Category Archives: Contemprary Christian Music

Thanksgiving Day 2010

This post is like a nesting box set or those Russian dolls that include smaller dolls inside themselves in a series that can be revealed as they are split open. My own Thanksgiving observance has begun with spending a lot of time helping others who are really preparing the Feast, talking about the holiday and the football games as well as seeing who will and will not be around our massive table (many tables actually). John Paul Papurzynski is wedding Sheila Agresta and they are involving my family and some of the sites of the FMC bases in this project and celebration. The New Orleans Saints will be playing a big game with the Dallas Cowboys on the day  and it comes at a crucial time of year as well in the football season. There are lots of other things and dearly cared for people on my mind as well. Some I will see at Dinner some on the Day but not at Dinner and some not on the Day at all.  

I may blog again tomorrow or the next day but I reproducing my main Thanksgiving Day blog post here as well.  This is  very  great and deep tradition now going back alomost four years on the internet in one form or another…    

2009 blog post here:

I hope that all reading this will have the kind and level of Thanksgiving Day which seems appropriate and right for them. Not all of ye few, ye proud, ye brave– ye readers are Americans.  I am reprinting a Facebook Note from last year on the Thanksgiving  Holiday here. I hope you enjoy it as part of your season.

This morning in the very early hours  I sent out 40 e-cards to comemorate the holiday and Monday night I had Sarah, Alyse, Anika, Soren and my nephew Eli who is my sister Mary’s son over for a large dinner where we returned thanks and were in fellowship. Tomorrow I am scheduled to be with my Dad’s mother and his siblings and their families. So this is a pretty full Thanksgiving compared to last year but the parts of  the note which are not about my specific plans are largely accurate. So here is the note:

Getting Personal: A few thoughts about my life and Thanksgiving.

 Wednesday, November 26, 2008 at 8:46am 
This is kind of a Thanksgiving note but it is not really heartwarming or cheerful. I also hope it is readable on occasions after Thanksgiving. Perhaps if you are pretty sure you will not have a great Thanksgiving it would not be a bad note to read. If you are on the borderline call an old friend, watch football, offer to help someone clean up the dishes or whatever BUT don’t read this note. America has always had some serious problems and for whatever reason those problems have always weighed upon me. They are not the only things weighing on me andnever have been. However, this year is a year in which those problems weigh very heavily. I see the election of Barack Obama as kind of an anti-Thanksgiving event.

Thanksgiving comes from the most optimistic and positive part of America and its best historic moments. There have bee a lot of good times and moments of glory in America and in a real way Thanksgiving ties us to all of those times. “The pilgrims prepare a feast and invite those who lived in America before them to join the feast. These Aboriginal Americans called Indians join them and there is a period of peace and collaboration.” That’s the basic story. There were days of Thanksgiving, of Repentance, of Intercession and other such spiritual exercises in the Plymouth Brethren community. Unlike the Anglicans of James Town or my own Acadian forebears (who were mostly Catholic) these feasts were not scheduled to fall on holidays that were the same each year and regular ritual was avoided. If the Acadians had been the dominant culture on the continent in every way there might be a Jour des Bonnes Temps. There was in Acadie a society of recognized knights and non-aristocrats called “Le Orde des Bonnes Temps”. This Order of Good times would fund a priest or missionary to have a mass or service when they came through and would support community celebration of holidays. They did invite MiqMacs to their feasts on occasion. However, even with some charitable and religious functions of their own the order had a principal purpose. That was to be a kind of buying cooperative to ensure that the best possible meats and wines and pastries would always be for sale in the young colony. They did that by throwing several feasts each year that were as extravagant as they could make them. These Catholics, like the Spanish Catholics who celebrated the first Texas Thanksgiving in 1521, did have Thanksgiving Days on occasion. Christians of all communions did this to recognize occasions when something good happened especially in the dangerous new colonies of America.

The Order Of Good Times has an interesting and not unimportant story. Theirs is a better episode than many others in our continent’s history but certainly not better as a foundation than the one the Plymouth Brethren gave us. However, since this sect avoided holidays in the traditional sense our government had to revive the custom and the practice somewhat artificially later in our history. But it is still the child of Plymouth. Some silly modern scholars have called the 1621 holiday attended by Squanto and dozens of other Indians secular compared to a religious Calvinist feast on 1623 that was whites only. That is absurd, the two feasts are simply unrelated occasions. Both thanked God but one did it in an inclusive way and the other was the same people acting in the more narrow inside baseball way that they acted when assembled as a Christian sect. By the way this 1621 Feast is the only instance where Native Americans is a good term for Indigenous or Aboriginal Americans in common speech. Native means born there and most pilgrims were not while all Indians were in this instance.

Thanksgiving is a very American holiday and a holiday related to many personal and family memories and associations. I am able to remember a few Thanksgiving Days when I barely observed the day. However, I have never been in the United States on those days. I have also not at all aware that I ever did less to make a day of it. Three years I won a turkey for Thanksgiving and one year I won two turkeys.This year I did not enter any contests. But I think that there is a sort of perfect storm of long and short-term trends which have taken almost all the energy I had for Thanksgiving. NONETHELESS, I WISH ANYONE READING THIS EARLY OR LATE A VERY HAPPY THANKSGIVING.

It has taken me a while to get this note out. This will be the longest period of time between two notes since I got on to Facebook. That is largely because of personal concerns and post-election fatigue and depression. In this note have decided to step back from my philosophizing and conjecturing about the country and civilization and to discuss my own life. It is an odd time to do so but there it goes. I do odd things…

The stuff about the country in this note has to do either with what day it is or with how the country affects me directly. So I am thinking about another of the many fathers of the Thanksgiving Holiday. To some degree it was proclaimed by Abraham Lincoln after the extremely bloody Battle of Gettysburg. Even if one believes that Gettysburg was a great and important moment of good (my own feelings are ambiguous but I am more of a Confederate sympathizer than a Lincoln fan — that much is sure) this was the darkest pattern to help make the Thanksgiving tradition. Even if you just count Yankee dead it was a bloodbath which would not have rated such a holiday under any other President we have had up to now. I don’t know about the new alleged Illinois man.

The United States before the Civil War always commanded the plural form of verbs. These days however I write that the US has been in crisis rather than that the US have been in crisis much of my life.
We are not entirely lost but we are not entirely saved either. What we have got going is a suicidal narrative and process. Fortunately, however, this is still competing with a number of productive and life-giving narratives and processes. My own life has been lived out in the context of the tensions and conflicts of this country at this time. Many Europeans and a handful of Northeast Asians like to think that there has never been much of a life of Thought in the United States of America. Many Americans agree with them. However, that is not true. There are different forms of intellectual life and America excelled in a few of them. What America has offered far more often than Europeans like to admit is a life in which especially Greek, Jewish and Roman thought was vitally connected to intervening thinkers and the life of the day. We have however an America where almost nobody thinks reading Greek, Latin or Hebrew should be a requisite for even a doctoral degree. In fact not even in a doctoral degree related to the humanities is such a skill normally required. Many times in the past any American intellectual aspired to at least a faltering mastery of one or more of these tongues. Our newly elected President was Editor of Harvard Law Review. However, what real connection did he have to the grand body of knowledge which alone justifies having anything like Harvard.

The Thanksgiving we remember is the one at Plymouth but its history as a national holiday has more to do with the bloodiest killing of Americans we have ever seen. The battle of Gettysburg saw the flower of Northern and Southern young men die in agony. However, the Union under Lincoln set up a Thanksgiving day to celebrate victory in this fratricide and the nearly inevitable loss of the Confederate cause. That is only on of several days of Thanksgiving however, even Washington had at least one. However it is Plymouth’s that we really honor. If Colin Powell, Jessie Jackson Jr. or Clarence Thomas had been elected as our first Black president they would have been in tune with the part of America that does not just lie down in surrender before the endless waves of new blood and people. Instead of this story of struggle and people-building in the great sweep of American history culminating in the highest prize we have another “only in America story” that shows how weak we have always been in America.
We are also strong but not having a common religion, recognition of the exceptional in our politics or the constant success of newcomers does not make us strong. Rather those are actually part of the cost of being who we are. It is a cost worth paying when the Plymouth Thanksgiving is being lived out. When old and new come together and God is honored in a kind of secular way and there is both hard work and excitement.
If literally anyone can become President then I am afraid that we really don’t have a country. For me that moment arrived with Barack Obama. l think I had almost reached the end of my ability to stand where this country has been for so long but this is total insanity in my view. Foreign rulers or near foreigners in other countries can be healthy. If they have deeply established religious institutions, aristocracies and nativist privileges then a foreign dynasty or lazy and benevolent occupation can be energizing. Usually it is a bad thing but often enough it is a good thing. America is not that kind of country, it has always been a minimalist official society. Now we are way below the minimum. For me the end has come, it just hasn’t set in yet. Barack’s background cuts out the tiny connective tissue of a country with too little connective tissue.

When I think of America today and of my life in it I think that it has been a slow and inevitable process that so many American streams of real thinking have dried up entirely. I am entirely sincere in saying the following: Feminism has both produced some of the worst thinking in the country and has had an enormously healthy effect in clarifying ideas, enlivening intellectual communities, opening debate and integrating ideas into life. That mix of good and bad is rather common among booming intellectual movements. Feminism certainly formed an important part of my intellectual journey and landscape.

There have been times when I was resentful of and resistant to feminism. However, there are also times when I have been involved in supporting feminist causes. I feel that the individualist — statist tension of much of modern feminism is ver typical of the recent United States of America. However, while I dislike that very much in American feminism I actually think it is less pronounced than in more male dominated discourses of American thought. Having groups of distant relatives, family and guests gathering in different religions on a Day set aside to thank God is also an antidote to the poison of seeing only individuals and governments. American women still carry most of the load of making Thanksgiving work.
I was married to a feminist. However, like most feminists (and this more true than of many male dominated movements) she was inconsistent. Women tend to drop ideas that are not working. They tend to compromise and find circuitous routes around conflicts when they don’t think they can win. My ex-wife was like many other women in that regard. In recent years I seem to live out the lyrics of the Lenny Kravitz(sp?) song “American Woman” However, I don’t feel that there are many reasons related to feminism that explain this isolation.

My isolation seems to be related to many things both about me and my society. I just joined Politico. Com, it has been interesting and people dialog with me about my comments. In setting up my profile there I had chosen to keep my personal information only for friends and to make my blog public. So far ( I have only been on two days or so as I write this) I had scores of people who visit my profile and did not issue friends requests or view my blog. Therefore, these visitors basically just looked at my screen name and the title of the blog entries. Somehow this ability to get lots of people interested enough to make one click but universally sure that two clicks would be too many must mean something big. How exactly does one do that? As I write this I have tried to get my personal information in a bit better order and have decided to open up my personal info to the public. I will see how that works out.

There have been very few times in my life when I was sustainably happy for more than a few days. There have been few periods when I did not generally avoid rather than seek out the company of most people I could associate with in my life. I think that trends are still moving in that direction for me. However, on short-term occasions like Thanksgiving Day I have had many happy times. When my love life was really good I was usually very happy for a while but those times were not that frequent. When I won something honorable with a big payoff I was often happy. There have also been sometimes when I experienced religious consolation that made me happy. There were also other times but they did not add up to very large percentages of my life. I am the kind of person who will always care about the political and social order.

I still live to make a future and as though I may live another forty years or more. However, it seems to me that we are really moving past the edge of any worldview that doesn’t approach what I would call hellishness. There is little else that I can say except that I am glad to be alone most or all of this Thanksgiving Day. In my own way I have always loved America very much but I think a lot of that love is dying. Dying in me and I feel no shame in saying that publicly. So far me this year a sad and quiet Thanksgiving Day seems about right.

End of Facebook Note–

I am enjoying a happier frame of mind (not much)  than last year and do have many things on my mind to be thankful for in my life. I am heading into townto visit some people in a Thanksgiving way and we will see how that goes before tomorrow. Then hopefully a pleasant dinner with extended family.

End of 2010 blogpost

I also take this occasion to wish Amy Grant a happy  50th birthday this Thanksgiving Day.  I do not think she regularly reads this blog but I am a fan and wish her the best.  I hope that she and Vince Gill and family will have a really good day.  

The Danger of Being a Complete Idiot

I have decided that I am personally opposed to be the world being run by complete idiots.  I think that in time there will be a need to decide that merely being a complete idiot is not a sign of a divine right to govern. Being a complete idiot may be  a fine ideal for people at many levels and may feel really wonderful but it is not sufficient to outweigh all other possible human qualities.

We have a society that moves fast and moving fast has become essential to a lot of what we do and who we are. However,  we often move in a lot of ignorance and foolishness. The adjustment to a somewhat more deliberate pace will not be an easy one.

I think that it is somehow important to be able to step out of the ordinary and mundane flow and norm of human life and society.  It is important to be able to see the bigger picture and the connections between the separate pictures which are the worldviews of each society, nation and culture. I think it is good to be able to see the several goods that conflict with the several evils that may accompany a policy decision  and also to see  how those evils conflict with each other and how those goods conflict with each other. I trust the analysis that follows such a  moral parsing  more than one which starts always looking for just the good and the bad of a choice. I trust even less that analysis rooted in the opinion that there is no good or evil.

I like the idea that a school should be a place of learning first for all the students. I do not believe we can eliminate all the rest but I believe that rape, bullying, brutalization, farting, stupidity being propounded pompously and theft should be less important than well-organized lessons, sporting events, school dances, plays, bands, moderate punishments and friendly conversation at the lunch table. I am willing to see the world that I live in clearly but I am not willing to see it as all perfectly good and right.

I think that the main purpose of the world we live in from my point of view is to suck as much as possible. However, I sometimes choose to resist this trend. One thing I hate is that whole trend which has amended the election of any US Senators by the State Legislatures away, made absolute robots of the College of Electors to the point of completely ignoring them except as mathematical factors, diminished the role of the Vice President as President of the Senate, started the rule of saying the United States is a country instead of the United States are a country (to which like others of these rules I adhere), racial policy that says either no colored people can share a conference center with white people anywhere or else blacks have the obligation to overrun every white school and rearrange its curriculum and life. These are just some of the many ways in which the country which is my home has made being a complete idiot the national ideal. I wish it could be changed.

It takes great intelligence and knowledge and some discipline to really follow the beauty pageants system, baseball at each level, the NCAA basketball tournament or a good game of football. It takes great knowledge and intelligence to stay current on what is happening in Country, Cajun, Zydeco, Bluegrass, various regional forms of the Blues, Contemporary Christian, Southern Swing, Motown, Jazz, Broadway Showtunes and movie Soundtracks. It takes great knowledge and skill  to follow and understand the Mercantile Exchange, The New York Stock Exchange, the history of the New Orleans Cotton Exchange, the Urner-Barry Seafood Price Current, the NASDAQ and the Morningstar summary of  mutual funds. Nobody apologizes for any of this difficulty. But I am convinced that in the essence of our polity and commonwealth and in the social mechanics that hold us all together  we face the ideal of the complete idiot gaining ground year by year and generation by generation.  I do not mean democracy.  I really mean the ideal of the complete political idiot. I am not joking. We have not achieved our ideal yet, but that is the ideal to which we are being drawn and towards which we are drawing the world.

I wish we would adopt a different ideal. I fee l that there are real dangers in us all becoming complete idiots in this area of our lives. We will face challenges in the environment, politics, war and diplomacy which a complete idiot is not the best person to address. Sometimes we will need people who are not complete idiots.

Friday the Thirteenth: Some Thoughts About the Darkside

Today is Friday the Thirteenth. This is not the same kind of holiday as Halloween, it lacks the roots in all kinds of deep Pagan traditions and the ties to major Catholic Christian holidays still celebrated within a few days. It is not a day which is the same kind of thing as some day dedicated to a full-fledged and living set of terrors or celebrations of a dark cult.  it is a day to think of the weird, skewed, unlucky and creepy if you live in a milieu which will note such things.

I am really getting this post out too late to matter and it will be too short to matter much. I will just sneak it in under the wire with a few thoughts for next time. One thing that I feel is really true about our era is that a great number of very large adjustments in society and the world and people’s lives are going on all at once. The change in Christianity as it exists in Protestantism differs from the change in Orthdox and Catholic traditions. But it seems to me that as a whole Christians are more and more afraid to see in their faith tradition  that strand which is mysterious and careful and nuanced and aware in dealing with spiritual darkness and evil. In my experience that stuff has real risks for a church. But I also believe it has  very often been the case that those most aware of such aspects of the Faith were the greatest warriors for pure light and truth.

I am tapping this out without quotes but you can look this up or trust me. The New Testament is careful to exhort us to show respect for devils who are fallen angels and beyond the comprehension of fools. An epistle writer cites an extracanonical book in which St. Michael says “May the Lord rebuke you!” in struggling with Satan over Moses’s body. This is the language of a respectful adversary. St. Paul in addressing the Areopagus speaks partly of pagan religions and their gods themselves when he says that God spoke to the generations before Christ in varied and fragmentary ways.     Jesus called his Passion and Crucifixion “The Hour of Darkness” as a time in which evil forces had the right in some real heavenly law to be in control.

So what does all that matter?

Well it seems there is a huge market for thinking art and entertainment about this stuff of dark and evil forces. Christians seem to be losing an edge. Catholic church proceeding never require a Devil’s Advocate under law any more. Protestantism is marked by those who disbelieve in evil forces of the Satanic type, those who find them uninteresting and those who trivialize and insult them. Obviously I am oversimplifying and being negative as I so often am. However, Look at film, music, video and other things and ask if we are even slightly holding our own as makers of popular culture in this regard. I do not think we are and I think that this has consequences.

Reconnecting

This is a certain kind of blog post of which there will be relatively few. It is about connecting specific recent events in my own life and internet activity to the larger patterns of society and the world. I do similar things but not this subset of specific things. I may drop down to some tiny little number very soon but as of a few minutes before writing this line I have 823 Facebook friends.  There are a truly thousands of people I know and sometimes think about who are not on that list. There are many among the two or three hundred people I would most like to have contact with through Facebook and other means who are not on my Facebook list. In general my relationships as carried out by way of Facebook’s services are not very complete an are relatively unsatisfying. In addition they make one aware that sustaining real relationships (especially if one has the disadvantage of being me)  is really rather difficult and uncertain. I enjoy the fact that in some way academic, political, religious, space-oriented, paramilitary, missionary, media and other spheres of activities and groups of associates are joined fo me in representative samples in one convenient place.  

But the point of bringing up the Facebook list is really how much I appreciate and enjoy it. I enjoy and appreciate the way i can get news from relatives, friends and acquaintances. I enjoy having direct and even sometimes only indirect contact with people from my sojourns in Mexico, Colombia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Tonga and the many foci of my activities in the United States. I enjoy having these contacts gathered together in one convenient medium.

I recently served as lector and pallbearer for an uncle only nine years my senior.  It was sad to say goodbye to Will. It was meaningful and even pleasant to reconnect with hundreds of people ( a good number well-known to me) who came to pay their respects.  Those days meant a great deal and I am still glad to have shared that time with them sending off one of those who had a real impact on my life.  This was a time of reconnection that meant a good bit to me.

I could write about so many people and probably could name them whom I have reconnected with in one of the two venues. Guys I went to school with and now can keep track of a bit better and cousins who had almost slipped off my radar screen but are now back in view deserve to be mentioned if  one goes by their importance in my life.  A few of these people  are “flat-out famous” as a friend of mine used to say. Perhaps I exclude their names partly to protect them from unwanted attention and partly to protect myself from their displeasure. Not any specific fear but just a habit of caution.

Beyond these two specific venues for reconnection I have also recently been involved in a couple of rather brief correspondences which had the effect of reconnecting me to my past as well. However, I feel reticent again to go into specific details about who these people were too.

That leaves me with one specific name to mention. I mention her because we are not friends I have therefore nothing to lose and she is so famous that my little blog is not likely to cause her any real harm or inconvenience no matter what which would not have come first from many other sources. 

Amy Grant is just a tiny bit older than I am and I have been listening to her music about as long as she has had a record deal. I used to own My Father’s Eyes, Age to Age, Straight Ahead, Unguarded and several other albums in what was never a really large record collection. She is the most successful artist in the history of the genre called Contemporary Christian Music.  She has won several Grammy Awards and a plethora of Dove Awards. She has been part of my life and I have played tracks of her albums at prayer services, lectures and retreats. But it has been a long time since I have played her stuff for anyone else. It has even been a long time since I owned any copy of her stuff.

I belonged to  (and still do belong to) a college household with a Hebrew name and have often celebrated Christian direct borrowings from the Sabbath Meal and the Pseder Supper. She made her mark with many songs but one of the early big hits was a song with a Hebrew lead line. I combined doing ministry and religious communications with involvement in secular media work. While she was a successful phenomenon it is still true that I could often see her working though decisions and difficulties that were the same as mine in that same process. Some challenges were identical, some very close and others just  resonant but it was a real bond.

I also went to her concerts a couple of times and I felt I could invite a variety of friends who would not  form a group elsewhere. Although the actual groups were small and kind of unsuccessful the potential seemed to be their. With my own sisters and some other young girls I could use her as a role model for a real young woman struggling to survive and grow in faith and be herself. Amy Grant was part of a soundtrack that included Michael Doucet, Bruce Springsteen, Rush, the Carpenters, John Denver, Willie Nelson, George Straight, U2, Rafe Vaughn Williams, Ray Charles, Fats Domino and many other artists when I was young as well as lots of live worship music. However, Amy Grant’s music has more special stories than almost all of the others from the large pop culture world.

I have recently downloaded some of her music and interviews and it makes me remember watching her career progress. She has now been married to Vince Gill for years and I remember when that was topic of conversation as an upcoming event. She has kept working and I have seen some of her stuff on tv and  now can see that she is still working.   I still find the vibe associated with her fascinating.

I want to put in a few links about reconnecting from her own work.

1.Here is  a mature piece of spiritual work than reconnects with her whole past I think: Better than a Hallelujah  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3AmhFXckSc&feature=related

2. Stay for a  While…  is about reconnecting http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Om_6q_diHw0&feature=related

3. Thy Word  Amy also reconnects with an old friend and the industry she made rock http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZi-Nqndeok&feature=related