Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye to 2013

Rock of Ages
by: Sandra McCracken


Rock of Ages, when the day seems long,
From this labor and this heartache I have come;
The skies will wear out, but you remain the same,
Rock of Ages, I praise your name.
Rock of Ages, you have brought me near;
You have poured out your life-blood, your love and your tears
To make this stone heart come alive again,
Rock of Ages, forgive my sin.
Rock of Ages, Rock of Ages
Bind your children, until the Kingdom comes.
Rock of Ages, your will be done
.
Rock of Ages, when in want or rest,
My desperate need for such a Savior I confess,
And pull these idols out from my heart’s embrace,
Rock of Ages, I need your grace.
 
Rock of Ages, broken, scorned for me
Who am I that you would die to make me free?
To give me glory, you took the death and the pain,
Rock of Ages, my Offering.
Rock of Ages, Rock of Ages
Bind your children, until the Kingdom comes.
Rock of Ages, your will be done.
Rock of Ages, “It is done” you cried,
The curtain’s torn and I see justice satisfied.
Now write your mercy on my heart and hands,
Rock of Ages, in faith I stand.
Rock of Ages, my great hope secure,
Your promise holds, just like an anchor to my soul.
And bind your children with cords of love and grace,
Rock of Ages, we give you praise.
Rock of Ages, Rock of Ages
Bind your children, until the Kingdom comes.
Rock of Ages, your will be done.

All Things for Good: The Best Things Work for Good

GOD'S ATTRIBUTES work for good.
 
1.  His power - supports us in our trouble, supplies our wants, subdues our corruptions, and conquers our enemies
2.  His wisdom - instructs us
3.  His goodness - leads us to repentance, and ushers in both common and crowning blessings
 
GOD'S PROMISES work for good.
 
1.  "The Lord is merciful and gracious."
2.  "I will heal their backslidings."
3.  "I will be with him in trouble."
 
There is more in the promises to comfort than in the world to perplex.
 
GOD'S MERCIES work for good.
 
1.  They make us humble.
2.  They make us tender toward Him.
3.  They make us fruitful.
4.  They make us thankful.
5.  They make us engaged.
6.  They make us compassionate toward others.
 
The spiritual mercies (Word, prayer, and sacrament) give us comfort, assurance, and hope.
 
CHRIST'S INTERCESSION works for good.
 
1.  He prays that we may be kept from sin.
2.  He prays that we may progress in holiness.
 
The SAINT'S INTERCESSION works for good.
 
1.  They pray for our recovery.
2.  They pray for our victory.
3.  They pray for our deliverance.
4.  They pray for our forgiveness.
 
Summary of Ch. 1 - All Things for Good - Thomas Watson

Monday, December 30, 2013

A Divine Cordial

Are we in great trouble?  There is a promise: "I will be with him in trouble."  (Ps. 91)

God does not bring His people into troubles, and leave them there.  He will stand by them; He will hold their heads and hearts when they are fainting.  And there is another promise, "He is their strength in the time of trouble." (Ps. 37) 

"Oh," says the soul, "I shall faint in the day of trial." But God will be the strength of our hearts; He will join His forces with us.  Either He will make His hand lighter, or our faith stronger.

--All Things for Good, Thomas Watson

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Broken or Satisfied?

I would rather my children be broken, on their knees, pleading for the mercy, deliverance, and presence of Christ, than satisfied and at ease in their own strength and goodness.
 
I realize that statement might be offensive to some but I believe it comes from a heart of love. 
 
What I mean is that I'd rather them be the wayward, repentant son of the renowned Bible story, than the smug older brother whose fidelity has blinded him to his own, less obvious, sins.    I'd rather them be empty-handed Jobs who mourn the loss of every good thing, than rich young rulers who cling to the good things, including their obedience.  I'd rather them be Jacobs with their hip perpetually out-of-joint from wrestling with God, than be indifferent to His work in their lives.
 
I am NOT saying that I revel in my children's rebellion...that can lead to stiff-neckedness and destruction rather than repentance.  Of that I am well aware.
 
I am NOT saying that I find delight in my children's suffering or pain.  Every parent wants to guard their child from every possible hurt.
 
I am NOT glorifying sin (shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?  God forbid!), nor do I want to rob my children of the joy of a faithful life. 
 
I AM acknowledging that profound wisdom can be gained from our wanderings, especially when those wanderings leave us in a pit of despair that forces us to seek Christ.    When we are emptied of our own goodness, we must...MUST...depend solely and wholeheartedly on the merit of Christ.  The Gospel becomes (not in abject reality, but in perception) more vibrant and alive.  I know...I've been there. 
 
I am also acknowledging that a life of faithfulness can easily lead to a self-satisfied heart that falsely, almost imperceptibly, rests in its own faithfulness, and that subtly, in the name of love and righteousness, slights all who fail to measure up.  This condition does not lend itself to humility, but arrogance; not to compassion, but to harsh judgement; not to mercy, but to consequence.  It can be as dangerous as prodigiously pursuing vain desires.  I know...I've been there too. 
 
Coming to a place of brokenness that drives us to Christ doesn't always come via personal sin.  It sometimes comes by way of other's sins against us.  It sometimes comes through the effects of living in a cursed creation...illness, accidents, and other circumstances over which we had no control.  It sometimes comes directly from the hand of God.
 
But it always...ALWAYS...comes at the place where our confidence lies.  Those people, institutions, possessions, expectations, or realities which house our hopes are idols that, like Dagon, must fall and lie shattered before the presence of the real and Triune God in whom is ALL our ACTUAL hope.
 
As Christians, we never intentionally erect these idols.  In fact, we often remain unaware of misplaced confidence until something is torn from us.  The loss of reputation, position, money, family, dreams, security, pleasure, home, friends, or independence reveals to us just how fully we trusted in them.
 
Though loss is always painful and grievous, ultimately it can draw us away from our false trust to a place of genuine need and therefore genuine reliance on the Source of All Good...mercy, love, reconciliation, wisdom...in desperation we seek AND FIND the Fount of Every Blessing.

I long for my children to KNOW this, and therefore I can honestly say, "I would rather my children be broken, on their knees, pleading for the mercy, deliverance, and presence of Christ, than satisfied and at ease in their own strength and goodness."

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

70 Years


70 years ago today, another baby was born and is the reason I know The One whose birth we all celebrate today. 


She entered the world in the lowliest of circumstances...a bastard born to a poor, uneducated farmer in southeast Missouri. Though she was often despised, ridiculed, and taunted, this little girl was also loved...by her Daddy, and amazingly, by his wife (to whom she did not "belong"). Her story is the stuff of books...almost unbelievable at times...And her life could have taken a thousand wretched turns. 

As an adult, her primary perspective on life is simply this: "But God…"  

The One we celebrate today, captured her heart as a young child and laid out a path for her. A path fraught with danger, with turning points, with unforeseen heartache...but also with protection, with joy, and with unexpected blessings. BUT GOD, who is rich in mercy, not only rescued her, but KEPT her in his care through all the years and her primary aim has been to testify of His faithfulness.

I rejoice today in the birth of my Saviour Jesus Christ, but I also rejoice in the gift of my My Mother's birth.

Blessed are you among women and blessed be the name of your Lord whose steadfast love endures forever.


Happy birthday, Momma.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Easing of The Burden

 
"So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up with the Cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders and fell from off his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do till it came to the mouth of the Sepulchre where it fell in, and I saw it no more. 
 
Then was Christian glad and lightsome, and said with a merry heart, 'He hath given me rest by His sorrow, and life by His death.'  Then he stood for a while, to look and wonder, for it was very surprising to him that the sight of the Cross should thus ease him of his burden.  He looked, therefore, and looked again, even till the springs that were in his head sent the waters down his cheeks.  Now, as he stood looking and weeping, behold, three Shining Ones came to him, and saluted him with, 'Peace be to thee,' so the First said to him; 'Thy sins be forgiven thee,' the Second stripped him of his rags and clothed him with change of raiment; the Third also set a mark on his forehead and gave him a roll with a seal on it, which he bid him look upon as he ran, and that he should give it in at the Celestial Gate: so they went their way.  Then Christian gave three leaps for joy and went on singing,
 
'Thus far did I come loaden with my sin,
Nor could aught ease the grief that I was in.
Till I came hither!  What a place is this!
Must here be the beginning of my bliss?
Must here the burden fall off my back?
Must here the strings that bound it to me crack?
Blest Cross!  Blest Sepulchre!  Blest rather be
The Man that there was put to shame for me!'"
 
--John Bunyan, Pilgrim's Progress  

Friday, November 15, 2013

For My Son

For my boy-turned-man today: may you stay forever young.  Keep your sense of wonder.  Be quick to love and accept others.  Trust Christ with a simple childlike faith.   And listen to real music by real musicians like Bob Dylan (or tight-harmonied pop versions of real music by real musicians like Bob Dylan ;-)



May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young

Monday, October 28, 2013

Music Monday: Will Hoge

This guy's been fairly prominent for a while on two of my favorite YouTube channels - Music Fog and Music City Roots - but has remained largely unrecognized.  He is the author of the Eli Young Band's hit, Even if it Breaks Your Heart, and has gained recent attention with Chevy Silverado's use of his song, Strong, on their TV commercial.  He's good, Y'all.  Give a listen.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

When the Frost is On the Punkin

A beautiful poem, beautifully recited.  Enjoy. 






When the Frost is on the Punkin
by: James Whitcomb Riley
 
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin' turkey-cock,
And the clackin' of the guineys, and the cluckin' of the hens,
And the rooster's hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it's then the time a feller is a-feelin' at his best,
With the risin' sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

They's something kindo' harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer's over and the coolin' fall is here— 10
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossoms on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin'-birds and buzzin' of the bees;
But the air's so appetizin'; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days,
Is a pictur' that no painter has the colorin' to mock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin' of the tangled leaves as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries—kindo' lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin' sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below—the clover overhead!—
O, it sets my hart a-clickin' like the tickin' of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the cellar-floor in red and yaller heaps;
And your cider-makin's over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With theyr mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and sausage too!...
I don't know how to tell it—but ef such a thing could be
As the angels wantin' boardin', and they'd call around on me—
I'd want to 'commodate 'em—all the whole-indurin' flock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Red October Youth

Our young pitching staff has served us well.  They propelled us into the postseason and are keeping us in the running!   Here's to today's stellar performance by 22-year-old, Michael Wacha:
 
 


Friday, October 4, 2013

The Words of Jesus

Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said..."Neither do I condemn thee; go and sin no more."
 
The guilty sinner to whom He speaks this comforting "word," was frowned upon by her accusers.  But, if others spurned her from their presence, "Neither do I condemn thee."  Well it is to fall into the hands of this blessed Saviour-God, for great are His mercies.
 
Are we to infer from this that He winks at sin?  Far from it.  His blood, His work refute the thought!  But this "word of Jesus" is a word of tender encouragement to every sincere, broken-hearted penitent...that crimson sins, and scarlet sins, are no barriers to a free, full, everlasting forgiveness.  "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners."
 
Reader, you may be the chief of sinners or the chief of backsliders; your soul may have started aside like a broken bow.  As the bankrupt is afraid to look into his books, you may be afraid to look into your own heart.  You are hovering on the verge of despair.  Conscience, and the memory of unnumbered sins, are uttering the desponding verdict, "I condemn thee."  Jesus has a kinder word - a more cheering declaration - "I condemn thee not: go, and sin no more!" 
 
--John Ross Macduff, The Words of Jesus

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Blind Men and the Elephant



It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approach'd the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
"God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!"

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, -"Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 'tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!"

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a snake!"

The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," quoth he,
"'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!"

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!"

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a rope!"

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

MORAL.
So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant

Not one of them has seen!


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Psalm 51

I'd prefer to embed the video, but the embed code isn't working, so you'll have to follow this link:

http://www.theworkofthepeople.com/a-clean-heart

Be warned!  You may find yourself perusing this site for hours on end.

I Have A Dream:

I have a dream.
I want to author the definitive, authoritative Lyle Lovett biography. 

It's not his quasi-celebrity status I'm drawn to, but the cowboy poet who resides beneath that 10-gallon hat, the quiet charm, the sly humor, and those unpretentious yet unbelievably compelling live performances. 

Of course, I don't really know this man but, from his music, I imagine him as a magnanimous student of life who is in tune to, fascinated by, and engaged with the complexities of the human spirit.  Who wouldn't want to know the story of a German-Irish Lutheran who rides both motorcycles and horses...who's known worldwide for his musical talent, but lives on and farms his grandfather's land where he grew up?
Who wouldn't want to know about growing up in Klein, Texas; about his mama; about life on the road; about his wildly gorgeous stallion, Smart N Shiney?
I want to know all those things.  I want to know the stories behind the stories...to spend weeks on a bus with Francine Reed...to learn how he remained connected with his roots and "small-time" singer-songwriters after his meteoric rise.  Or maybe I just want to use him to get to Guy Clark...my motives are a tad clouded on that front. 
But SOMEBODY needs to do this, right?  He's certainly too unassuming to write an Autobiography and his narrative is one that needs to be told.  Of that I am certain.  And who better to tell it than little ol' me?
Yep.  I have a dream.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Feculent Mall

This one is for Molly who, years ago, dubbed the old Crestwood Mall as "The Feculent Mall."  After being impressed that she not only knew the word, but also its Latin origin, I concluded that it was a rather snooty assignation from a young Pardon-Me-While-I-Go-To-The-Galleria gal.  As a non-mall goer, I was not really in a position to nullify her judgment...but in earlier years, I had whiled away some long days with toddlers in the Food Court and roaming around the wide open spaces, so I had some emotional ties to the place that I didn't want taken away. 
 
Turns out, The Prescient Molly saw the handwriting on the wall.  Either that, or she spread the "f" word around town and single-handedly ruined their commerce.  After a painfully long and slow migration, the mall officially closed its doors last month.  Photographer Dan Wampler has assembled a massive set of photos that present a "Beautiful Ruin."  (OK...technically they're a form of digital art and not straight up, honest-to-goodness photographs, but nevertheless...)    He saw more beauty in this dead, empty, lifeless place than I ever saw in it when it was alive and active.   I can't help thinking that the curators of The City Museum should come and rescue a few of these artifacts and work their magic with them.   
 
Here are 10 of Wampler's 103 impressive images. 














 
 
 













Follow this link to peruse the entire set in high resolution: 
http://www.danwampler.com/cwp

(HT: Josh Anderson)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Music Monday: The Civil Wars

In a fitting atmosphere of drama and angst, The Civil Wars highly-anticipated sophomore album, The Civil Wars, hit the airwaves this month.  I was hoping to be half as enthralled with this album as I had been with their first full-length recording, Barton Hollow.  The retention of the soulful, talented, and renowned Charlie Peacock as producer, led me to expect a similar offering. 

At the risk of alienating die hard fans (of which I was one of the first!), I'm sorry to say I am singularly disappointed.  After streaming the album in its entirety several times over the span of a couple weeks (to give it time to grow on me), I have no intention of purchasing this recording. 
 
I wonder if I had been given the opportunity to hear it apart from the context of relational drama between the duo, if I would have heard things differently.  I don't think I would.  The elements that I found so compelling on Barton Hollow are simply missing.  I've attempted to quantify and articulate what has been lost from then until now:
 
1.  JOY - Barton Hollow's tunes and lyrics were often serious and weighty, yet the album exuded joy, playfulness, and an energy that seems entirely absent from the latest offering.  From This Valley is one of my favorite of their live performances, but even that track is lackluster.  Listen to this live performance, then gauge it against the recorded version. 
 
2.  PURITY - John and Joy's scaled-back acoustic sound has been replaced by synthesizers, whining electric guitar, and track 4 (Dust to Dust) has a distinct musak quality that completely negates the potential power of the lyrics.  Both John and Joy's vocal capabilities are masked by the over-wrought, over-produced instrumentation.  Compare that sound to this stripped-down version of the first song they wrote together (and the one that was the catalyst for my falling in love with their music):
 

 
 
3.  HONESTY - This album is almost absurdly angst-ridden.  The first had a raw honesty in the lyrics and even in the emotionally-compelling, pleading vocals, but this one drips with what feels like false, staged, overly-intentional, affected emotion.   Joy's voice dominates and is a primary factor in the "join us in our misery" feeling.   Two people who are not even speaking to one another cannot...CANNOT...make exceptional music together.
 
I don't know whether their separation from one another is the result of a petty squabble or legitimate irreconcilable differences.  Joy is quick to talk publicly about the silence between them in seemingly honest, yet measured, ways...which could result from authenticity OR from a desire to capitalize on the drama to boost curiosity, publicity, and sales.  Meanwhile, John Paul appears to be lurking reluctantly in the shadows...either remaining wisely quiet about the dispute OR else indulging in a hearty pout.  I don't know.  All I DO know is that the breaking of their relationship has affected more than the two of them personally.  Part of their appeal was the chemistry between them which undoubtedly contributed to their musical cohesiveness.  The rift distorted their creativity, despite Joy's belief that it produced it, and I can tell you that at least one fan and hearty proponent feels the loss.
 

Friday, August 16, 2013

For Want of Wit

Note to self: vigorously avoid all criminal behavior that might lead to solitary confinement.

Apparently, I am one of those delicate souls who was not cut out to endure the rigors of long hours with no companions besides hunger, cold, and sleep deprivation.   I am no Corrie Ten Boom (as if you and I didn't already know that...). 
 
At 6pm last night I found myself locked in a 4' x 10' hallway that leads from our office to the bathrooms.  Everyone else had already left for the day, not only from our office but from the adjoining offices as well.  It took about 2.3 seconds to assimilate the reality that I was going to be in that hallway for 14 or 15 hours. 
 
My immediate reaction was to plead with God to send someone back to the office to retrieve something they had forgotten.  After about 3 minutes sitting on the cold tile and realizing that, rather than absorbing any of my body heat, it simply transferred its chill into my bones, I decided to take things into my own hands.
 
In my mind, I instantaneously morphed into the female incarnation of MacGyver.   I am resourceful!  I will not be stuck in here all night.  I WILL find a way out.  First, I hauled a not-so-sturdy cabinet out of the bathroom and climbed onto it...in my handy dandy pencil skirt (feel free to be impressed)...removed one of the ceiling tiles only to discover that above that drop ceiling was...a REAL and SOLID ceiling.  A cruel trick, if you ask me, but there it was. 
 
I was not going to be that easily deterred!  My next attempt was to disassemble the sink faucet for a "tool" that would allow me to carve a hole in the drywall so I could reach through and unlock the door...I figured it would be worth footing the repair bill.  Needless to say, that didn't work either.
 
I proceeded to forcefully and successfully extract the access card sensor from the wall, hoping that if I severed a wire, the alarm would trip and someone would come to investigate.   Since the alarm hadn't been set for the night, that effort was to no avail.  Either that, or I didn't sever the right wires.
 
As my options dwindled, I began accepting my dilemma and plotting how I was going to get through the night.  I did get through with my sanity intact by:
 
*   Wrapping my freezing cold legs in layers of toilet paper, mummy style
*  Layering paper towels on the cold tile for a "bed" (a complete failure in shielding me from the cold tile!)
*   Singing through the Trinity Hymnal
*  Doing my leg exercise routine
*  Singing through the Genevan Psalter
*  Doing my arm exercise routine
*  Singing through the Coverdale Anglican Psalter
*  Playing hopscotch on the perfectly placed tiles
*  Singing through Les Mis and Phantom of the Opera
*  Walking the space in figure 8's
*  Reciting every poem I've memorized since I was a wee child
 
Finally, I gathered a host of paper towel packs and built myself a REAL mattress that kept me off those cold tiles...and I slept.   Sort of...in fits and starts, with additional heat-inducing physical exertion in my wakeful moments (lunges, pushups, jumping jacks...yes...all in my lovely and versatile, handy-dandy pencil skirt). 
 
This space is isolated in the middle of the building without natural light, so I had no way of marking the passage of time...until 5:30am when my I-phone alarm clock began going off...behind the locked office door.  I had been telling myself it was probably only about 3am, so that was a welcome sound...ONLY 3 HOURS LEFT!  I cleaned up my "mattress" and "blankets" so no one would see how ridiculously I had made it through the night, but that meant I had to stand, walk, and squat for the final 3 hours. 
 
By the time my "rescuer" showed up, I was shivering and aching from head to toe...BUT I WAS SANE.  Well, at least equally as sane as I had been at 6pm last night and that felt like an accomplishment to me!  What a wimp.  Imagine if it had been a Friday night!  I think perhaps that would have irreversibly altered my psyche.
 
I looked my More-Than-A-Little-Amused-Though-Not-Entirely-Unsympathetic Boss in the eye and declared, "I'm cold, I'm hungry, I'm tired...and I'm going home!"
 
I was decidedly more thankful for the car heater and bun warmers this morning than I've ever been before and I intend to spend the rest of the day soaking up sunshine until I'm warm down to the bones.
    

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Different Take on Social Justice

Yesterday, I linked to a post written by a young man with Down syndrome who offered his simple, yet profound outlook on his life.  It was beautiful.  You can read it here if you missed out. 
 
Today, I am posting the article written by his brother.  It is eloquent and equally as profound. 
 
The grandest and most spectacular acts of social justice often seem to occur in foreign lands and involve the improvement and preservation of thousands of lives, but the most meaningful act of social justice in my own life occurred much closer to home. It succeeded in saving the life of only one.
 
Some 17 years ago my parents were confronted by a physician who wanted to discuss the fate of a soon-to-be-newborn baby. It had recently been discovered that this baby would be born with Down syndrome, and the physician assured my parents that there was still time to abort. Today it is estimated that 60 percent to 90 percent of babies with Down syndrome are aborted, but for my parents this was never an option. My younger brother Joey was born on Aug. 9, 1995.
 
Reflecting on this act of social justice invokes a reflection on the importance of not only my brother’s life, but of the right to life itself. When my parents chose life for Joey, they knew that many trials and challenges lay ahead, but they were able to embrace the possibility of difficulty and accept whatever God had in store for them. They could not have foreseen the immense love and joy Joey’s presence would create in our family and our community in the coming years. Living and growing up with Joey has given me a rare perspective on the value of life. Over the years I have watched him sculpt the very foundation of our family into one of profound patience and tolerance, and he continues to influence the way I interact with others inside and outside the family. He is a testament to the effects of social justice, and I cannot imagine the void that would be left in my own life if my parents had not recognized the value of Joey’s.
 
The invariable aspects of human-kind define who we are as a people, but the unique and subtle differences by which we are individually defined make us who we truly are. As I reflect on how much Joey has changed the way I see the world, it saddens me to think of all those whose differences not only cost them their lives, but also the opportunity to change the lives of others. Without diversity our world would be stagnant and our thoughts without purpose, for it is often through our differences that we are able to enrich the lives of those around us. While it is true that my parents’ act of social justice saved the life of only one person, it served to transform the lives of countless people in my community, whose world would be a little less bright, less full, were it not for Joey.
 
- The National Catholic Review

Monday, August 12, 2013

Musical Monday: The Staves

I pointed you to The Staves back in January 2012, but their more recent recording, Dead & Born & Gone, merits another mention.  If you like The Wailin' Jennys or Red Molly, you won't be disappointed with The Staves.  These gals sometimes incorporate an unexpected modern flare into their songs that is reminiscent of The Roches.  Listen and enjoy!






Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Reflections

When You Are Old
by William Butler Yeats
 When you are old and gray and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep.
 How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you
And loved the sorrows of your changing face.
 And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face among a crowd of stars. 

"Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it."

Photo creds: Tom Hussey

Monday, August 5, 2013

Music Monday: Jay & Molly Ungar



This album, with the Ungar/Mason folk duo and flutist James Galway, is easy and pleasant from start to finish.  This piece, A Roving on a Winter's Night, is representative of the album: A Song of Home - An Irish-American Musical Journey.
 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Pity

Their pity-filled glances hang on me, chidingly.
"Poor Fool" they say.
"Doesn't she know?" 
"Move on," they say.
"Because he could." 
"No love," they say.
As if reciprocity were determinate.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Lord Is My Shepherd

"I am the Good Shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine."
 
 
"The Good Shepherd."  Well can the sheep who know His voice attest the truthfulness and faithfulness of this endearing name and word.  Think of His love to each separate member of the flock - wandering over pathless wilds with unwearied patience and unquenchable ardour, ceasing not the pursuit until He finds it. 

Think of His love now - "I AM the Good Shepherd." Still that tender eye of watchfulness following the guilty wanderers. 

"I know my sheep."  Every individual believer - the weakest, the weariest, the faintest - claims His attention.  His loving eye follows me day by day out to the wilderness - marks out my pasture, studies my wants and trials and sorrows and perplexities - every steep ascent, every brook, every winding path, every thorny thicket.

"He goeth before and leadeth them."   It is not rough driving, but gentle guiding.  He does not take them over an unknown road.  He Himself has trodden it before.  He seems to say, "Fear not; I cannot lead you wrong; follow me in the bleak waste, the blackened wilderness, as well as by the green pastures and the still waters.  Do you ask why I have left the sunny side of the valley - carpeted with flowers and bathed in sunshine - leading you to some high mountain apart, some cheerless spot of sorrow?  Trust me.  I will lead you by paths you have not known, but they are all known to me and selected by me.  Follow me."  Leave the future to His providing.
 
"The Lord is my Shepherd, therefore can I lack nothing."  Take it as thy watchword during thy wilderness wanderings till grace be perfected in glory.  Let this be the record of thy simple faith and unwavering trust - "These are they who follow withersoever He sees meet to guide them."

--The Words of Jesus by John Ross Macduff

Friday, June 14, 2013

Oh, Dearest Jesus

Lyrics: Johan Heerman
Translation: Catherine Winkworth

O dearest Jesus, what law hast thou broken
That such sharp sentence should on Thee be spoken?
Of what great crime hast Thou to make confession, --
What dark transgression?

They crown Thy head with thorns, they smite, they scourge Thee;
With cruel mockings to the cross they urge Thee;
They give Thee gall to drink, they still decry Thee;
They crucify Thee.

Whence come these sorrows, whence this mortal anguish?
It is my sins for which Thou, Lord, must languish;
Yea, all the wrath, the woe, Thou dost inherit,
This I do merit.

What punishment so strange is suffered yonder!
The Shepherd dies for sheep that loved to wander;   

The Master pays the debt His servants owe Him,      
Who would not know Him.

The sinless Son of God must die in sadness;
The sinful child of man may live in gladness;
Man forfeited his life and is acquitted,

God is committed.

There was no spot in me by sin untainted;
Sick with sin's poison, all my heart had fainted;
My heavy guilt to hell had well-nigh brought me,
Such woe it wrought me.

O wondrous love, whose depth no heart hath sounded,
That brought Thee here, by foes and thieves surrounded!

All worldly pleasures, heedless, I was trying
While Thou wert dying.

O mighty King, no time can dim Thy glory!
How shall I spread abroad Thy wondrous story?
How shall I find some worthy gifts to proffer?
What dare I offer?

For vainly doth our human wisdom ponder, --
Thy woes, Thy mercy, still transcend our wonder.
Oh, how should I do aught that could delight Thee!
Can I requite Thee?

Yet unrequited, Lord, I would not leave Thee,

I will renounce whate'er doth vex or grieve Thee
And quench with thoughts of Thee and prayers most lowly
All fires unholy.

But since my strength will nevermore suffice me
To crucify desires that still entice me,
To all good deeds, oh, let Thy Spirit win me
And reign within me!

I'll think upon Thy mercy without ceasing,
That earth's vain joys to me no more be pleasing;

To do Thy will shall be my sole endeavor
Henceforth forever.

Whate'er of earthly good this life may grant me,
I'll risk for Thee; no shame, no cross, shall daunt me;
I shall not fear what man can do to harm me

Nor death alarm me.

But worthless is my sacrifice, I own it;
Yet, Lord, for love's sake Thou wilt not disown it;
Thou wilt accept my gift in Thy great meekness
Nor shame my weakness.

And when, dear Lord, before Thy throne in heaven
To me the crown of joy at last is given,

Where sweetest hymns Thy saints forever raise Thee,
I, too, shall praise Thee.
      

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Music Monday: Pokey

Photo courtesy of Michael Wermuth

In the summer of 2011, I missed out on every single one of the Whitaker Music Festival summer concerts at the Missouri Botanical Gardens.  Thankfully, Annie didn't miss them all and she told me I just had to give a listen to this local musician named Pokey LaFarge who had performed there...she was sure I'd like his stuff.  

Thus began my infatuation with Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three, whose latest album is being released today by Third Man Records.  His meteoric rise is much deserved and it was a pleasure to attend their family-friendly album release party on Friday night at Casa Loma Ballroom.  The band has expanded from the original 4, and is finding receptive audiences in the Important Music Cities: Austin, New Orleans, and Nashville...and of course, here in their hometown which they proudly claim.

I am a music junkie, of sorts, but not a "student"...so I don't even know what genre to assign to their style, but it seems like the kind of music both my Grandad Waggoner and Grampa Southerland would have listened to and enjoyed.  

Give 'em a go and see what you think!

3 songs from the original group:

From the new album and the fuller band: