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The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show . . .

4 Feb

The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show . . .

Reblogging this as a “slice of life” in the 1960’s. It is hard to remember when there were only three stations on television and kids functioned as the remote control for their parents!!!

And then when the Beatles had the top five songs (and 12 overall on the top 100) . . . Who can totally fathom the effects of Beatlemania in the light of all of the choices kids have right now?

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Our Noisy Planet!

31 Dec

Our Noisy Planet!

There are over six billion of us on planet Earth right now and we are speeding toward seven billion. Two countries have more than a billion people, China and India. One of those two is growing faster than the other. Due to the forced birth control policies in China for the past generation, their population rate is growing more slowly than India’s.

That said, the planet has gotten noticeably more noisy in my lifetime. I have to be careful to not refer to some ideal Victorian past that never actually existed (at least outside of a handful of very rich families in Britain and the U.S.), but I think I can accurately say that, in my childhood, a neighborhood of houses like ours ($300,000 homes of around 2700 square feet) would not have dealt with noise complaints very often. Now our community newsletter is constantly reminding us to remember that we are not out on a farm somewhere out of everyone else’s notice . . .

Some of us have more sensitive constitutions by nature and can be easily derailed by someone else’s noise level. That doesn’t make that other person a villain, but it does make life interesting for us . . .

For example, I have long noted that I cannot handle the staccato barking of dogs in my neighborhood. And, thankfully, there have only been four times that that was an issue since we moved here 23 years ago. Three of them were at the same corner home, which probably has a built in dog house to attract dog owners as buyers!!!

There is currently a dog there that mostly howls, rather than barks, when sirens start or when he gets cold in the night (he is seemingly left outside 24/7, even in the coldest weather, and since I did ask our animal control people to investigate that and nothing changed over there, I have to assume that no animal cruelty laws are being broken). Thankfully, the howling doesn’t get under my skin the way the occasional barking does!!!

Some things about noises and noise levels are cultural.

Some are individual.

For example, I have long heard that the gentle rhythms of Baroque music are the rhythms that most mimic the human constitution. Since I love Baroque music, I am onboard with believing that. However, I realize that that is also an example of Western European thinking that may not be shared universally by all of the earth’s inhabitants.

The above musical selection is a folk rendition of a standard old hymn with words by John Bunyan.

What I like about it is the way it starts with the tradition of earlier music (including the music written during the Baroque era) and riffs a bit onward with it. The unexpected syncopation, especially that provided by the ancient instrument playing an alternate tune in the background, delights my senses. The drumline is just regular enough to not be frightening–walking along the ledge without falling over the edge. There are several times the drums thunder an alternate five or six beat rhythm, but they always resolve to the time signature of the piece, with a bit of syncopation thrown in for excitement.

To me, that is brilliant music–knowing the rules of good music composition and mostly honoring them. Breaking them here and there, but only temporarily. Keeping everyone, literally, on the same sheet of music, even as riffs occur on one instrument or another.

My taste in music may seem tame to some and wild to others, but that is where I am right now, as the unique individual God created me to be.

How does this relate to noise levels around us?

Well, for me, I can hear music composition rules in our movements, too. I never studied dance, but I am willing to believe that ballet dancers probably hear music composition rules and rhythms in almost everything.

In our home, for instance, my husband moves slowly in 4/4 time. I have been told that I used to do the same until I lost weight. Now I often don’t make noise at all as I move around. I sometimes even startle people that way.

Our son, on the other hand, is typical of many boys, especially special needs boys. He moves in 3/4 time, but with an erratic third beat. It never falls exactly where I expect to hear it. And it is often accompanied by a crash as he closes a door harder than I expected, or drops something, or opens a door too hard and hits the wall with it. We have built many doorstops into our life since he joined us in 1992, but have not been able to keep up with putting them everywhere they are needed.

And, see, that is something in which awareness goes a long way toward contentment. If I didn’t realize he moves differently because he is made differently, I would be constantly trying to change him into 4/4 time, which I expect would be impossible.

Instead, I have learned to enjoy the knowledge that he is here with us, crashes and all. If all else fails, I clip on the headset and turn on music like the video above!!!

In a world of so many people and so many noises, there is certainly a time that someone’s noise must be altered. There are noise ordinances for a reason, after all. There is a time to say something, to tell someone they must alter their noise level or face consequences.

May we be wise in discerning when those times occur and when other situations dictate that we should remain silent and try to accommodate others, even when their noise makes those of us with sensitive constitutions feel restless and nervous.

Written for a friend of mine, facing loud, constant, erratic bangs in Papua Indonesia on New Year’s Eve!

Breaking Down Generational Barriers!

18 Dec

As I am working on some thoughts about extroverts and introverts and people in between, I am also working out some things mentally about human nature and generational differences.  

There are a couple of things that may not be generational features, but which tend to show up more among my younger friends than among others.  It might be that all generations feel this way while younger, especially if older generations seem to be pushy with them socially.

The first thing is the tendency to treat social courtesies as though they were orders being given.  Have you seen this one?

It consists of someone giving the “right of way,” in a crowded shopping mall or somewhere else, to another person.  The usual way this has been done socially is by gesturing with the hand and/or saying, “Go ahead.”  What I had not heard, until the last five years, is the response, “Don’t you tell me what to do!”     

To be honest, I heard that once out of my son with Aspergers syndrome and explained to him that the person was being polite and putting himself second in order to let my son go first.  I think Joey got it–I never heard him say that again.  But I have heard it, before and after my son did it, from other members of his generation.

It is a dilemma, isn’t it?  How do we have a world in which people don’t crash into each other in crowded places if the person who steps back in kindness to let the other person go first is perceived as offending that other person?

The second thing is the rejection of compliments, specifically by stating that the person offering them does not have the proper credentials in that area to offer a compliment.  

Being an extrovert, I have long tried to offer encouragement to others via telling them when I think they have done a particularly good job on something. I am not an expert in every area of life and, granted, I may offer compliments in areas where I don’t have lots of expertise.  That used to be understood across the social strata, I believe.  

In fact, in my youth, if you sang the lead in the school musical, everyone would tell you that you did a great job, especially your grandparents and aunts and uncles!!!  No one would ever have thought to say to them, “You don’t have enough of a musical background to be able to judge whether my performance was good or not.”  But they do say that nowadays.

Two years ago, our choir sang excerpts from Handel’s Messiah for our Christmas cantata.  It was a labor of love on which we worked all year!  Since I had done it before, twice in England, I was worth my weight (really heavy at the time) in gold to my fellow choirmembers as we practiced.  I was used to people placing themselves on either side of me (and behind me) in order to hear my part (to either sing with it or to sing the alto part against it).

I got a lot of attention because of my experience with the piece, nothing more and nothing less. I would never have thought to differentiate between those who read music and who could tell what we were up against with that piece and those who don’t read music and who had to memorize the piece verbatim.  I would never have thought to reject the compliments of the latter group.

Yet I have since seen a tendency at concerts to want the person giving the compliment to establish her music credentials before the compliment will be accepted.  If a stranger (me!) comes up at a high school concert and says, “Great job on that solo!” it is hard to know what to do when the compliment is met by a stare.  

It is also hard to know what to do when complimenting a fellow handchimes musician after we play a number when the compliment is met with stony silence.  Is it necessary to first say all the disclaimer stuff like “I realize that I am only another handchimes player like you and I claim no special position to be able to judge your work, however I liked what I heard!”?    

Seems like we are going to have to find a way to meet each other halfway here.  Things that once were seen as social kindnesses that helped the world go ’round are now being billed as unnecessary intrusions into people’s lives.  

And I am still not sure how to get through a crowded mall without holding up my hand to let someone else go first.  Unless I just plow my way through like a Sherman tank, ignoring everyone around me . . . (yikes!).

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William Cowper: A Great Hymn Writer Suffered Bouts of Insanity

2 Sep

William Cowper: A Great Hymn Writer Suffered Bouts of Insanity

Last night in choir we were talking about hymn writers who have been hospitalized for mental illness. William Cowper may be the best known of them. He wrote “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood” which is one of my favorite hymns.

His story, and those of others, only goes to prove that we are the imperfect vessels carrying the perfect light of Christ. If anyone feels the compulsion to distance himself from someone like William Cowper, our brother in the Lord, he may be doing that because he finds much more sufficiency in himself than is actually there.

We are all broken or cracked vessels in so many ways. God uses us this way because the excellency of the light showing through our brokenness is the excellency of Christ, not our own!

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Church Music Trends, Throughout the Ages!

31 May

Church Music Trends, Throughout the Ages!

Two truths remain about church music:
1) We all have personal preferences. If we are not careful, we can elevate them to the level of Scriptural commands.
2) Anything new is viewed with suspicion.

I have much to learn beyond #1 and #2. I am not sure whether I could ever entertain the idea of Christian rap or Christian hip-hop. I plan to read more on this issue and write on it occasionally in the future.

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Patriotic and Beautiful Song!

9 Mar

Patriotic and Beautiful Song!

The WordPress software has changed, allowing me to link into Youtube videos, not just my own personal videos.

That is great news. I will not flood your inboxes with videos, but there are some that should not be missed.

This one, my new favorite song, sung by my new favorite singer (Katherine Jenkins of Great Britain) is one of them.

In the midst of all this patriotism (this is the theme song to the HBO series “Band of Brothers” based in World War II), there is one serious theological error that would preclude me ever singing this song in a patriotic festival.

Where is it?

In verse 2: “In fields of sacrifice/heroes pay the price. Young men who die for old men’s wars/go to Paradise.”

Yup, this song teaches salvation by way of a good death. And that is a Muslim doctrine, not a Christian one.

Our Bible says, “As it is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment . . .” (Hebrews 9:27). Our eternal salvation is settled before we die, based on whether we have received Jesus Christ in faith.

It is wisdom, however, to realize that America, at large, does believe in the doctrine of a good death. More than that, some teach the doctrine of salvation by way of any death. That suffering the pains of death purifies us and frees us to be saved, regardless of our previous life and choices. That would be a Buddhist doctrine.

As has been said by wiser people than me, Americans are all about religious syncretism nowadays. There are not many who don’t roll a few Muslim and Buddhist beliefs into their Christianity.

And those of us who believe in sola scriptura (Bible alone) would be wise to be aware that our fellow countrymen believe that way!

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A Church, Moving as One Person

2 Mar

A Church, Moving as One Person

I love this video and could watch it all day long.  It actually presents a theology of the church.

For those unfamiliar with Highland Cathedral, it is a relatively recent bagpipe number, from the latter part of the 20th century.  And, anyway, we know the Scots were effective in battle long before the bagpipe was invented . . .

But why were the Scots so effective?  Why are the U.S. Marines, modeled on the Scots, so effective in working as one organic unit in battle?  It’s not like anyone loses his or her individuality when joining the Marines, so how do they become so effective as a fighting machine?

Watch the way the music starts and spreads.  The little boy drumming up front gets it all started.  He is right in front of the bandleader and never takes his eyes off of him.  To me, the little boy symbolizes the pastor of a church.  Right in front of Jesus Christ and never swerving from paying attention to Him.

Next, the one bagpipe comes in.  Then the high brass.  Then the low brass.  Eventually a whole line of bagpipes, and a whole line of drums join in.

And notice, I count at least three times in the music where the conductor slows it down enough to add an extra beat.  Conductors get the option to do that, you know.

The entire band follows the conductor when he changes the tempo because the entire band follows the cadence the little boy beats on his drum.  Even the other drummers follow him.

If they did not, they would be wrong, because the little boy never takes his eyes off the conductor.  He knows exactly what tempo the conductor wants at each moment in the piece.

And that is key, in warfare and in the church.

Just as we don’t see any drummers saying they have a better cadence than the little boy and trying to lead factions of the band into their own cadence, so we all need to follow the pastor in our church.  Yes, there are other “drummers” (people qualified in theology) in a church.  But their purpose is still to support the pastor, not to lead a rival movement (a rival cadence) to him.  If they try to do that, they are wrong, no matter how correct their theological interpretations may be.

There may be times a pastor makes a theological error.  Quiet one-on-one discussions with members of his staff who have theological qualifications will fix that.  Opening a faction within a church never does, neither for other theologians on the staff nor for the person in the pew.

There is something simple and beautiful about a pastor beholding Christ’s face and glory and doing his best to convey that to his church.  There is something simple and beautiful in a church that follows the lead of a godly pastor.

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