Texans don’t trust government, so they rescued each other

Ken Jacobs carries 5-year-old Astrid Galperin from a rescue boat on Thursday. Jacobs, who is operations director for a kayak tour/rental business in Houston, was one of many everyday residents who played a role in rescue efforts. John Taggart For The Washington Post

Kevin Sullivan and Peter Holley describe an “unprecedented do-it-yourself relief effort that came to define Hurricane Harvey. After the storm blew into Houston, a remarkable network of boat owners with smartphones, worried neighbors with laptops and digital wizards with mapping software popped up to summon and support an army of good Samaritans who motored, rowed and waded into dangerous waters to save family, friends and total strangers.”

“The ‘We the People’ response seemed distinctly Texan, an outgrowth of the state’s almost genetic disinclination to rely on the government for anything – and in some cases, resolute willingness to defy it. Just as some Texans defied mandatory evacuation orders ahead of the storm, many rescuers ignored repeated official warnings to stay off streets flooded with treacherous and fast-flowing waters.”

To read entire Star-Telegram story, click HERE.


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High-End Steakhouse Meals for Houston’s Heroes

First responders sit down for an extraordinary free meal at B&B Butchers and Restaurant.

Ben Berg’s house flooded waist-high last Sunday. After settling his family with friends, Berg’s next order of business was to open his popular steakhouse, B&B Butcher and Restaurant, as a feeding station for first responders.

He opened B&B Butchers with a special three-course menu with generous selections offered free to Houston’s heroes. The tableside service was offered throughout the weekend during which he had fed steak and salmon dinners to more than 200 police officers as of Saturday afternoon.

For the first responders who could not make it to the restaurant, Berg and his staff have continued to prepare and deliver hot meals — more than 2,000 through Saturday — to the sheriff’s department and the neighboring fire and police stations.

“Although I am exhausted trying to move forward after my own family’s losses, I am dedicated to feeding these brave men and women who have risked their lives for Houstonians, including myself, over the past several days,” Berg said in a statement. “I created this menu because I wanted the first responders who could get away to come in, sit down, be waited on, and just feel really appreciated.”

To read Shelby Hodge’s complete Paper City Mag story, click HERE.

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Joy as an act of defiance

Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr., Bono and the Edge. Photo by Sam Jones, New York Times

It appears at a moment when popular culture is gathering its spirit of righteousness and resistance — a moment that could well be suited to U2, whose pealing guitars and martial beats have, through the years, become rock’s sonic signature of idealism. “Songs of Experience” merges personal reflections with tidings from the wider world, and it calls for compassion, empathy and rectitude. “The wickedness in the world, we just let it perforate the album,” Bono said. “But it still had to be a very personal album, not a polemic.”


“You’re putting out a song about your girlfriend when the world is on fire?,” Bono asked, anticipating one reaction. “Yes. Joy is an act of defiance.”


Many of the songs, Bono said, are like letters addressed to specific recipients: his family, his friends, the audience, America. Above all, the new album posits “joy as an act of defiance,” Bono said. “That’s the heart of rock ’n’ roll, that’s its life force.”


“What’s the difference between ‘Innocence’ and “Experience’?” Bono said. “The core of ‘Innocence’ to me is a lyric from our second album, which says, ‘I can’t change the world, but I can change the world in me.’ The core of ‘Experience’ is — and this is cheeky! — ‘I can change the world, but I can’t change the world in me.’ And so you realize that the biggest obstacle in the way is yourself. There are things to rail against, and there are things that deserve your rage, and you must plot and conspire to overthrow them. But the most wily and fearsome of your enemies is going to turn out to be yourself. And that’s experience.”

To read an entire New York Times article, click HERE

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Faith moves ‘Mattress Mack’ to shelter Hurricane Harvey victims

Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale answers the telephone at his original Gallery Furniture store in Houston on Sept. 2, 2017. RNS photo by Bobby Ross Jr.

“My faith defines me. It’s who I am,” Jim “Mattress Mike” McIngvale told Religion News Service. “How am I going to let my people drown? It’s as simple as that. I’m not going to let my people drown.”

McIngvale dispatched Gallery Furniture trucks to pick up victims. He opened his stores as emergency shelters, offering food, mattresses and clean restrooms to hundreds of evacuees and Texas Army National Guard troops.

He turned his stores into collection sites for disaster relief items, posted a “Pray for Texas” video on his Facebook page that received nearly 3.9 million views, and garnered heartfelt thanks and lifelong customers.

In the wake of Harvey, McIngvale said he has seen God at work.

“The best thing about this whole tragedy is the people helping each other and putting all of the left-wing and right-wing politics aside and caring about people, not about politics,” he said.

McIngvale believes Houston’s struggle will strengthen its spirit.

“This tremendous flood of biblical proportions brought this entire city together, and people aren’t fighting and bickering; they’re working with each other and opening the door for each other.”

Houstonians are acting the way Pope John Paul II had inspired people to act, he added.

“They’re loving each other. That’s the way it ought to be all the time.”

To read entire RNS story, click HERE

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U2 to Houston: Anything is possible when you work together as one

U2 in Detroit last night. “You can put a man on the moon or rescue people out of the flood water, anything is possible when you work together as one,” said Bono, dedicating “One” to the city of Houston and raising money for Red Cross flood relief. “With Hurricane Harvey, you discovered who you are and what America is.” (Photo by Stephanie Norton)

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Jimmy Buffett: A Pirate at 70. The musician’s buoyant new biography sings

By Jonathan Miles

I once stumped Jimmy Buffett by calling him a saint. This was many years ago, somewhere in Texas, when during an interview I offhandedly deemed him the patron saint of beach bars. With an easy, elfin laugh Buffett demurred, saying he’d been called a lot of things over the years—but never a saint. (“Commit a little mortal sin,” he once sang. “It’s good for the soul.”) I still stand, however, by my canonization of Saint Jimmy: patron saint of beachfront dives, for sure, but also hammocks, blenders, cabin cruisers, rum hangovers, flip-flops, tropical-print shirts, and the idyll of hedonistic inertia. Millions look to Buffett and his music for what can only be called spiritual guidance, watching his stage shows with that “spindrift gaze toward paradise,” to crib from Hart Crane, relying on Buffett to point the way.

Read review HERE

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Thoughts on Discipleship from a Marine Conservationist

As a deep lover of the ocean, I was intrigued that Christianity Today, the widely-respected evangelical magazine of record, posted a beautifully insightful article from Cara Daneel, a South African marine biologist. Here are a few paragraphs:

“Christians are not strangers to working with the complexities and resistances of the heart. Robert Sluka, a marine biologist working for the Christian conservation organization A Rocha, first introduced me to this synergy between environmental education and faith. Addressing a room full of secular conservation scientists in Cambridge, United Kingdom, he said, “In a way, you are evangelists too! You have a message you believe is important, knowledge you believe should change how people live, and you face obstacles as you try and help the people you are approaching.”

“As I’ve read about environmental education, I have been drawn to think of Jesus as the perfect teacher and changer of hearts. God fully entered into our context and gave us, by his love, the ultimate motivation to change our lives. Further, Jesus’ winsome example—his humility, compassion, and sacrifice—teach us how to reach out relationally to those around us. As a conservationist, this insight shapes my approach to community projects. As a Christian, it goes even further than this.”


“My time caring for just a tiny fraction of God’s world has helped me to praise him and challenged the way I had separated him from his creation,” she concludes. “Let us enjoy time in God’s presence through his works and declare our identities as children of the creator God by including stewardship issues in what we pray for and talk, sing, care, and preach about.”

To read the full article, click HERE.

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George Jones, sad songs, and country music

I was sitting at the bar in Tootsies Orchid Lounge in Nashville on the day of George Jones’ funeral. I was the guy sobbing and gripping on to a PBR for dear life. I’m not even a country nut; I’m a retro punker who fell in love with gut-wrenching honest music –  the kind of stuff Johnny Cash sang about: Love, God, and Murder.

Journalist Terry Mattingly pointed me in the direction of an essay by Rod Dreher about Sad Songs and the South. He was riffing off of Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast King of Tears about songwriter Bobby Braddock. Gladwell’s podcast is fascinating as it differentiates between country and rock music. I am eagerly wanting Gladwell to do a follow up on the connection between the southern blues and the West Virginian coal miners — they never had 4O1K’s, but they had audacious truth, they had dirt under the fingernails, they had a rag-tag community link that cared for widows and snot-nosed kids. They did wrong — but they knew it. They did not try to psychologize it away. They knew they were guilty – and in need of redemption.

In the South, the juke joints are packed and sweaty on Saturday night, but the altars are packed in the clapboard churches on Sunday morning — a realistic rhythm of life, sin and redemption all in one motion.

I like old country. The fearless honesty of country songs is the kind of self-revelation that gets a respectable man or woman fired from a job, but it is the kind of song that those same people listen to on a transistor radio while they are working in the garage or preparing supper.

Theologically, it is also the kind of Southern Protestant version of the confessional. There is no veil between the priest and the sinner. There is only a microphone and a heart laid bare. Bloody authenticity, the smoking gun, the shameful guilt, the fingerprinting at the jail — all out there for the world to see.

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An armada of good ol’ boys

Got a little emotional behind an armada of high water trucks and boats who are led by their better angels to help the stranded, wet, and hurting.

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Hurricane Harvey

There is no way to adequately describe the ferociousness of Harvey except catastrophic. Evacuees wade down a flooded section of Interstate 610 as floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey rise Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

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