October 19, 2017

Saturday Ramblings: February 27, 2016

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1950 Nash Rambler Airflyte Convertible Landau

February has been a traditional month for auto shows and car shopping. Wouldn’t it be great if you could walk into a showroom today and buy one of these beauties?

We’ll have to settle for rambling ’round the internet today, but as we do I’ll be imagining myself in this brilliant blue Landau, top down, wind in my face, cogitatin’ on my philosophy of life as the countryside flies by. It’s a thoughtful time of the year, and today Charlie Brown will help us think together about the meaning of life.

Whatever it is, I hope it has a 1950 Nash Rambler Airflyte Convertible Landau waiting for me!

12744530_697204447086843_1080691206405425068_nSBC missions cuts. The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention announced that 983 missionaries and 149 US staff have accepted the IMB’s offer of voluntary early retirement or resignation, cutting their missions force to 1993 levels.

This is more severe than president David Platt had predicted back in November, when the mission’s cost-saving decisions led CT to question whether or not this might signal the imminent end of the traditional model of the full-time missionary.

Platt, however, sees this as a temporary measure that will make the SBC mission force even stronger in the future. “The stage is now set financially, organizationally and spiritually for IMB to work with Southern Baptist churches to create exponentially more opportunities for disciple making and church planting among unreached peoples around the world,” stated Platt in IMB’s press release. “IMB is committed to a future marked by faithful stewardship, operational excellence, wise evaluation, ongoing innovation and joyful devotion to making disciples and multiplying churches among the unreached.”

charlie-brown-comic-cute-happiness-happy-Favim.com-278597 Super Bloom in Death Valley. According to a recent release by the National Park Service, the desert this year is blooming like a rose.

Their statement says: “There are unusually dense displays of wildflowers in several areas of Death Valley National Park. Triggered by a series of storms in October, the current flower display is the best the park has experienced in a decade.”

Death Valley is the hottest place on the planet, and only averages about two inches of rain each year. When the area does get more rain in cooler months some years, wildflower seeds sprout and may lay dormant for a long time, even years. When conditions become just right, they then bloom.

Some people are calling the current wildflower display a “super bloom.” The NPS statement quotes Park Ranger Alan Van Valkenburg, who has lived in Death Valley for 25 years. According to the ranger,  “I’m not really sure where the term ‘super bloom’ originated, but when I first came to work here in the early 1990s I kept hearing the old timers talk about super blooms as a near mythical thing–the ultimate possibility of what a desert wildflower bloom could be. I saw several impressive displays of wildflowers over the years and always wondered how anything could beat them, until I saw my first super bloom in 1998. Then I understood. I never imagined that so much life could exist here in such staggering abundance and intense beauty.”

Park rangers are posting regular updates about wildflowers to www.nps.gov/deva and www.facebook.com/DeathValleyNP. Here is a video showing some of the astounding beauty.

8798674d3970b982e2ccf8a03f16c88eChallenger engineer fights guilt. NPR ran a poignant story about guilt and forgiveness this week.

Bob Ebeling, a former engineer for shuttle contractor Morton Thiokol had joined four colleagues on Jan. 27, 1986 to try and keep the Space Shuttle Challenger grounded. They argued for hours that the launch the next morning would be the coldest ever. Freezing temperatures, their data showed, stiffened rubber O-rings that keep burning rocket fuel from leaking out of the joints in the shuttle’s boosters.

However, NASA and Thiokol executives dismissed the data and ordered that the launch proceed. About a minute after liftoff, Challenger exploded in the sky, killing seven astronauts. The cause? Cold weather and O-ring failure.

For thirty years, Bob Ebeling has carried the guilt of what happened that morning.

“That was one of the mistakes God made,” Ebeling, now 89, told NPR’s Bob Berkes at his home in Brigham City, Utah. “He shouldn’t have picked me for that job. But next time I talk to him, I’m gonna ask him, ‘Why me? You picked a loser.’ “

An earlier NPR story about Ebeling and the guilt he feels inspired public radio listeners to flood the engineer’s home with emails and letters of encouragement. Over and over again people affirmed the good job he did in informing the decision-makers and trying to warn them off a launch.

But Bob Ebeling just couldn’t feel forgiven. No matter what anyone else said to him, he had never heard from his employers or supervisors affirming his work. His daughter Kathy noted that neither Thiokol nor NASA had contacted her dad since deep depression prompted his retirement shortly after the Challenger disaster. “He’s never gotten confirmation that he did do his job and he was a good worker and he told the truth,” Kathy said.

But then, because of the NPR stories, Ebeling heard from Allan McDonald, who was Ebeling’s boss at the time and a leader of the effort to postpone the launch. Then he received a phone call from Robert Lund, another key participant in the launch decision and Thiokol’s vice president for engineering at the time. Then, a note came from George Hardy, a deputy director of engineering at the Marshall Spaceflight Center, which supervised Thiokol’s production of the shuttle’s booster rockets. Finally, he heard from NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, a former astronaut.

NPR’s Berkes reports what these contacts have meant to Bob Ebeling:

Ebeling is now more buoyant than at any time I’ve seen or talked to him in the past 30 years. It’s been a rough three decades, and it hasn’t gotten any easier. He’s near the end of his predicted life expectancy for prostate cancer and has hospice care at home. He said he’ll pray for God’s assessment once our interview ends.

I asked him one more question. “What would you like to say to all the people who have written you?”

“Thank you,” he said. “You helped bring my worrisome mind to ease. You have to have an end to everything.”

charlie-brown-wallpaper-quotesBoycott the “Worship Industry”? Jonathan Aigner says he will, and he encourages all of us to do so as well.

He’s had it with the church mimicking pop culture, letting money drive what churches sing, and falling into the trap of revering the celebrity “idols” it creates.

He believes the congregation’s voice should be front and center, not the praise band. He rejects the common acceptance of emotionalism through music as “worship.”

But he doesn’t think simply being a dissatisfied customer will change anything. So, Jonathan Aigner says:

…it’s time to speak up or move on. We must. Corporate worship is more important than programs for your family. It’s more important than your life group relationships. It’s theological at its very core, so the like-mindedness you sense may be shallower than you realize. We have to make ourselves heard. The industry’s chokehold is starving us of the vital nutrients we so desperately need, Word and Sacrament, and offering the empty carbs of commercial entertainment in its place. It’s killing us, and we’re consenting to the slow, agonizing death.

So I’m done with the worship industry. It’s not out of spite. It’s not out of false piety or sensationalism. It’s a matter of conscience. I can’t do it anymore.

I won’t buy their music. I won’t listen to their radio stations. I won’t go to their concerts. I won’t purchase their songbooks. I won’t attend or serve a church that does without speaking up.

So who’s with me?

peanuts-i-miss-my-dog

Today in music. Mark Knopfler is a musical hero of mine, a superb craftsman on the guitar and a painter of wonderful portraits in his songwriting.

The other night I watched a delightful Guitar Stories documentary on YouTube about Knopfler, organized around the six guitars that marked important transitions in his career.

monteleone-300x210The sixth and final guitar was handcrafted for Mark Knopfler by one of the world’s great luthiers, John Monteleone of Long Island.

In the documentary, the guitarist tells of communications he had from the guitar maker while his instrument was being crafted. Monteleone would end his notes with simple, quaint sayings: “The chisels are calling…” and “It’s time to make sawdust…” etc.

Knopfler ended up writing a delicate, captivating tribute to John Monteleone. Today’s video is a live performance of this song from 2009.

Comments

  1. Dan from Georgia says:

    Kudos for the Mark Knopfler/Dire Straits inclusion! My dad’s favorite group!

    • Dire Straits’ “Love Over Gold” and Knopfler’s “Sailing to Philadelphia” are two of my favorite albums. Great storytelling set to music.

  2. Christiane says:

    Lovely music! . . . nice to hear something so gentle and moving after a week of bloody-heck out on the political scene . . . I’m for not watching political news for a while (or at least until I vote next Tuesday, silly me) . . .

    time out . . . we all need time out . . . winter is here, and the forecast is storm and snow-thunder

    Lovely music you bring us, Chaplain Mike . . . a respite in the storm . . . thanks

    as for the ‘worship-music’ industry . . . if it has driven many older people away from the Church, it’s really not about ‘worship’, is it? I didn’t think so either.

    Folks need to get over coming to Church to be entertained . . . worst thing I ever heard of . . . being ‘entertained’ instead of doing the ‘work of the people’ in a setting called ‘sanctuary’

    . . . no wonder evangelicals are tripping all over themselves to support a wannabe Entertainer-in-Chief, he of the ancient clan Drumpf . . . have these evangelicals been conditioned in their Churches to forever react as an ‘audience’ looking to be amused? ( when reality finally sets in, may someone hide the nuclear codes before the first executive temper tantrum or the Drama King might just entertain us right into Kingdom Come)

    • I heard Trump say the most absurdly ridiculous thing in an interview on CNN after the debate the other night. He said that the IRS’s audits (I guess there have been several) of him could be the result of religious persecution–they may be targeting him, he said, because it’s so well known that he’s a “strong Christian”. I actually laughed out loud! Now, that’s entertainment!

      • More and more, Trump seems like a malignant version of the character Peter Sellers played in the film Being There.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Being_There

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        The Anointed One topped that this morning.

        “Vows to open up libel laws if elected.”
        “When they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win.”
        “Sue like you’ve never been sued before.”
        (And Trump has used SLAAP suits in the past in attempts to silence anything negative about himself.)

        And the Christians marvel, saying “Who is Like Unto the Trump? Who can stand against Him?”

      • I heard that, too! I couldn’t believe he’d said and that the interviewer let that go without comment or further questioning! And I haven’t seen or heard anyone else calling him out on that either.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          They don’t want to get sued.

          And the Christianese demographic laps it up and cheers.
          “STICK IT TO THOSE LIBRUL HEATHEN MEDIA!”

          • As you’ve said, HUG, fear breeds respect, or something close enough to it for Trump’s purposes.

        • The interviewer was Chris Cuomo, son to Mario Cuomo, the deceased former Governor of New York State, and brother to Andrew Cuomo, the current Governor of New York State. CNN is not known for the on air bravery of its interview(er)s.

  3. senecagriggs yahoo says:
  4. What a gorgeous auto!

    The stage is now set financially, organizationally and spiritually for IMB to work with Southern Baptist churches to create exponentially more opportunities for disciple making and church planting among unreached peoples around the world. Unfortunately, that sentence contains pretty much everything wrong with SBC leadership in the last couple of decades.

    Ah, yes, the good old ol’ worship wars. Thanks, Jonathan Aigner, for rallying the troops. Please lead us all onward to real authenticity.

  5. Pain and heaviness
    in mind and body, but the
    cat still wants to play.

  6. If for nothing else, I’d visit iMonk on Saturdays just to see the lastest Nash/Rambler picture. ;o)

    • With next to next to no interest in or knowledge of cars, I give those pictures only the most cursory glance.

      Lol.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        You obviously never grew up in California in the Sixties/Seventies, the peak of California car/hotrod culture.

        (Though by no stretch of the imagination could you call a Nash Rambler a hotrod…)

        • Richard Hershberger says:

          I did in fact grow up in California in the 1960s and 70s. I find the fixation on cars mysterious. A car is an appliance, like a dish washer or washing machine. Then again some people fixate on those, too.

          • The view of a car as an appliance only is not uncommon. And yet to some it’s so much more than a means of transportation. It can be a way of expressing oneself. It can be a therapeutic hobby, a way to rest. Cars can be the source of one’s livelihood. They can even be a way of relating to others across generational barriers.

          • @John: Yes, of course. Many people love their cars. But to me, cars have always been nothing more than a necessary evil, and a big pain in the ass.

          • Why drive a car, when you can drive a jeep?

            ’01 XJ, 3″ rough country lift, OR-FAB rock slider bumpers, Mickey Thompson 33s

          • @Robert F: I understand your perspective even if I don’t share it. Sometimes I have people with a similar idea of cars come to me for purchasing advice and I recommend them the most appliance-like hassle free cars I can think of. Hopefully I’m able to at least point them in the direction of a product that meets their needs.

      • Robert, when I was in elementary school, 1968-68, my parents were active in the Antique Car Club of America. Dad’s first restoration was a 1918 T. I helped with sanding between paint coats. Their trophy car was a 1908 Brush–wooden axles and a “mother-in-law” seat; a true “horseless carriage”. I have ridden in Nash’s built in the 19-teens. Nash was originally a carriage maker–as were most of the early automobile manufacturers. My “modern” favorites are DeSoto’s built in the ’50’s.

        • Excuse me…after 2 glasses of wine some of my neurons don’t synapse properly…

          I have also ridden in DeSoto’s made in the teens and 20’s, but my last sentence should have read;

          “My “modern” favorites are Studebakers built in the ’50’s.”

    • Now, if only we could find a reason for Studebaker pictures.

  7. The creek is narrow,
    its waters run brown, but the
    ducks don’t seem to mind.

  8. Saturday morning-
    bright sun, blue sky and cold air-
    winter’s milder face.

    • Lilac bush in leaf,
      life surging from dry gray canes-
      spring ever nearer.

      Doing some clean-up gardening today. My lilac makes me happy, even when it’s sleeping in winter.

      Dana

  9. Thanks for the tale of forgiveness and encouragement for the Thiokol engineer. I work in satellite operations, and dread making the wrong call someday. Our bird has no people aboard, so there’s no threat to life, just the careers of a few hundred users and taxpayer dollars and science. It was launched in 1999 from the space shuttle, and I remember some of the senior people saying it was horrible watching people put their lives at risk to launch their instrument.

    • I remember some of the senior people saying it was horrible watching people put their lives at risk to launch their instrument.

      Too bad that a major news outlet doesn’t do a scathing report on how Congress mandated such a stupid way to get to orbit. It wasn’t what NASA wanted to do after Apollo but it was the only way Congress would keep giving them money.

  10. So who’s with me?

    I’ve been there a long time, all my life, actually. I’m afraid that you’re the one who’s late to the party.

    • I guess I’ve been there for a while. The worship album I listened to this week by Jars of Clay was purchased almost 15 years ago. I couldn’t tell you who is hot in worship music (how bizarre did that just sound?). I looked at my music player this week (RUSH, Primus, Pearl Jam, Green Day, Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Cure, etc); the only Christian music on there right now is “Live Fireworks” (if you know what that is, it’s time for your “diabee-tis” checkup). I was actually wrestling a little bit over why I wasn’t listening to more Christian music, and the only answer I came up with was that the image of god portrayed in Christian music is so diminutive. It’s fluff and emotion, not inspiration. The only great example of exemplary worship music I could come up with was that of J.S. Bach, or perhaps Brahms (who was heavily influenced by Bach). The God of Bach is beautiful, complex, and soaring.

      It is better to listen to great secular music than bad Christian music, because bad Christian music will make you an atheist a whole lot faster than listening to Gwar. Somewhere in the foodchain, bad Christian music comes from bad theology – a bad, idolatrous, distorted image of God.

      • Dan from Georgia says:

        +10 for the GWAR reference.

        JK, actually I don’t follow/listen to them, but I use them as a joke among myself and a co-worker!

        I tend to agree with you about listening to great secular music versus listening to bad Christian music.

        I will admit that there is some great music out there done by Christian musicians, as well as some great Christian music, but unfortunately most of what you hear on Christian radio is all produced in Nashville (hence a closed system with no outsiders allowed in), sounds the same, and lacks creativity. Those great Christian musicians, such as Sara Groves and Andrew Peterson, are RARELY if ever heard on Christian radio.

        And it is unfortunate that bad Christian music is what many believers (especially here in the Atlanta area with two nearly identical Christian radio stations) are exposed to. Most of it lacks depth in my opinion. Frankly, I love to hear well-written secular music, even if it is just about relationships, driving to the coast, or what-not. Christian radio? They can keep their “Jesus is my boyfriend” candy-coated existence. My own collection of music, a mix of secular AND Christian, is my playlist. My radio station. Picked by me.

      • For what it’s worth, I’m reading your post while listening to Breaking Benjamin, whose remarkably beautiful “Ashes of Eden” I just discovered recently.

        I checked out of CCM over 20 years ago — mostly because I’d discovered the beauty of EO choral music, Gregorian chant, etc., and it all seemed slightly deeper than, I dunno, Petra, say. That’s where great Christian music seems to reside, primarily, as far as I can tell — in classical forms, along with roots-type music such as Sacred Harp, Shaker hymnody, etc. There’s amazing stuff out there, though I think some of the worship vs. performance aspects still exist in those forms: Rach’s Vespers is performance music, not meant for an actual Vespers service. But at least they’re rich in content musically and lyrically and so feed the soul.

        Since then, I’ve expanded back to a lot of alternative rock (your playlist looks familiar to me) as well as some electronica recently. Whenever I’ve poked around to see what’s happening in CCM these days, I have this confusing feeling that concerts have become worship services and worship services have become concerts. I can’t tell whether I’m being sung to or whether I’m supposed to start taking estrogen so I can become a tenor to let me to sing along. I also get the strange sensation that for all of the noise over the latest hot stuff, it all sounds remarkably similar to that of 10 or 15 years ago. It’s a strange static phenomenon, shared to a degree with much of pop music, I think.

        All that said, there are people like John Mark McMillan and others who just make great Christian music. Just don’t wait to hear them on The Fish.*

        * I’ve said this before, but I once did a statistical analysis a few years ago on 35 or so hours of The Fish’s airplay. Finding: Fully 1 in 3 songs were either by Third Day, Casting Crowns, Chris Tomlin, or MercyMe. Anyone who thinks there’s no Christian-Industrial-Complex should ponder those numbers.

        • Dan from Georgia says:

          Nothing has changed in the last few years, except to add Toby Mac to that narrow playlist on the Fish, et al.

          My wife loves Chris Rice. Rarely heard here in the ATL. Great songwriter and lyricist.

        • You’re right, Christian Radio is the same 5 artists, every one who sounds like them, and bands that sound like someone popular on mainstream radio (witness the Mumford ripoffs for awhile there). Then again, that’s exactly what mainstream radio is right now: It’s mostly Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, Ed Sheerhan and people who sound like they could be Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, and Ed Sheerhan.

          Christian Radio’s sin isn’t necessarily part of some big cabal (Salem and KLOVE notwithstanding), but that it’s determined to play by the exact same rules as its mainstream counterparts. Find something that works and exploit it to death, then move on. 10 years ago everyone sounded like MercyMe and 3rd Day. 20 years ago it was Point of Grace and Amy Grant. Now it’s Hillsong and Chris Tomlin.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Don’t wait to hear what I heard last week at St Boniface on the Fish, either.

          Our processional (opening hymn) was music by Johann Sebastian Bach and lyrics by S Gregory the Great (sixth-century Pope and theologian).

      • I agree with what you say, except that GWAR wouldn’t be anywhere on my personal list of good music, secular or otherwise. Each to his own taste!

        • Dan from Georgia says:

          Agreed. I have seen pictures of GWAR and that is as far as I could go.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            GWAR has one thing that makes them different from all the other Over-the-Top Mess-with-Your-Mind Metal bands: They DON’T take themselves seriously. At all. No Important Message here (like Spinal Tap at Stonehenge), just Let’s Get WEIRD.

            According to the guy who first told me about GWAR, they started out as a Novelty Act by a band whose leader was into both Heavy Metal and Horror Show Prosthetics, and got weirder from there. Kind of like a hard-R GrimDark version of The Aquabats.

            Incidentally, the name “GWAR” does not mean “God, What a Racket!”. It was actually a contraction of the originally-much-longer nonsense name.

          • But I find GWAR’s music unpalatable.

      • I would agree with most of this.

        I have found, however, some wonderful Christian music still exists. There are two I would most recommend (among artists currently producing music).

        The first is Josh Garrels. Incredible lyrics (it usually takes a few listens to catch the meaning) and inventive music.

        The second is Gungor. Especially the cd, Ghosts upon the Earth. Utterly unlike anything you will hear on the radio, and wondrously beautiful.

    • I’ve been with you there for quite some time. I have come to HATE contemporary “worship” music. I love the congregation we’re part of and I love the people that do the music, BUT I HATE THE POP SHAIT and find it a never ending distraction that I would banish to orbit beyond Pluto…

  11. I’m so far removed from the worship music industry – Hillsong killed it for me. Loved it in it’s early days, though. I still have John Michael Talbot on my Pandora playlist, right up there with the Doors and Sinatra.

    • Dan from Georgia says:

      I love John Michael Talbot!

    • I gave up hope of finding anything of phenomenal quality in the Worship Business Industry. Right now it’s a mess of U2 ripoffs and late 2000s Indie ripoffs. The words are often nonsense: I challenge anyone to figure out what the crap Hillsong’s “Touch the Sky” is supposed to be about — and that song is everywhere.

      Liz Vice and Sandra McCracken are the only two I pay attention to anymore (Fernando Ortega, start recording again please!). Liz Vice is glorious soul/R&B music. Sandra has done a few albums based on Psalms. She also does kids albums under the title Rain for Roots. It’s all refreshingly unpretentious.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Maybe the Eighties music that’s been earworming me lately (Wall of Voodoo’s “Mexican Radio” and The Vapors’ “Turning Japanese”) isn’t so bad after all.

        The only CCM that I really liked were Don Francisco’s story ballads from the early Eighties. Now that guy was a master of taking Biblical narratives and recasting them in story-ballad form.

      • Dan from Georgia says:

        Back about 10 years or so ago it seemed like EVERY Christian musician was putting out a worship album (or, was required to put one out due to contractual obligations, and the fact that is was in vogue those days). Most of it was the SAME. STUFF. OVER. AND. OVER. AGAIN.

        Seriously, how hard can it be to write a worship song for the Worship Industry (TM)? …

        “Jesus, I want to praise you”…there, you have your “hit” worship song.

        You are free to use that lyric Mr. Tomlin if you are reading this.

        • I once heard the liberal evangelical (there’s surely only one of them!), Tony Campolo, speak. He posed a riddle: What’s the difference between praise music and machine-gun fire? Answer: A machine gun has only 100 rounds.

          But I do sort of wonder how much of our disgust for the “Jesus is my boyfriend” music is a reflection of age, not correct musical taste. (Though maybe those are the same thing.) A 20-year-old in our choir wants us to sing one of those “boyfriend” songs, and to please her we are probably going to do it. She loves it; we old folks find it icky but don’t say to in front of her.

          • H. Lee — And my experience is the opposite, that it’s the 60s and up crowd who like the icky music, and the young people who want hymns, Bach, plainchant, etc.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            The 60s and up crowd are trying to relive their Glory Days in the Jesus People movement.

            Just like 70-year-old ex-hippies trying to relive Woodstock.
            Groovy, Man!

          • Praise music = Geezer music (if the geezers in question came of age in the late 60s and the 70s)

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Seriously, how hard can it be to write a worship song for the Worship Industry (TM)?

          “Naaah. It’s easy. Just take 20-year-old pop songs and substiture “Jeesus!” for “Ooooo Baby!”
          — Eric Cartman, South Park

      • @David,
        I have heard, and do like what I’ve heard from, Fernando Ortega. My understanding is that he has become an Anglican, and is now serving as church musician for a traditional Anglican parish. I don’t know if he intends to record again; it seems like he’s fallen in love with liturgical music, and the old church traditions.

      • David,

        DITTO.

    • I poked around in my old vinyl collection and pulled some chestnuts from the old Jesus freak days; Maranatha 1,2,3 and 4; Larry Norman; Phil Keaggy; Love Song; upChuck Girard, etc.

      You could see the CCM coming in the Maranatha discs. That stuff spread like kudzu in the late 70s and 80s and now its all most churches have ever been exposed to. Surprisingly, there was some good stuff that fell completely through the cracks; Randy Stonehill’s Welcome To Paradise has aged surprisingly well. Keaggy’s first album sounds good too. Nothing else of his does. He CCM’ed too quickly. So has the self-titled Lazarus on the country-rock Grateful Dead’s Bearsville record label. I found two discs by a Catholic charismatic group up in Michigan that, if all worship music could have been that tasteful, I might have a different opinion of it now. What I’ve heard about Church music from my Catholic friends, though, is not pretty.

      A lot of the country-rock stuff was easy on the ears after all these years, but way dated, like Poco or the Youngbloods 🙁

      One very good thing about being Orthodox is that I know what I’m going to hear in church tomorrow.

  12. I, like Linus, have a deep appreciation for the splendor and grandeur of the universe and all the starry host.

    But right now, our puggle is sitting on my lap, and like Charlie Brown I also know and am thankful to God for the simple pleasure of animal love and companionship. 🙂

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I, like Linus, have a deep appreciation for the splendor and grandeur of the universe and all the starry host.

      And if any Over-Saved Christians respond to that with a Jesus Juke (like they did to me), you have my blessing to punch them in the junk.

      (Though my passion for astronomy seems to have recovered over the years; I’m now in the middle of a five-article series of world writeups for the online SF game-zine Freelance Traveller, using my knowledge of astronomy and planetology.)

  13. “I won’t buy their music. I won’t listen to their radio stations. I won’t go to their concerts. I won’t purchase their songbooks.” Never have done any of these. I’ve tried listening to the radio stations a few times, but the music does absolutely nothing for me. I went to a concert once and kept wondering what I was missing that everyone else seemed to get. So, a boycott would be no change for me 🙂

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Last CCM I ever bought was a Don Francisco album back around ’82. Back when “licorice pizzas” were made of this black stuff called vinyl and you played them by dragging a needle along the grooves instead of shining a laser through them.

    • Many years ago I had to agonize at the orthontist in part because he played the Chuck Wagon Gang incessantly. Now my grandkids go to an orthodontist who pipes CCM radio. Different generations, different genres, same Christian junk.

      By the way, I remember the day we picked up our 1960 Rambler wagon from the dealer. It had the funkiest factory smell. No nostalgia for that car, I have to say.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Last time I was agonizing at the opthamologist, he had God’s Not Dead looping on his waiting room screen. Longest hour of my life…

        • Klasie Kraalogies says:

          Don’t have one of those, but very happy my dentist is a moderate Muslim, also ex-South African. No music etc, but we talk about the politics back there, cricket etc. Worst thing ever seen in his waiting room was a Christmas tree decorated with toothbrushes etc.. 🙂

      • My dentist used to play CCM at his office, and my eye doctor still does. must be a thing with these professions!

  14. The last two years have been interesting for my worship preferences and relationship with Christian music. I started in a megachurch with slick music, transitioned to a Waldensian church with a large Ghanaian population in Italy singing mostly English hymns, spent two months in a Church of Wales parish church, survived a period of about six months in between churches with little more than Hillsong and 10-year-old CCM, and currently attend a Spanish-language vaguely Pentecostal nondenom church (where volume and passion, more than quality, rules the musical day). I could complain about the music at every single one of those churches–too lively, too dead, too vapid, too dense–but I think that’s because there are clankers everywhere. Sure Hillsong has some songs that are just banal, but listen to my 8-year-old sing “your light will shine when all else fades” and tell me there’s no redeeming value there. Some hymns are garbage (and those are the ones that have survived!) but it’s not just nostalgia that the words for “Lo In The Grave He Lay” enter my mind every Easter. And even CCM darlings can do beautiful worship, like Jars of Clay covering “Jesus I Lift My Eyes” a few years back.

    I’m all in favor of keeping worship worship and concerts concerts, but beyond that I’m hesitant to declare too much more about the tastes and expressions of such.

    • Agreed, pcg. Certainly my own tastes in music, as in everything else, are the best. 🙂 But I am willing to put up with others, misguided though they may be.

      Seriously, one of the finest Christians I know loves the poetry of Edgar Guest, and thinks Joyce Kilmer’s “Trees” is lovely and profound. I say good for her.

      • @pcg
        @H. Lee: When I stop to think about it, and put my own preferences aside, I basically agree: I’m not interested in arguing with other Christians about what kind of music is theologically better for worship, as determined by some supposedly objective standard of aesthetics/truth. I think here we have to embrace non-binary thinking, both/and thinking, instead of either/or thinking. Aesthetic experience is highly subjective, as is illustrated by the deconstruction of the Western literary canon by current literary theory. But it’s easy to get caught up in judging others by my own strongly held tastes.

    • Wait — there are still Waldensian churches?! Seriously?

      • >> . . . a Waldensian church with a large Ghanaian population in Italy singing mostly English hymns

        Certainly one of the more interesting tidbits to slip thru these pages. I too find this intriguing.

        • We lived in Verona, Italy, for about three months last fall. The protestant options in Verona are… slim. Most (all?) of the Lutheran options, which I would have liked to try, were in German, and some of them were seasonal. (Lots of German and Austrian tourists in northern Italy.) There was one small evangelical church, but upon contacting them, we discovered they were drying up and not regularly meeting.

          Then there was this Waldensian church that I found online. We were looking for something in Italian so we could be exposed to more of the language, but beyond that, we were LOST as to who they were. (Yay for an evangelical ignorance of church history!) After a bit of research, we decided we wanted to check it out while we were living there.

          Upon arriving, we met in an old (but not very old, not for that part of the world) chapel, simply adorned, and were greeted warmly enough by the congregation. (Side note: it is INVALUABLE, when you and your wife are both introverts, to bring young children to things like this. Instant conversation lubricator.) And we discovered that, as one hears (especially re: Europe, especially re: protestantism, ESPECIALLY re: the more liberal factions of protestantism), the church was dwindling as the older generation dies off and the newer generation has no need for religion. And it was true, to a degree: the majority of the Italians in the church were 40 or older, with a good number in their 50s and 60s.

          The priest was a kind man with fair English and a son in Boston. The lady who usually did the preaching (I don’t remember the technical terms for who’s who) was married to the music leader, who led with a violin, and they both doubled as the Italian language tutors. It was all very ITALIAN, right down to the very subtle passive-aggressive jabs at the RCC and anti-establishmentarianism in general that inevitably snuck their way into the homily. 🙂

          Then there were the Ghanaians. It turns out they were sent there as missionaries by the Methodist church in Ghana, to revitalize the Waldensians in Italy and help their brothers by bringing some youth into the church. Almost stereotypically (and with a deal of self-selection, I’m sure), they were young: about a half dozen families, all with at least three young children, all with parents in their mid-30s at the latest, all boisterous and warm. They were in charge of the music during the offering collection, and a few of them went up front to play drums and bongos and various percussion instruments, and led us in singing “This is the day that the Lord has made” in their heavily-accented English.

          In fact, their English was accented enough (and the acoustics of the building were such) that there were times when they would pray with a mic up front…and I had no idea what they were saying. After a month or so, we concluded that it HAD to be a mix of English and something else entirely. But what was perfectly easy to follow were the southern spirituals and hymns that they sang around communion and offering or that they led as the choir. As someone who grew up in the Church of Christ, it was a blessed reminder of the universality of the Gospel.

          So yes, the Waldensians are (apparently!) alive and well, to a degree. Like the Church in Wales (where we spent the two months following) they are often contracting, assigning priests to larger and larger areas (as congregations get smaller and smaller) but the folks we met were earnest, justice-loving, kind people. We’ll be going back there in July when we visit fair Verona once more. 🙂

      • They united with one or another of the church’s that came out of the Reformation.

      • Same reaction here. Next someone will mention the Abigensians or Cathars.

  15. Happy Birthday to the Emperor Constantine. founder of Christianism, without whom we likely would not be gathered here today to celebrate, all praise and glory to the Invincible Sun!

  16. Chaplain Mike, the engineer’s story was very moving. Thank you for including it.

  17. A wild profusion
    of desert flowers blooming
    beside the dry bones.

  18. It’s sad that the engineer has lived so long with such guilt feelings. We all have them, but lives may not have been lost. At last he could speak! How would you feel if you were the officials who refused to listen? Any word from them? I wonder, as previous poster, why a criminal investigation wasn’t opened. That is tongue in cheek. We know why that didn’t happen.