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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Remembering Michael Cromartie


With so many others, I am saddened to hear of the passing of a joyful old friend, Michael Cromartie. For a few years in the late 1980s, I worked as his research assistant in Washington D.C. It was a long time ago, but the memories are bright and cherished. All the nice things that people are saying were true – even back then. He had an infectious intellectual curiosity to go with that smile – and an unbounding desire for civil engagement about the consequential issues of life and great ethical debates. Whenever we’d conclude a colloquium, Mike would pull out two glasses and a bottle from his desk drawer and want to rehash the entire event as we sipped. He had a zest for the jousting of competing ideas. Although his profession was discussing big thoughts, his greatest love was reserved for his family and the Good Lord. My condolences to Jennifer, Ethan, Eric, and Heather. See ya on the other side of the Jordan, Mike.

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Heartbreaking Navy losses

Heartbreaking & unnecessary to lose these young Navy sailors.

ABC News: “While each of these four incidents is unique, they cannot be viewed in isolation,” said Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Analysts said the two latest accidents are especially sobering, especially at a moment when U.S. warships occasionally patrol the disputed South China Sea to the consternation of Beijing, and President Donald Trump has swapped threats with North Korea’s leader, putting nations across Asia on edge.


The Navy has ordered an “operational pause,” which Blaxland said makes sense “to explore what on Earth is happening.”

Though the investigation into the McCain collision has only just begun, analysts say there are many possible causes, including crew fatigue, command shortfallings, radar malfunctions, software glitches and even jammed signals that might have prevented the warship from detecting obstacles.

Read full article HERE

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Solar Eclipse elation

For my generation, The Jetson’s helped create a technological imagination of what could be. For a different generation, inebriated with gadgets, the Solar Eclipse helped create a cosmological wonder of what always has been.

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