What’s Wrong with the World

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When this blog was brand new (several months back) our esteemed editor, Paul Cella, posted a piece referring to conservatives as "the party of grateful men." I think that's quite right and have recently been reminded of some perhaps rather unusual things for which to be grateful.

In particular, it occurs to me that I have a special personal duty to be grateful to all the people who created and who continue to maintain the culture of Baptist and other Protestant evangelical Christianity. While I am now a continuing Anglican of low-church sympathies, my upbringing was entirely, even aggressively fundamentalist Protestant, and I've not entirely lost touch with it. As things presently stand, that culture provides me with most of my closest physically-present friends.

Recently we were privileged to have some of these friends over--a very large and very musical family.

The father of the family is a pianist who can improvise and pick up almost any tune. We spent the evening singing everything we could think of, until we had to let them go home, from hymns to folk tunes to gospel. We sang the "Amazing Grace" words that go to the tune of "Danny Boy" and, of course, the real "Amazing Grace." We sang entirely light things like "I'll Fly Away," with jazzy improv from the piano. We sang "Like a River Glorious" and other old hymns, but plenty of gospel as well. (The gospel and contemporary sound dominated that particular evening, because this same family comes to our hymn sings every other month, at which we sing only hymns. So we do something a little different when we have them over alone.) It was a wonderful evening.

At one point the other family sang a number my family has heard only from them, called "So Many Lambs," about Christ as the Passover lamb. And as they finished, the style being similar, I started up the old Andrae Crouch number "The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power." It was somewhere along in here that I started to hear, in the back of my mind, the priest saying, "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, therefore let us keep the feast." I saw him turning around in Easter white with the Host in his hands and saying, "Behold the Lamb of God. Behold Him who taketh away the sin of the world." And when the other family sang, "His blood was not just blood, it was precious blood," I heard, "The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ which was shed for thee, preserve thy body and soul into everlasting life."

Now, it would be fatally, horribly easy to feel smug under those circumstances. Ha! I have it all: I can sing gospel songs about the blood, and I go to church on Sunday mornings and believe that I receive grace by drinking a sip of wine. One group of Christians doesn't "get" the other group, but I understand and appreciate them both.

But that wasn't the feeling. Rather, the sense was one of gratitude. Indeed, I have so much. Look what Our Lord has given: He has given music, the talent of so many who have written so many different kinds of songs and can play and sing them, the talent of so many who wrote and translated the liturgy. He gives me friends who humble me by their entire and untainted devotion to Himself and who show by example how to communicate that devotion to our children. He gave us His Son, who was delivered up for our offences and raised again for our justification. And He gives His own strength and grace in bread and wine.

For more hymn and music stuff from time to time, plus other odd thoughts, political and otherwise, see Extra Thoughts (the provisional title of my personal blog)

Comments (9)

If I ever come to visit, will you throw in an Ave Maria just for me?

The title of that blog has got to change, btw. I suggest a contest among readers to provide you with ideas. If there's a prize to the winner, I might even participate.

Would you believe I don't know any Ave Marias? Just have heard them. Years back I was going to sing for Christmas Eve service, and my old priest at the time (who was a real musician, but couldn't play the organ for services because he was busy being the priest) said, "You should sing Cherubini's Ave Maria." I had to tell him I didn't know it. I don't know who he thought was going to play accompaniment, anyway. So I sang "Sweet Little Jesus Boy," I think, a cappella, instead.

What prize should I offer to the person who comes up with a better personal blog name? An electronic copy of an epistemology paper or perhaps of a bunch of phonics lists and notes for teaching little kids to read? I have those. My husband has a huge number of electronic pages of notes on the history of apologetics...

Those don't sound like very inspiring prizes, I guess.


I like to ask people with a love for music how it all started. They most often say that a family member introduced them.

Gratitude for dialogue, anyone? When hearts can sing together they can talk together.

This morning I'm grateful for the peaceful silence in the room as we work. The children are to be quiet while they study, and send questions via e-mail. I distinctly remember working on penmanship in second grade and enjoying the collective silence in concentration.

I was more or less born singing. We had no car in my early childhood, and I used to stand on _extremely_ cold Chicago street corners waiting for the bus at some age like 3 and keep myself warm by making up songs that I thought were like the hymns in church. Baptists, of course, are great singers, and I was taken to a Baptist church from infancy. My mother also used to teach me hymns and choruses over the roar of the "L" train on long rides around the city to do this or that. Now I suppose some large unpleasant person would yell at her for it, but at the time I don't remember that anyone even gave us funny looks. By the time she had surgery for polyps on her vocal chords and was unable to carry a tune forever after, I was already well-launched. And when I was bored and whiny, I would be given the radio to help entertain me--WMBI, Moody Broadcasting network. Hymns and Bible reading and such all day long. I gave my parents no peace until they started me on piano lessons at 6 1/2, though no one else in the family could play an instrument.

A voice is born.

The piano tuner is here today. I am grateful for tuners of all sorts.

Heraclitus was a tuner. My Ancilla to the Pre-Socratic Philosophers attributes to him the following: "That which is in opposition is in concert, and from things that differ comes the most beautiful harmony . . . harmony consists of opposing tension, like that of the bow and the lyre."

Heraclitus didn't get it all right. But he's right on the money when it comes to the sun: "the breadth of a man's foot." This one too: "Dogs bark at those whom they do not recognize."

Do tuners become aphoristic? St. Paul was a great tuner who understood true gratitude. Without gratitude that extends beyond ordinary appreciation for nice things, life is out of tune.

My fav has got to be the anglican hymn, 'Dear Lord and Father of Mankind.' Listen to the soldiers singing it at Dunkirk in the most remarkable scene from the brilliant movie 'Atonement' (a fascinating book, written by Ian McEwan, an atheist, yet blatantly christian in ethos)


Well, I'll be darned. I don't know that tune. In the 1940 hymnal the tune to "Dear Lord and Father" is quite different, and it's never been one I especially liked--one of those penitential hymns we sing in Lent. I don't know the movie, either. Did those guys in the scene just get brought back from Dunkirk, or are they still on the wrong side of the English Channel hoping to make it? What's the Ferris Wheel thing in the background? (Sorry to be so ignorant.)

They just arrived on the beach and are trying to find out how to get a boat home. I don't know why the Ferris wheel is there, effect I guess. A minute later you see some guy hanging from it. The movie itself is British and just released, so it might not be out in America yet.

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