Thursday, August 30, 2007

Phil Keaggy

We spent almost two hours with Phil last night enjoying his expertise--what guitarist!!!! And the girl fiddler he had with him was amazing. Plus the two other guys who made up Glass Harp. Wow. I love Phil as long as he plays "Here comes the Sun"--it was his second solo last night. Phil and Glass Harp were together in the heydays of folk music, and there were still left-over vibes of it last night. It sounded very familiar. I was surprised by the young folks in the crowd who seemed to enjoy it all.

The last half was mostly electronic and loud, but experimental and creative--almost like a jam session. I love to watch when musicians are having fun together, and they obviously were.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Andrew Lloyd Webber

I just finished watching the Andrew Lloyd Webber Royal Hall Celebration --a performance of music from all his shows featuring performers like Glenn Close, Sarah Brightman, Donnie Osmond, The BoyZone (really like them!), Antonio Banderas, Michael Ball and others. What a good cd! It is the kind of thing I suspect one can only find on Netflex--I never saw it an any video store.

Check it out for a good two hours of fabulous music.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Pause and think

As a followup to yesterday's blog, here is a bit of John Donne:

Since I am coming to that holy room,
Where, with thy choir of saints for evermore
I shall be made thy music; as I come
I tune the instrument here at the door,
And what I must do then, think now before.

Monday, August 27, 2007


Why did God ask us to sing in Ephesians 5:19? Why did he construct our vocal cords, throat and cheek cavities so that we could sing? What is there about it that He likes? I suppose he could have made us incapable of singing in the creation of our bodies. Couldn't he have made us so that all of us had beautiful voices?

I ponder these questions in worship as I look and see congregants, people who have purposely come to worship, Not sing. Why do they Not? Is it a form of rebellion? Is it because "I just don't feel like it?" Is it because they "don't sing well?" Is it because it makes them uncomfortable to express emotion? I just don't know. It is a puzzlement.

Music entered the scene early with God's people. Philo tells us that Moses was educated in all the learning of Egypt, including its music. The Egyptians considered music to be sacred. Their musicians were priests. Moses must have seen that. In Exodus 15:1, he sings a victory song to the Lord which is quickly followed by the victory song of Miriam in Exodus 15:21. And of course, there are all those Psalms to be reckoned with. David was the real impetus of music in worship. In I Chronicles 14:15, he appointed some Levites as singers--their
repertoire was the Psalms.

The earliest surviving example of Christian music is a hymn of praise to the Trinity found in that wonderful garbage dump in the ancient Egyptian town of Oxyrhynchus. It is in Greek, and dates to the end of the third century. So its all been around for a very long time, and God's people have been singing for a very long time. The Puritans would allow not other hymns in their worship except the Psalms when the music got to America.

Now here we sit in the 21st century with a vast history of beautiful Christian hymns and exciting and worshipful contemporary hymns with out mouths closed.
Go figure.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Reading Today

A recent poll conducted by the Associated Press showed that one in every four Americans did not read a single book last year. Of those who did read, women and seniors led the pack. Religious works and popular fiction were the top choices.

Those who did read books, read only four. People from the South typically read more and those who did not attend any kind of religious services read nearly twice as many as those who attended frequently. I guess they did most of their reading on Sunday morning!

I usually have four books started and have certainly read more than one in the past year--so far 24.

What are my readers reading today?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Praying for rain

Michael W. Smith sent out a press release today that Nashville should pray for rain--We are about 15 inches under normal. Everything is brown and dying--even my weeds are not growing. It was rather a bold step in this secular society.

As I type this, thunder is rumbling in the distance and drops of rain are falling on the sidewalk. Somebody must have listened!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bits and pieces

When water comes out of the tap lukewarm, it is too hot in Nashville. I am so tired of this hot weather. Where, oh , where is fall?

Finished up the Spiritual Reading class last night--I think most of us agree that Eugene Peterson's Eat This Book was our favorite book of the summer. Hope to do the class again next summer. I have to begin to look for three more good books appropriate to the subject and the readers.

Our Later Day Saints group went to Adams, TN today to take in the Bell Witch legend. Reminded me of Roswell.

I am working at the consignment sale in a few minutes--I do hope it goes well. The young women who have organized it deserve some sort of award for their diligence, organization and persistence. Last night, they were working and having fun as very busy bees. Blessings on them.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Remember music?

As our culture has bought into hip hop and other junk music, I have found myself wondering where has music gone? Where are the singable songs, the memorable lyrics, the tunes that enliven our days? I have to turn to Michael Buble to even remember some of them.???????

And those Broadway musicals that open our eyes to great music like Les Miz, Phantom of the Opera, Fiddler, and others? Where are they????

Or even the Oscar-winning songs from movies--the ones that have won in recent years have already been forgotten--never to be used in weddings, or on romantic summer nights.????

Noting the quote on the left of this page....I want to go home and hear my version of good music again.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Emotion of Music

Regarding my comments yesterday about "Nearer Still Nearer" and the emotion I feel in singing it--here is Shakespeare:

The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils;
The motion of his spirit are dull as night
and his affections dark as Erebus:
Let no such man be trusted.

Perhaps we need to pipe in some Beethoven over the fields of Iraq--maybe that would help.

I am so thankful my grandchildren are growing up in a household where music is heard everyday and appreciated greatly. I do hope they are singers; I don't know how they could miss genetically. It is fun to hear Ella make up her own words and music, and to hear Maddie pick out songs on the piano. I haven't seen any evidence from Sam yet, but I know he will soon be singing his rite of passage song "Twinkle, Twinkle Little
Star"--which was the first one the girls picked up. When he is sleepy, he does hum some unknown tunes.

Thanks you God for music, writers, and singers, and players, and the music of the spheres that surround us.

Monday, August 20, 2007

New Songs

We sang three new Zoe songs yesterday. I think that all three will become classics. My favorite was "O, The Blood". But the others were wonderful too. Intersperced with O, The Blood was Nearer, Still Nearer.

That song always causes an emotional rush and tears--I don't know why. Lelia Morris, the author wrote over 1,500 hymns, but preferred to be known as a simple housewife. In fact, she composed most of her songs in her head over the sewing machine.

O, God shelter me safe in your haven of rest.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

High School Musical 2

We had a lot of fun last night watching the long awaited HS Musical 2. The girls had eaten up all the millions of commercials run by the Disney Channel and were very excited about seeing it. Parents and I hoped that Disney did not give in to the culture and make the movie too adult in content.

We were all pleased by the movie. Time's review today used that no-no Hollywood word "chaste", but gave it a rave review anyway. It seems to me if Hollywood would just cut out the nastiness, potty language and wierd sex then they might have a huge success for their movies, too. A recent Time article lamented the demise of the romantic movie and the fact that attendance is dropping for those. Well, who wants to see Harry marry Frank? Or a woman get Knocked Up on the first date? Not me--I'll take the chaste Disney version any time as I remember the days of Casablanca, Dr. Zhivago, You've Got Mail, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and whoever.

Long live "chasteness" and good clean fun.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Last Word

The last word in the class I taught recently was a prayer for children. I thought that would be a fine way to end, since school was beginning soon. I used a prayer often found in the Children's Defense Fund material by Ina Hughes. Here's a sampling--it is rather long:

We pray for children
who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions,
who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money.

We pray for children
who never get dessert,
who have no safe blanket to drag behind them,
who watch their parents watch them die,
who can't find any bread to steal,
who don't have any rooms to clean up,
whose pictures aren't on anybody's dresser,
and whose monsters are real.

You can find the complete prayer by googling Ina Hughes. There are several versions available. The line that really gets me except for the death one is those who don't have pictures on anybody's dresser. Wow!

And that dear readers is my bibliography on "Glimpsing God in Children's Literature." Of course, there are many others, but there was just not enough time to cover them all.

We must keep praying for children as they go through the school day--they are our hope and future. Pray for the teachers too--they are so important to the lives we live now and in the future.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

One World

The last book I featured was Mem Fox's Whoever You Are, illustrated by Leslie Staub.

This beautifully illustrated picture book shows very graphically and poetically that God made us one all over the world. The recurring refrain is "whoever you are, wherever you are, all over the world." The pages that were especially pointed to me were the ones that said, "joys are the same, love is the same, pain is the same, blood is the same...." Several pictures contain Muslim children including a double-page spread of a Muslim school.

Each page is framed with gold, embedded with colored jewels. I suppose the going word is multiculturalism, but the content is something we all need to learn.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Inspiration from great lives

I believe that inspiration, courage, and determination comes from reading about great people who had those qualities. That is why I included biographies in my presentation "Glimpsing God in Children's Literature." There are many excellent books out there, but I chose one that had a special connection to Nashville, Wilma Unlimited, How Wilma Rudolph Became the World's Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by David Diaz. Wilma grew up in Clarksville, TN just down the road and attended Tennessee State University. Of course, she became famous because of her three gold medals won in the 1960 Olympics, but she also overcame poverty, race, gender bias and polio to do so. The book shows her taking her brace off and walking down the aisle of her church one Sunday morning "when the singing seemed to burst through the walls into the trees."

When Marian Sang by Pam Munoz Ryan, illustrated by Brian Selznick is about Marian Anderson who grew up poor in Philadelphia and singing contralto in the church choir. There were no black women singing opera in those days, but she overcame and with the help of Eleanor

Roosevelt became so well known that she achieved her dream.

This book is so beautiful, I can hardly describe it. Lyrics from old hymns are found throughout.

Another book connected with Nashville is Goin' Someplace Special by Patricia McKissick, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. It is a memoir of McKissick's childhood days with her grandmother in the segregated South. Her "someplace special" is the Nashville Public Library which opened its doors to everyone in the early 50's without regard to race. (Bless those brave trustees) Throughout the book, 'Trisha Ann is reminded by

adults who help her get to that place that she "is somebody--a human being--no better and no worse than anyone else in the world."

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Give Me Grace

This short "daybook of prayers" by Cynthia Rylant is charmingly illustrated by Rylant in vibrant folk paintings. I have given many copies of it for baby showers (along with Goodnight, Moon).

Here is Wednesday's: Wednesday make me
full of light.
Guide my heart both
day and night.
Give me gladness,
Give my grace.
Shine your love
upon my face.

Friday, August 10, 2007

I Am Your Child, God

This beautiful collection of prayers, collected by Marion Wright Edelman and illustrated by Brian Collier contains prayers for younger children, for older children, those for struggle and strength, for special occasions and traditional prayers. Edelman says in the preface that the prayers are "for children who need stronger inner anchors and spiritual grounding in our world in which ties to family, community and the sacred are becoming increasingly frayed."

It seems to me that several of the prayers in the younger children's section would be good for parents and children to learn in the time at night when prayers draw them together. Here is one:
"Thank you, Lord
Forgive me, Lord
Help me, Lord
Save me, Lord."

Edelman states that "these prayers are just a beginning of what I hope will become a lifelong conversation between children and God."

The traditional prayers containing several selections from the Psalms (praying through the psalms) The Lord's Prayer, and Assisi's Prayer For Peace.

Again, anothere beautiful book for children with a glimpse of God.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

I Can Make a Difference

Another book I used in my presentation Sunday was Marion Wright Edelman's I Can Make a Difference, A Treasury to Inspire Our Children. It is fairly new, published in 2005. Written by the founder and head of the Children's Defense Fund and illustrated by Barry Moser, it is a gorgeous book.

Built on such principles as: I can make a difference by loving myself and others as God loves us treating others respectfully and being caring and persevering and not giving being grateful for the gift and wonders of being compassionate and kind, etc., the book has for each principle, some quotations on the subject, a beautiful illustration fitting the topic, short stories from many cultures and excerpts from poetry on the topic.

I did the one on being grateful for the gift and wonders of life which is illustrated with a portrait of Albert Schweitzer and this quote from him, "The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything. He who has learned this knows what it means to live." With an excerpt from "Leaves of Grass" and a Zen story from Japan extolling the beauties of the moon, the chapter ends with the entire poem by James Weldon Johnson "The Creation." As I looked at this book, I could see at least two weeks' worth of morning announcements using the quotes and a few ideas.

Marion W. Edelman is one of my heros these days. Her CDF is a national voice for children NOT funded by the government. Other books she has written include a treasury of poetry for children entitled I Am Your Child, God. Illustrated by Brian Collier, it is another beautiful book. I will review that one tomorrow. Her other books are Guide My Feet and The Measure of Our Success. They are good books for teachers and parents on the rearing and teaching of children. Her memoir is Lanterns.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Glimpsing God in Children's Literature

"An abundant and growing body of evidence shows that stories have a unique capacity to transmit values, shape identity, move people to action, and preserve memory." Darryl Tippens in Pilgrim Heart

Darryl Tippins has for years found spiritual qualities in great stories and even edited a textbook containing such stories called Shadow and Light.

Taking off on this thought, Scott Owings devised a Sunday morning class at Otter this semester called "Spiritual Reading"
with the purpose being in reading not only the Bible, but other genres with God in mind. We have covered fiction, non-fiction, poetry, biography, prayers, journals, and last Sunday, children's literature.

Since some of you asked, I will use the next few days to talk about which books I used in the topic and perhaps give my readers some ideas about reading with God in mind in a somewhat unlikely genre like children's literature.

I began with Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are.
An unusual choice, you say. But look at the narrative:
Having been sent to bed without his supper for being a wild thing, Max goes to where the wild things are, has his rumpus with them, and then he begins to feel very lonely and wants to be"where someone loved him best of all".
So he returns home to find his supper waiting for him and it is
still hot.

When we have wandered on our wild flings, don't we long to go "where someone loves us best" (God), and when we return, we find forgiveness with our supper still warm.

I don't think for a minute that Sendak had a spiritual metaphor in mind with this old classic (now 40 years old). But remember we are reading it with God in mind. And parents can help their children see forgiveness not only from mommy and daddy, but also from God here.

More later.

Monday, August 06, 2007

School Ache

This time of year as I see the new school clothes and supplies
mounded at Target, I get a yen to return to teaching. It is not an overwhelming yen, you understand, just a little ache to return to the new beginnings teachers have. I even miss the teachers' meetings at the beginning of school!

I guess the old adage is true--once a teacher, always a teacher. I did get to teach our Sunday morning class yesterday on the topic of seeing God in children's literature. It was really fun to get the material together and to present it.

Now, let's see, what can I do next? Oh, by the way, I will be running quotations about education in the upper left of my blog this month. It is a new way to use all those quotations I have collected since 1979.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Why People Don't Read

Pamela Satran has compiled a fanciful list of why people don't read in the August Writer's Digest. Some she lists are:

1. Everytime I walk into a Barnes and Noble, I get so overwhelmed that I just buy a latte and leave.
2. I spend the money I used to spend on books on lattes.
3. Everytime I start reading, my cell phone rings.
4. I've developed an allergy to ink and paper.
5. My new nail extensions make it difficult to turn pages.
6. I read a book last year and didn't like it, so I don't want to waste my money again.
7. I find I can just claim to have read something and impress people that way, because they haven't read anything either, so they won't know if I am faking it.
8. I'm in a book group, but we find it's find its more fun to gossip than to discuss books.
9. My television has 606 channels, and I have only gotten through 47 of them.
10. I just don't want to, all right?

I suspect that some of these are closer to the truth, than funny for some of us.

Why don't you read?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Aging and "Breaths"

Several weeks ago, I had a conversation with Maddie about relatives. She and Ella are still trying to figure out how that works--How can their daddy be my son? etc.

She asked if I fed Brandon the "way Mommy fed Sam"? and then she quickly added, "Nonnie, where are your "breaths"?

Newton didn't need the apple to study gravity, all he had to do was to watch the human body aging--eyelids, throat "wattles",
"breaths", abdomen, etc.

Maya Angelou was interviewed by Oprah on her 80th birthday--regarding body changes, she said there were many every her breasts: "They seem to be in a race to see which one will reach my waist first."

The audience laughed until it cried. I cry when I watch gravity--not really--just so glad to still be here!

Thank you God for laughter.