, maybe in the violent slums of south Belize City where some local and American Methodists are doing some heroic work living and doing ministry with the people of the violent slums. Won’t be my first time in a violent slum and I won’t go out at night.

And then there will be days when I’ll just hang at a noisy American expat bar or a local village market or lay in my hammock or sit by the beach and bang on me drums all day.

But I’m going to go for a year and immerse myself in that beautiful Spanish language and God only knows what God will do with me the rest of my years but in God I truly do trust, like the great American coinage says.

Meanwhile, I’m going to see Dave Matthews Saturday night in Dallas with my gorgeous daughters and son in law.

They sometimes think dad must be crazy.

Wait till they see Belize.

*The Jitterbuggingforjesus.com motto.

**Did I spell Carribbean right? I can never remember if it’s one r and two Aunt Bees or one Aunt Bee and two r’s. I guess a good writer would know.
***No offense to any Plano, Frisco or North Dallas people (especially though, Judy, Judy, Judy) and at least Plano gave us Lance Armstrong and, better than that, Boz Skaggs. What has North Dallas given us lately? —- Jerry Jones? Enough said. I’ve said too much.

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This great song from His Greatness Leonard Cohen struck me as a fitting one in remembrance of Walter Wink, who went Home last night. More on him below.

Walter Wink may not have been the world’s most interesting man, but he was certainly one of its most interesting and influential peacemakers–quite possibly the greatest theologian and peace activist who, along with his gracious wife June, you may never have heard of.

We rightfully honor warriors and people serving in uniform in harm’s way. But, sad to say, way too many of us Christians pretty much dismiss those peacemakers who quietly work for peace in dangerous places. We even go so far as to disparage them as radical troublemakers or kookie idealists and never mind that many of them are living out what St. John of the Cross described as “living the paschal mystery” of the radical Christ.

Click here for a pretty good capsule bio of Professor Wink, a Dallas native, United Methodist clergyman and theologian whose books on the theology of Christian pacifism are studied in Catholic and Orthodox as well as Protestant churches and seminaries.

He was also one of the most grace-filled of peace activists that I ever had the pleasure of meeting and corresponding with on occasion–and not all Christian peace activists are grace-filled. I’ve met way too many Christian peace and anti-war activists who I wanted nothing to do with because of their righteous anger and lack of self awareness. Walter Wink often reminded us that the pride he saw in the hearts and minds of many fellow peace workers was indeed a mortal sin that they could not see for their blind spots.

“The struggle against evil can make us evil,” he famously wrote, “and no amount of good intentions automatically prevents its happening. The whole armor of God that Ephesians 6:10-20 counsels us to put on is crafted specifically to protect us against that contagion of evil within our own souls, and its metals are all forged in prayer.”

I once attended a retreat, hosted by peace activists of Catholic Workers and Pax Christi and other like-minded Catholics but attended by people of many faith traditions, when I had the pleasure of meeting Wink, who instantly recognized my homeboy Texas drawl. “I have a Texas drawl?” I joked.

He laughed. “It’s always good to hear one. It takes me back,” he said.

He was doubly gracious after I told him I was in seminary at SMU, and triple gracious when I informed him I was struggling with some Christian pacifism problems in writing my own required “credo” for my Systematic Theology class. “I’ve read your books,” I told him,” and asked him if I could ask him a couple of quick theological questions. “Absolutely!!!” he verily shouted. He suggested we meet for coffee later, which we did, and he gave me about 90 minutes of time for my theological questions. (And we ended up talking about St. John of the Cross and living out the paschal mystery, a very Catholic theology, and of course talked about St. Francis, since no discussion of peace theology at a retreat hosted by Catholic peace activists would be complete without a discussion of he who prayed, in the great peace prayer attributed to him, ‘Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.’)

Walter Wink was some of God’s best work, a man who quietly made a huge difference in this world.

R.I.P. “Tex.”

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