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Archive for November, 2013

Robert Earl Keen, the great Texas music maker who learned his craft sitting on the front porch at Church Street in College Station, Tx with Lyle Lovett, his neighbor and fellow Aggie at Texas A&M University.

Robert Earl Keen, the great Texas music maker who learned his craft sitting on the front porch at Church Street in College Station, Tx with Lyle Lovett, his neighbor and fellow Aggie at Texas A&M University.

Yes, it wouldn’t be Yule Tide if we didn’t kick it off here as we do every year with that great Texas Aggie Robert Earl Keen’s keen satire on the traditional vulgarizing of Christmas in America.

The holy and the vulgar–they have a way of getting all mixed up in a broken and vulgar world full of broken and vulgar people (and we’re all–each and every one of us–broken, violent and vulgar in God’s eyes) in need of God’s endless love, endless grace and tender mercies.

This kind of fun, music therapy, with a spiritual message in the bottle, is why Jitterbugging for Jesus is the blawg that is saving the world with its wit, wisdom, provocations and stimulations while possibly (probably!) alienating whole towns, nations, cities, states and anal retentives everywhere.

Tune in tomorrow as we kick off the holy season of advent and until then, with no further of that ol’ ado ….

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“On Being Grateful for Everything”
By Henri Nouwen
(from Bread for the Journey)

To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy,

But to be grateful for all of our lives—
the good as well as the bad,
the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow,
the successes as well as the failures,
the rewards as well as the rejections—
that requires hard spiritual work.

Still, we are only truly grateful people when we can say “thank you” to all that has brought us to the present moment.

As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people
we would like to remember
and those we would rather forget,
we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for.

Let’s not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.

bread for myself

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Matthew 14:13-21
New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”

16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.

18 “Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.

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How someone in a country without stuff we take for granted might see us.

How someone in a country without stuff we take for granted might see us.

Best Buy, one of the retail behemoths opening its doors with cut-rate prices on the Thursday that is Thanksgiving Day, has a TV commercial promoting the Turkey Day sales. Toward the end of it, the background music is from the heavy-metal rock classic “Highway to Hell.”

What a perfect anthem for a shopping stampede.

* * * *

As I noted here in the last posting, “It’s easy to take shots at Wal Mart, Best Buy, Macy’s and the other Big Boys of American retail capitalism for opening on Thanksgiving Day.”

But as they say in politics, there’s always enough blame to go around.

* * * *

The Big Boys of Retail probably are just giving us what we want, and we want it all, and all at a bargain price.

I say they’re “probably” giving us what we want, because it remains to be seen how “Brown Thursday” will go over at the cash registers. There is some backlash to the whole notion of Thanksgiving being just another big sales day, not to mention the notion of so many workers being denied their own day of thanks and family time.

Still, whether “Brown Thursday” becomes part of “Black Friday” or not, “Black Friday” is now accepted as part of the Thanksgiving Weekend, and is here to stay.

This seems to me to be indicative of how much America worships at the altar of the Almighty Dollar and commercialism. That’s nothing new in American history and of course the Bible reminds that there’s nothing new under the sun in the history of the world. But please . . . .

Where will it all end?

* * * *

I’ve heard grumbling my whole life about how excessively commercialized the Holidays are, and yet we can’t seem to help ourselves. We’re all prone to get caught up in the holiday buying and selling to the point of stressing ourselves to exhaustion and digging ourselves into debt.

And all this amidst all the chirpy sloganeering that “Jesus is the reason for the season.”

* * * *

So it’s a bit twisted, really, to suggest that retailers have tainted the meaning and purpose of Thanksgiving or Christmas. “Black Friday” and, now, “Brown Thursday,” emerged only because retail giants smelled the demand and foresaw what will (probably!) be the now extra-profitable, national holiday for giving thanks for what we already have.

Advertising and the whole of the American marketplace remind us with their messages every day that we just can’t really be happy or quite complete until we’ve bought the coolest stuff the marketplace has to offer, always at those seductive, debt-inducing prices.

Thomas Merton–that most piercing of Christian social critics in the last century–still challenges those who purport to live Christian lives with a few questions that ring especially true after almost 50 years since the time he wrote them:

    “There are various ways of being happy, and every man has the capacity to make his life what it needs to be for him to have a reasonable amount of peace in it. Why then do we persecute ourselves with illusory demands, never content until we feel we have conformed to some standard of happiness that is not good for us only, but for everyone?

    “Why can we not be content with the secret gift of the happiness that God offers us, without consulting the rest of the world? Why do we insist, rather, on a happiness that is approved by the magazines and TV? Perhaps because we do not believe in a happiness that is given to us for nothing.

    “Why do we think we cannot be happy unless happiness has a price tag on it?”
    (My italics for emphasis)
    — Thomas Merton,
    Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, 1966

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Norman Rockwall's "Freedom From Want"

Norman Rockwall’s “Freedom From Want”

OK, so it’s easy enough to take shots at Wal Mart and Best Buy and Macy’s and all the Big Boys of capitalism for opening on Thanksgiving Day, although I do believe they deserve it for denying employees a day for resting, spending time with family, reflecting on all our individual and national blessings, relishing great American traditions, and the other reasons that Thanksgiving Day was set aside as such a special and traditional day.

Especially Wal Mart.

I can’t imagine that Sam Walton, that man of the people, would have denied the traditional day off for his Wal Mart “family” of employees.

Would he?

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Praise Wal Mart, Best Buy, Macy's, Gap and raw American greed, capitalism and consumerism, from whence all blessings flow. And God bless America our Christian nation! Amen and pass the gravy.

Praise Wal Mart, Best Buy, Macy’s, Gap and raw American greed, capitalism and consumerism, from whence all blessings flow. And God bless America our Christian nation! Amen and pass the gravy.

Thankful today for Jimmy Kimmel for his delicious roast.

And Lord deliver me from the bitter taste of retail giants opening on one of the most sacred of great American holidays.

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