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Archive for April, 2016

Make every day Earth Day,

Prayer is talking to God; meditation is listening to God.”

— Traditional Christian thought

* * *

My daily affairs are quite ordinary, but I’m in total harmony with them. My miraculous power and spiritual activity: drawing water and carrying wood.”

~Layman P’ang, ancient Zen master

I find that “miraculous power” lies in the ordinary things that are celebrated in Zen Buddhism–and maybe not celebrated enough by Christians.

I find that an ordinary chore like washing dishes–which can feel like such a drag to so many people and which used to be a drag to my way of thinking–can be a form of meditation.

I don’t have a dishwasher in my humble Belizean abode, so I wash dishes and I clean them mindfully, as a meditation–as a form of relaxation that calms my mind, body and spirit.

Like the vast majority of people in hot-tropical Belize, I don’t have air conditioning, so my tile floors and the blades on my ceiling fans can get dusty. I sweep with a broom and dust the fan blades mindfully, grounding myself in the present moment, so that the household chores don’t bring me down. In fact they can lift me up.

That may sound weird but hey–you get the same effect if you do mindful gardening or you mindfully water the lawn or you wash the car with attentiveness to making every part shiny.

The point is, you don’t have to get up at 4 a.m. and sit still in a meditation pose for four hours like the Dalai Lama every day to rest the mind and harmonize the mind-body-spirit.

I’ve often noted here that my favorite form of meditation is taking long, aimless walks, preferably “away from it all” in natural environments, mindful of the ground and the earth and the water and the birds and the bees and the full moon or whatever nature there is to be embraced in the surroundings.

I try to live into every day as an Earth Day, as a mindful day, as a wondrous day.

Have a mind today to slow down and seize the wonder of God’s good, green creation.

It’s something to behold.

    O God, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen:

    You place us in your creation, and you command us to care for it.

    Your works declare glory and splendor, and you call us to praise and reverence.

    Where we have degraded or destroyed earth’s bounty, forgive us.

    Where we have taken beauty and majesty for granted, have mercy upon us.

    Where we have become estranged from the creatures with whom we share this planet,
    grant us your peace.

    Renew us in the waters of baptism,
    refresh us with the winds of your spirit,
    and sustain us with the bread of life.

    In the name of Jesus Christ, and for the sake of the new creation, we pray. Amen.

    — “An Earth Day Prayer of Confession” from the Rev. Ken Carter, pastor of Providence United Methodist Church in Charlotte, N.C.

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“But I’m here to tell you / There’s something else/ The after world / A world of never ending happiness / You can always see the sun, day or night”

— Lyrics by Prince

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Prince, another great showman and music icon, R.I.P., all too soon.

“Prince, born Prince Rogers Nelson on June 7, 1958, was a man bursting with music -— a wildly prolific songwriter, a virtuoso on guitars, keyboards and drums and a master architect of funk, rock, R&B and pop, even as his music defied genres. In a career that lasted from the late 1970s until the arena tour this year, he was acclaimed as a sex symbol, a musical prodigy and an artist who shaped his career his way, often battling with accepted music-business practices.

“Prince recorded the great majority of his music entirely on his own, playing every instrument and singing every vocal line. Then, performing those songs onstage, he worked as a bandleader in the polished, athletic, ecstatic tradition of James Brown, at once spontaneous and utterly precise, riveting enough to open a Grammy Awards telecast and play the Super Bowl halftime show. Often, Prince would follow a full-tilt arena concert with a late-night club show, pouring out even more music.”

from the New York Times obit

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These state laws and proposed laws purporting to protect our daughters in bathrooms have nothing to do with protecting anybody and are nothing more than hysterical scare tactics.

To go into a men’s room and have that Old Testament-thumper and premier homophobe the Duck Commander, with his creepy beard and odd obsession with bestiality and barnyard animals, arrive at the urinal next to me–THAT would scare something more than the pee out of me.

I’ve noticed that wherever this madness over bathroom protection comes up, the Duck guy is there, sermonizing in political forums as well as churches with sermons that reference bestiality.

(In fairness to the Duck family, at least one of the boys doesn’t get the willies about openly gay friends and collaborators–not when there’s so much money to be made off the Duck Commander brand.)

Christian blogger John Pavlovitz has a smart take on all this fear-mongering nonsense.

Says Pav:

    1) No sane, decent, loving fathers want guys in the bathroom with their daughters. Making these claims is setting up battle lines that don’t exist and creating a false good vs. evil delineation to make ourselves feel better. It’s claiming some manufactured moral high ground that simply isn’t present.

    2) We straight people have all been using the public bathroom with LGBTQ people for our entire lives and most of us have never had an issue, (and definitely not one this bill addresses). We will all continue to use the bathroom with LGBTQ people going forward. The idea that we now won’t, or that this will somehow keep our daughters safer is simply misinformation and fear-peddling to justify a conclusion. It’s a false victory based on a nonexistent threat, which the Church and politicians specialize in.

I urge you to read his entire take–and the comments his readers made about it.

Meanwhile . . . in the endless race for the White House. . . the Duck family’s man for Prez gets confronted by a married, gay Republican who seems like a rather harmless conservative.

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jesuspassover

“Christ has no body now, but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ looks compassion into the world.
Yours are the feet
with which Christ walks to do good.
Yours are the hands
with which Christ blesses the world.”

“Let nothing trouble you,
let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing;
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who possesses God lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.”

— St. Teresa of Avila

May God protect me from gloomy saints. Saint Teresa of Avila Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/s/saint_teresa_of_avila.html

May God protect me from gloomy saints. Saint Teresa of Avila
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/s/saint_teresa_of_avila.html

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"Do not repay evil with evil." (From Romans 12)

“Do not repay evil with evil.” (From Romans 12)

Dr. David R. Brockman, a religious studies scholar and adjunct lecturer at TCU (Texas Christian University), has a good take in the always good (and yes, ever-liberal) Texas Observer about how political conservatives twist Paul’s words in Romans 13 to justify what I would describe as their government sins.

Writes Brockman:

    “When the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Christians in Rome, he probably had no idea that one small section of it, Romans 13:1-5, would become the go-to biblical passage for right-wing politicians in the distant land of Texas in 2000 years or so.

    “But in recent months, conservative politicians have dusted off this passage for a mind-boggling range of purposes: fending off criticism, complaining about undocumented immigrants, even attacking the current Texas House speaker, Joe Straus. And some of these uses — or perhaps misuses — might surprise the apostle himself.”

Brockman goes on to detail examples of the awful stuff that conservatives in Texas government have done, twisting Romans 13 as justification. Paul opens the chapter by saying:

    “Let everyone be subject to governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”

(I suppose that means that the presidencies of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, along with those of Reagan and the Bushes–were “established by God.” But of course, conservatives don’t interpret it quite that way. Especially Tea Party officeholders, who hate governing authorities except when they are the governing authorities. But I digress.)

I invite you to read Brockman’s Observer piece, “How Texas Politicians Bungle the Bible,” by clicking here.

When you’re done reading it, however, please read Romans 12 (especially verses 9-21) here–a scripture that you’ll never in a million years hear a political conservative officeholder in Texas quoting.

I mean, when did you ever hear a politician in Texas quote Romans 12:16-17:

    “Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.”

Associate with the lowly? Don’t repay evil? Those are words that no Tea Party Republican is likely to quote, much less to live by.

When did you ever hear a conservative Texas officeholder quote a scripture that some Christians see as argument enough against the death penalty:

    “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Romans 13 has to be read as an extension of Romans 12.

Lord deliver us from those who use the Bible as a political whip.
——-
*David R. Brockman, Ph.D., a religious studies scholar and Christian theologian, is an adjunct lecturer in religion at Texas Christian University. He is the author of Dialectical Democracy through Christian Thought: Individualism, Relationalism, and American Politics.

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“I watched prairie dogs every day, rise before the sun, stand with their paws pressed together facing the rising sun in total stillness for up to 30 minutes, and then I watched them at the end of the day take that same gesture 30 minutes before the sun goes down they would press their palms together in perfect stillness.

“I don’t mean to anthropomorphize, but when you look at a creature that has survived over the millennium begin and end each day in that kind of stance, it causes one to think about one’s own life and speed and rapidity in which we live.”

Terry Tempest Williams

“The world given over to ignorance and egotism is like a valley shrouded in darkness. Only up on the peaks is there light.

“All must live in the darkness. Only one creature can escape and catch a glimpse of the light: the highest creature, man. He is permitted to achieve the knowledge of reverence for life. His is the privilege of achieving the knowledge of shared experience and compassion, of transcending the ignorance in which the rest of creation pines.

“And this understanding is the great event in the evolution of life. Through it truth and goodness appear in the world.” Light shines above the darkness.”

— Albert Schweitzer, from a 1919 sermon

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(Dr.) William Carlos Williams

(Dr.) William Carlos Williams

The physician and celebrated American poet William Carlos Williams (*see link down below) was a sort of poet of the people in that his poetry focused on the common lives of common people.

What I admire about him is that his poetry and interests in common folk included those poor people we still see today without really seeing–the “invisible people” of our times who are mopping the bathroom floors at Walmart or frying the fries in the hot kitchen at McDonald’s or the homeless women pushing their shopping carts on the streets.

My favorite poem of Williams’ is “Pastoral,” in which he so clearly sees what I see in my walks on the back streets and roads of Belize–houses cluttered with junk and outhouses (and outdoor showers with hoses if a family has any running water) and “furniture gone wrong.”

The poor are always with us.

So pay attention.

This is of vast import to your nation.

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Pastoral
by William Carlos Williams
(1883 – 1963)

When I was younger
it was plain to me
I must make something of myself.
Older now
I walk back streets
admiring the houses
of the very poor:
roof out of line with sides
the yards cluttered
with old chicken wire, ashes,
furniture gone wrong;
the fences and outhouses
built of barrel staves
and parts of boxes, all,
if I am fortunate,
smeared a bluish green
that properly weathered
pleases me best of all colors.
No one
will believe this
of vast import to the nation.

(from The Collected Poems of W.C. Williams, New Directions)

*More on the life and work of William Carlos Williams here.

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Lee Trevino: He was never one to hang out in the locker room playing paddy-cake with Arnie and the boys.

Lee Trevino: He was never one to hang out in the locker room playing paddy-cake with Arnie and the boys.

All in all I’d rather be at the big, lush-green, flowery giant that is the golf course at Augusta in Georgia for the final round of the Masters.

As a lifelong fan and sometimes very good and sometimes hack of a player of the game that so many people (understandably) find as exciting as watching grass grow, the Masters ranks right up there in my book with the Super Bowl.

I grew up watching pro golf from the time that the likes of Nicklaus, Palmer and Gary Player of South Africa–not to mention characters like the easy-going old gentleman Sam Snead of West Virginia and the hyper-colorful Puerto Rican Chi Chi Rodriguez–were featured on black-and-whte TV.

They were as much my sports heroes as Micky Mantle and Yogi were in baseball, and Sam Huff and Frank Gifford and Bob Lilly and Don Meredith and “Bullet Bob” Hayes were in football.

I always liked that golf was the most international sport in the world. (Players in contention at the Masters today include a 58-year-old German and a rising young star from Japan and so many others young and old from around the world. Tiger, by the way, did not play this year and is very much not missed with so many great young players like Jordan Spieth dominating the game and the major tournaments now.)

Like Trevino, today's rising young golf star Jordan Spieth--who has the potential to dominate the Masters Golf Tournament like no one since my golf hero Jack Nicklaus, is from Dallas.

Like Trevino, today’s rising young golf star Jordan Spieth–who has the potential to dominate the Masters Golf Tournament like no one since my golf hero Jack Nicklaus, is from Dallas.

Then along came Lee Trevino, the happy Dallas street hustler who grew up taking well-to-do Dallas golfers to the cleaners with his trick shots, unconventional but effective golf swing, and a whole lot of rebel attitude.

As the great Dallas sports writer Blackie Sherrod once said, Trevino was “not one to hang around the locker room after a round playing paddy-cake with Jack and Arnie and the boys.”

I remember following Trevino around at what was then the PGA’s Houston Open tournament a hundred years ago, when Trevino was at the top of his game and drawing huge galleries by bantering with his followers.

I remember him hitting a drive and walking down the fairway while a heavily intoxicated white man in the gallery staggered along heckling him, throwing a tense damper on the fun.

“Come on you g——- Mescan,” the drunk slurred.

Trevino just kept walking along near the rope toward his ball in the fairway, dead-eyeing the heckler with an icy stare but much admirable restraint. Somebody from golf officialdom, along with a Houston Police Officer, quickly came along (thank God) and ushered him off the course.

Trevino just went back to his game like the classy professional that he is and all golfers tend to be.

It’s another reason I always loved the game. It’s pretty much exclusively for ladies and gentlemen who respect the game and each other, even if intense disagreements arise.

Trevino can call out golfers today for being “gutless” (which he’s done), and will gain far more respect than he’ll lose from any young turks who may indeed be a bit gutless.

Young turks in golf always defer to their elder champions.

Trevino has always been one of the classiest, most jovial and no-nonsense rebels in American sports.

And as longtime cultists here at the Cult of the Jitterbug know, no-nonsense rebels in any field, who “keep it real” with and do so with class, are my kind of folk. (Merle Haggard anybody?)

Here’s what Trevino had to say about the current crop of great but “gutless golfers” a few days before the current Masters–which Dallas boy Jordan Spieth (another classy golfer who definitely did not grow up a scrappy street hustler) is owning for the second year in a row–began:

    “If you go there now and try to use a cell phone they will kick you out, even if you are using it in the parking lot or on the driving range. The players can’t even use them on the driving range. Have you heard one of them complain yet? No, because they are gutless.” Trevino points out this acquiescence wouldn’t fly at other tournaments. “If they went to the U.S. Open and the U.S. Open told them they couldn’t use their cell phones on the driving range they would raise all kinds of hell. They’re scared to death.”

See the whole, very spicy enchilada of an interview Trevino had with a Memphis sports writer here while I go back to rooting for my man “Kid Jordan” Spieth.

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The weather in BZ has been so mild and sunny and breezy and energizing that I treated myself to a day at the beach.

With all those great Merle Haggard songs still in my head and unforgettable memories of the two nights I danced and while he played his great dance music.

What a vocalist. What a poet/storyteller. What commanding stage presence. What a complete musician.

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jesus-gun

Theocrats in the Tennessee Legislature seem hell-bent on making the Bible the “official state book of Tennessee.”

Their proposal to “officialize” the Holy Bible would place the sacred book as a symbol among such other symbols as–(no kidding):


— the raccoon (Tennessee’s state wild animal);

— the tomato (Tennessee’s official state fruit);

— the Large Mouth Bass (the state’s official fish);

— and the Barrett M82 (Tennessee’s recently adopted official state rifle–a .50-caliber sniper rifle and for more on its power and background see here).

So what’s wrong with this proposed law? Why should anyone care?

I’m glad you asked, because God spoke to me and deputized me to be your Answer Man on this nonsense today.

So praise Elvis and pass the grits while I explain.

By a vote of 19 to 8, the state senate has passed a bill that originated in the state House of Reps. It would simply “make the Holy Bible the official state book.” (See here for details and make note of this quote: “In solidly Republican Tennessee, heavy doses of God and guns are considered reliable election-year politics. The Bible bill came to a vote just days before the candidate filing deadline, giving lawmakers pause about being portrayed by political rivals as being opposed to the Bible if they voted against the bill..)

Supporters (including a handful of Democrats) say the measure recognizes the book’s unique role in American history.

Opponents, including some sensible Republicans and many of the state’s churches, church leaders and other religious bodies, say the move could make people of other faiths feel slighted.

Never mind how it would make people of no faith feel in a country where one is free, thank God, not to believe in God or put faith in the Bible.

Even Jesus was a free-will kind of guy.

Conservatives in Tennessee, who are all about Government over-reach, want to make this a state symbol alongside symbols like the state raccoon and state sniper rifle. Why didn't Texas think of this????

Conservatives in Tennessee, who are all about Government over-reach, want to make this a state symbol alongside symbols like the state raccoon and state sniper rifle. Why didn’t Texas think of this????

Even Tennessee’s very Republican Gov. Bill Haslam opposes this bill. The hitch is–he hasn’t said whether he’ll veto it.

“The Bible is the most important book in my life, and I think in the world,” Gov. Haslam told reporters last week. “But that’s very different than being the state’s official book.”

(NOTE TO GOV. HASLAM: I, for one, happen agree with your position wholeheartedly! So be a leader and just say you’ll veto it and then, veto it.)

One sensible Republican in clear opposition, state Sen. Ferrell Haile, is quoted as saying, “The Bible is a book of history, but it’s not a history book to be placed on a shelf. It’s to be lived out in the lives of believers.”

Again–this is a Republican conservative I agree with. Yet unlike the governor, he didn’t waffle in fighting it. Picture me giving him two big thumbs up. (Barry Goldwater, the great American freedom fighter and conservative icon who once said Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and the Christian Coalition could go to hell together, would be proud, I’m sure.)

As Sen. Haile points out, the Bible’s having a place in world and American history does not mean it’s a history book anymore than it’s a science book (and it is definitely not that either). It’s a HOLY book, a FAITH book, meant to be lived out (thank you again Sen. Haile for saying it!) by people of faith, not to be used for scoring political points from hypocrites in office who preach “family values” at every turn.

Hypocrites like the family-values governor of Alabama, currently fighting for his political life because of yet another political sex scandal. (Honestly, I take no delight in pointing out such hypocrisy. But it’s just astounding how frequently the guilty dogs always preach family values the loudest, isn’t it?)

Opponents say the proposed Bible law also raises a lot of questions, like which translation of so many translations would be the official one? Catholics use a version of the Bible that is a far cry from the old King James version that so many Protestants in the Bible Belt seem to think was writ by Jesus. (A Catholic bishop is among those state religious leaders is not happy about this bill, btw. See here for one reason why.)

And while supporters say they have Jewish friends who have no problem with this kind of junk legislation, their few Jewish friends are hardly representative of most Jews and Jewish leaders in Tennessee and across the country. As in, not representative of any practicing Jews of any significant number.

Of course, nobody cares what peace-loving American Muslims among us might think, except those of us who love and cherish American freedom and liberty and don’t believe God, the Bible or Christianity need protection from the Tennessee Government against Muslims, Jews who don’t believe Christ is the Messiah, non-believers or, for that matter, me.

I’m not a resident of Tennessee but if I were I wouldn’t need the state’s Big, over-reaching Government diddling with my religion and the constitution.

* * *

What I hope is obvious to most Americans is that the proposed law is unconstitutional on the face of it. But ultra-right conservative leaders in so many of America’s state capitols, not to mention in the nation’s capitol, are all for the Constitution—except when they’re against it.

When it comes to guns and God, they’re always plenty willing and ready to play loose with it.

Seriously, my friends.

I am opposed, and passionately so (in case you didn’t pick up on that), to this nonsense, if only because I love and cherish God’s word and don’t want it cheapened and trivialized like it’s some some kind of state raccoon, fruit, fish or rifle by the kind of people who think St. Augustine is a kind of grass that makes for pretty lawns in Southern Living magazine.

I just hope and pray that the theocrats leading the state of Texas these days don’t follow the lead of Tennessee–which honestly is one of my favorite of all American states–that gave us the infamous monkey trials back in one of American history’s Darker Ages.

Tennessee's state rifle. (Capitol City Arms Supply owner Steve Swartz shows off a Barrett .50-caliber rifle in Springfield, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File, taken from The Washington Post)

Tennessee’s state rifle. (Capitol City Arms Supply owner Steve Swartz shows off a Barrett .50-caliber rifle in Springfield, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File, taken from The Washington Post)

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