In Praise of Hymns

Choruses in church are great, but let’s not lose our powerful legacy of hymns in Christian ministry.

Last night I led a Hymn Sing and Soup Supper in the Fellowship Hall at our church. Between bowls of vegetable soup, chicken soup, tortilla soup, bean soup, and a host of others, we sang To God Be the Glory, I’ll Fly Away, Victory in Jesus, and more favorites. Elderly women in the back, members of the choir when we had one, harmonized to tunes they had known as children, while teenagers in the middle sat in silence. We had no slides with words on a screen as we do in our sanctuary, but used white hymnals with gold embossing, small letters, and cryptic little symbols called notes along with the lyrics on each line. The piano was a little out of tune, but we all carried on, singing at the top of our lungs. There was no sound of strumming, drumming, or picking. Having grown up in church singing hymns, I appreciated the change.

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Whatever Happened to Beauty?

A look at beauty denied, misunderstood, reviled, and ignored, in the modern world.

The other day I was driving to the Mine Academy in Beckley for a strategic planning session. Nancy called and bade me to look to the southeast, where I beheld a particularly stunning sunrise. On arriving a few minutes early at the meeting, I mentioned the sunrise to several people, but only a few bothered to look out of the window. On a hike last summer, Nancy found a tiny deep purple flower amidst dying grasses. On a different occasion, she spotted a set of intricate ice crystals astride a fallen log and a pile of snow. As with the Mine Academy example, others in the area didn’t notice, or didn’t care. Life is composed of little moments of beauty such as these – to miss the beauty is to miss life itself. Why do so few people seem to notice?

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Music and Emotion

Music stirs the emotions in unique ways. How does music affect us? How can we use it to accomplish our goals in life? How can God work through music in us to achieve His will?

Our father could never understand our taste in music. It was the 1980s, and my younger brother and I were teens. Dad was a singer and loved music, but preferred the Bobby Vinton style to the Axl Rose style. More than once he asked, “why do you listen to that trash?”, a question that every generation asks their children and grandchildren.  We were both involved in the youth group at church, and my favorite artist at the time was Keith Green. He was a talented Christian singer who was sincere about his faith, but tragically died in 1982 from a plane crash, as so many other musicians have. My brother found Ozzy Osbourne more to his taste.

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Does One Art Form Bring More Glory to God than Another?

A discussion of professions, the arts, art media, and the glory of God

It is Christmastime, and Christians around the world are singing “Glory to God in the highest.” We rarely consider what they mean. In church, we may parrot the Westminster Shorter Confession, which states that the purpose of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Again, the words ring true, but what do they really say, and how can we really do them?

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Fatherhood and Ballet

Going to your children’s events to see them is not enough. Dads have to learn to enjoy what their kids enjoy.

Last week I was at a ballet studio watching my daughter dance. It was a fun show, similar to ones that I have seen countless times before. Since my oldest daughter was three, I have attended ballet recitals, shows, and the annual Nutcracker. Over the years, ballet has become an important part of our lives.

It was not always this way. My mother was not a dancer and she had two boys. Our nearest cousins were boys and so were all of our friends. Boys dance, but finding a boy in a typical ballet school can be as hard as finding a Republican in New York City. We played football, joined Boy Scouts, and attended church, but never danced, or knew anyone who did. This all changed when our oldest girl was born.

In the early years, I went to ballet performances to see my daughter, the cutest person in the world to me. From Coppelia to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I didn’t want to miss seeing her dance or giving her flowers after a performance.

When my little ones started ballet, they began asking me questions after their performances. “Daddy”, one would ask, “What did you think about the Russian dancer?” or “How did you like the Sugar Plum Fairy?” The first time my oldest asked a question like this, the blood drained from my face and I stammered a helpless “They were great, sweetheart, what did you think?” In truth, I didn’t remember the Russian and I couldn’t tell the Sugar Plum Fairy from the Snow Queen. I wasn’t attending dance performances to enjoy dance; I was going there to see my daughters. I thought that this was enough.

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Music, Lyrics, and Chords

Songs and chords to sing, play, and enjoy. 

Many people love to sing. Though individual and group singing seem to have declined in Western culture since professionally produced music is constantly available, making music, not just listening to it, is one of the healthiest and most fun things that people can do. Singing improves breath control and respiratory health, it improves our mental status, and it brings people together (even if you can’t sing very well).

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The Year in Music, Art, Literature and Drama History

16 Jan – The first edition of El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha (Book One of Don Quixote) by Miguel de Cervantes was published in Madrid, Spain (1605).

17 Jan – Popeye the Sailor, a comic character created by Elzie Segar, first appeared in the Thimble Theater comic strip (1929).

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