Wednesday, January 30, 2008

It's simple, really...

"On the Republican side, former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani was expected to quit [the race to become his party's presidential nominee in 2008]...after failing to make an impact with his campaign." --News item, 1/30/2008, following Giulani's third-place finish in Florida's primary election.

How did the man who was widely considered the hero of September 11th go from being "America's mayor" to "Rudy who?" in such a short time? Heidi Klum, professional model and television star, can relate. On every episode of BravoTV's Project Runway she says to the competing designers, "As you know, in the world of fashion, one day you're in, and the next day you're out."

So it's simple, really. Obviously, Mr. Giuliani is no longer in fashion.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

An update on Ellie

Tomorrow will make three weeks since Ellie underwent surgery for replacement of her right knee. This past Thursday evening, Esther B. came over with a meal for us and brought Carolyn H. along as navigator. One of them -- I'm not saying which one, but Esther doesn't own a computer -- said I was falling down on my job because she had been reading my blog and I was not keeping people informed about Ellie's progress.

So today I am taking pen in hand, I mean putting fingertips to keyboard, and giving you an update. Among the things we have had intimate knowledge of in the last three weeks and have now dispensed with entirely are:

• Thrice-weekly visits by the home-health-care physical therapist
• Twice-weekly visits by the home-health-care registered nurse
• Frequent checking of Ellie's blood-glucose levels (they have returned to the normal range)
• A portable potty chair
• A wheeled walker
• Thirty-seven (37) staples in Ellie's knee

Some of these items have been relegated to the garage, some have been put away in a cabinet, some have been thrown in the trash, and some have been sent on their way with our thanks. I'll let you guess which are which. Ellie still needs to wear a brace while sleeping to prevent her leg from moving the wrong way accidentally.

My job description has changed from personal-care provider and server of brought-in food to the more ordinary tasks of preparing food and cleaning up afterwards, doing laundry and folding it and putting it away, chauffeuring Ellie to the twice-weekly outpatient physical therapy sessions, and trying generally to encourage her. Yesterday was a day for special rejoicing as we drove over to Frank and Rose S.'s place and retrieved our dog, Jethro, from his three-week vacation at his favorite doggie dude-ranch. He seems a little bewildered but glad to be back home. Add walking the dog to that list of tasks.

Thanks to everyone for the cards and telephone calls and food and prayers and other expressions of concern during this time.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Quote of the day #2:

"Is it not proven beyond all dispute that there is no limit to the enormities which men will commit when they are once persuaded that they are keepers of other men’s consciences? To spread religion by any means, and to crush heresy by all means is the practical inference from the doctrine that one man may control another’s religion. Given the duty of a state to foster some one form of faith, and by the sure inductions of our nature slowly but certainly persecution will occur. To prevent for ever the possibility of Papists roasting Protestants, Anglicans hanging Romish priests, and Puritans flogging Quakers, let every form of state-churchism be utterly abolished, and the remembrance of the long curse which it has cast upon the world be blotted out for ever."

That's Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) speaking. He was pastor of The Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England, for many years during the reign of Queen Victoria. But it bears repeating today, in a different place, under different circumstances.

Quote of the day #1:

"I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell."

The statement was made by General William Booth (1829-1912), the man who founded the Salvation Army. He was speaking of the twentieth century, but for many of us who grew up in the last half of the twentieth century, it seems to apply also to the the twenty-first century.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Worth remembering...

"When our days become dreary with low hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice."
--Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Blue and the Gray

This was a busy weekend in our household. Yesterday, January 20th, was our daughter-in-law's birthday and tomorrow, January 22nd, is our daughter's birthday. Our daughter had planned to drive over from Birmingham on Saturday to spend part of the three-day weekend with us. She teaches third grade and the schools were going to be closed on Monday for the observance of Martin Luther King's birthday. But Alabama's weather forecasters were predicting snow on Saturday so she drove over with Sawyer and Sam on Friday evening instead. Our son-in-law couldn't make the trip this time because he had to work on Saturday.

We planned a family get-together for Saturday that was supposed to emphasize the casual family atmosphere aspects and de-emphasize the birthday-celebration aspects and just be a "because we want to and because we love each other" get-together. On Saturday morning North Georgia had some more snow (twice in one year is unheard of around here, let alone twice in one week) with predictions of icy roads by late afternoon and temperatures dropping into the teens by Sunday morning. My older son, who is married to the daughter-in-law having the birthday, thought it best not to make the hour-long trip to our house because they might not be able to get back home, but my younger son, who is married to the daughter-in-law whose birthday is not until July, lives closer and he decided to drive over anyway. Elijah and Noah and Sawyer and Sam built a snowman in the front yard, complete with the straw hat I wear while mowing the lawn and an orange scarf promoting Auburn University, courtesy of the Birmingham bunch. On Sunday the roads were not icy, so our older son's family came over in the early afternoon for a visit as well. So our daughter was able to see both of her brothers and her sisters-in-law, but the brothers and the sisters-in-law didn't get to see one another this time. Sam and Sawyer saw all of their cousins, but Matthew and Ansley didn't get to see Elijah and Noah. There will be, we trust, many more times for other get-togethers with all in attendance.

We didn't have to rush to the supermarket to stock up on the basics like so many of our panic-stricken fellow citizens were doing because all week long the folks from the church choir have been bringing fabulous meals in copious amounts to our house to help us out during Ellie's recuperation. (Note. On Saturday Ellie was able to walk without the aid of a walker for the first time since the surgery on her knee.) So our thanks go out to Terri H., Steve and Kristi A., Cheryl and Dave M., Gwen M., Bruce and Judy C., Walter & Margaret T., Lori and Jeff R., and Alicia J. for all of your hard work, culinary talent, time taken, and love expressed in such a tangible way. I think we have food enough to last another week, and for that we are grateful. And also for Patti C. who brought over two DVDs of gospel music for us to watch and listen to, and for Peggy N., our neighbor on the hillside, who brought over a cute, plush toy frog that reminds Ellie and me daily that we can Fully Rely On God.

I said all that to say this. In all the hubbub of birthdays and snowman-building and post-op victories and photo opportunities and lots of people coming and going, January 19th slipped right past me unnoticed. January 19th is--don't laugh, please--the birthday of Robert E. Lee, and since I am a member of Kappa Alpha Order (Xi chapter, 1959), the same Kappa Alpha Order of which General Lee is practically the patron saint, I have always remembered when it was his birthday. I know some of you think this is a bit weird. I do it anyway, and it in no way lessens my admiration for the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday was actually last Tuesday, not today. Robert E. Lee, who led the Confederate forces in their gray uniforms during the U. S. Civil War (1861-1865), was a Christian gentleman who became president of Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) in Virginia after the war ended. Kappa Alpha Order was founded there in 1865. Ulysses S. Grant, who led the Union forces in their blue uniforms, was a brilliant military strategist who became a President of the United States even though he had a problem with alcohol. Both of them were graduates of West Point. The nation remained intact, for which all of us should be thankful, and the healing was already underway as early as 1867 when some ladies in Mississippi visited a cemetery and laid flowers on the graves of both Union and Confederate dead. Surely even Abraham Lincoln, who had been killed by John Wilkes Booth two years earlier, would have approved of their act. It helped speed reconciliation and forgiveness at a time when much of the nation was still bitterly divided in the war's aftermath. And it was noted in a newspaper article that was read by one Francis Miles Finch, who wrote the following poem:

The Blue and the Gray
by Francis Miles Finch

By the flow of the inland river,
Whence the fleets of iron have fled,
Where the blades of the grave-grass quiver,
Asleep on the ranks of the dead;
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment day;
Under the one, the Blue;
Under the other, the Gray.

These in the robings of glory,
Those in the gloom of defeat;
All with the battle-blood gory,
In the dusk of eternity meet;
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment day;
Under the laurel, the Blue;
Under the willow, the Gray.

From the silence of sorrowful hours,
The desolate mourners go,
Lovingly laden with flowers,
Alike for the friend and the foe;
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment day;
Under the roses, the Blue;
Under the lilies, the Gray.

So, with an equal splendor,
The morning sun-rays fall,
With a touch impartially tender,
On the blossoms blooming for all;
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment day;
Broidered with gold, the Blue;
Mellowed with gold, the Gray.

So, when the summer calleth,
On forest and field of grain,
With an equal murmur falleth
The cooling drip of the rain;
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment day;
Wet with the rain, the Blue;
Wet with the rain, the Gray.

Sadly, but not with upbraiding,
The generous deed was done;
In the storm of the years that are fading,
No braver battle was won;
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment day;
Under the blossoms, the Blue;
Under the garlands, the Gray.

No more shall the war-cry sever,
Or the winding rivers be red;
They banish our anger forever,
When they laurel the graves of our dead.
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment day;
Love and tears for the Blue;
Tears and love for the Gray.

I hope General Lee's admirers will forgive me for missing his birthday.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Jeannelle of Iowa

This blog has a new reader, Jeannelle, and since she lives in Iowa, I have dubbed her Jeannelle of Iowa. That has a nice ring to it, don't you think? Sort of like Eleanor of Aquitaine, a woman who lived in the twelfth century and was the mother of Richard the Lion-hearted. She mentioned in a comment a few days ago (Jeannelle of Iowa, not Eleanor of Aquitaine) that she saw Field of Dreams listed in my profile as one of my favorite movies. She said she lives not far from where the movie was filmed, and she allowed as how she is not really a Kevin Kostner [sic] fan, but the movie was so moving near the end when Kevin Costner's departed father played ball with him, a classic tear-jerking scene for her.

In my previous post, "Why I Blog," I mentioned that I have written a book entitled Billy Ray Barnwell Here (The Meanderings of a Twisted Mind), and it can now be revealed that Chapter 27 of the book brings up that very scene. The narrator is Billy Ray Barnwell, who, I must warn you, not only writes in an unconventional manner (unlike myself) but also wanders all over the map (hence the subtitle).
So for Jeannelle of Iowa and any others of you lurking out there who might be reading my blog, get out your hankies. Here it is:

CHAPTER 27
Billy Ray Barnwell here, I would be the last person in the world to tell you how to run your finances, there are plenty of financial planners in the world willing to do just that for a fee if you are dumb enough to let them, but I do want to pass along the best piece of financial advice I ever heard or rather ever saw, we had stopped to eat at a Stuckey’s just off the interstate years ago on the way to somewhere, I forget where, we were prolly in south Georgia or deep in L.A. which in my part of the world means Lower Alabama and I was checking out the souvenirs on the way back from the restroom, you know the ones, the baseball caps with the Confederate flags that say “Forget, hell” and the sets of shot glasses with somebody else’s favorite college football team logo on them and the beach towels that say Harley-Davidson and the salt and pepper sets that look like little outhouses, stuff you cannot possibly live without, and suddenly I saw this plaque that you could buy to hang on your wall that said “If your outgo exceeds your income your upkeep will be your downfall,” the plaque said it I mean, not your wall, and I was dumbfounded, I had this epiphany just like O. E. Parker did when he was in the tattoo parlor in Flannery O’Connor’s short story “Parker’s Back” and saw this Byzantine Christ tattoo whose eyes said to him GO BACK, boy I wish I could write like Flannery O’Connor, either her or Pat Conroy, his prose flows and hers shocks, I guess if I had to pick just one it would be Flannery, but unfortunately the only way I know how to write is like me, anyways I knew I had to have that plaque, I wanted to buy it so bad I could taste it but I also knew we couldn’t afford it even though it was only $9.95 because we had saved for months just to make that trip to wherever it was we were going and we needed every penny we had for food and for gasoline to get back home on, so I did the next best thing, I committed that saying to memory instead, who needs a plaque on the wall when it is emblazoned in your heart is what I say, so for years that saying has been my watchword, well more of a goal I would have to say, as there have been many times when my outgo did in fact exceed my income and I was very much afraid that my upkeep was indeed going to be my downfall but somehow we always managed to make it through to the next paycheck, thank you Jesus, it’s always darkest just before the dawn is what my stepmother used to say, not the thank you Jesus part, that was me, and she would still be saying it too only she passed away last November in Texas at the age of eighty-nine years, seven months, and twenty-eight days, not that anybody was counting, and she was right, about the darkness and the dawn I mean, because dawn always came and that black cloud would somehow have a silver lining and life would go on, except of course for her it didn’t as of last November, but you get what I’m saying. Speaking of going back, it’s funny how at the most unexpected times I get a flashback to a story I’ve read or a movie I’ve seen like that scene from Funny Girl I told you about, the movie Field of Dreams has that effect on me too because my Dad moved from LaCrosse Wisconsin to Cedar Rapids Iowa when he was in junior high school, he joined the Navy from Iowa, he and I were such different people, we never threw a baseball to each other on more than a couple of occasions, he was always working at the factory and I was always reading a book or practicing the piano, I was never very good at sports but I did love baseball and except for the minor detail that I couldn’t hit, couldn’t catch, couldn’t pitch, couldn’t throw, and couldn’t run, I could have played baseball, I always rooted for the Brooklyn Dodgers whenever they ended up playing the New York Yankees in the World Series, so I was drawn to a movie like Field of Dreams, I become a blubbering idiot every time I see it, Udella Mabry’s cousin Darlene Abernathy says well why do you watch it then and I really have no answer except that something grabs me in the pit of my stomach every time Kevin Costner which is pronounced Kevin Costner finally has that encounter with his father, the person he could never communicate with, and his father, who has been dead for many years but looks as young as or maybe even younger than Kevin, thanks Kevin for building the baseball field and says “It’s like a dream come true” and then asks “Is this Heaven?” and Kevin looks around at the baseball diamond and the cornfield and says “It’s Iowa” and his father says “I could have sworn it was Heaven” and Kevin says “Is there a Heaven?” and his father says “Oh yeah,” and after a short pause in which you can tell Kevin is thinking “What’s it like?” his father says “It’s the place where dreams come true” and Kevin looks around at his house and his wife and his daughter and says “Maybe this is Heaven” and he and his father finally have that game of catch and up on the front porch of the house Kevin’s wife throws the switch and the baseball diamond is lit up in the growing darkness and the camera pans back and up and you see all these hundreds of cars with their headlights on making their way in the twilight to the baseball field all because Kevin heard the voice saying “If you build it he will come” and “Ease his pain” and “Go the distance” and went to see James Earl Jones as Terence Mann and then the both of them went to see Burt Lancaster as Archie “Moonlight” Graham who gave up his heavenly baseball career to save Kevin’s daughter from choking to death on a hot dog and by this point I have been reduced to a puddle on the floor thinking about what never was and what might have been and what part of the fault was mine, Virgil Abernathy says he can tell from all the time he spent in rehab that I am way too involved with that movie, I’ve never been in rehab but he is prolly right, some other movies I especially like include Dances With Wolves which also has Kevin Costner in it, some parts are almost like looking at a painting in a museum, parts of the movie I mean, not parts of Kevin Costner, oh and there’s To Kill A Mockingbird and Some Like It Hot and They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? and Prince Of Tides and Out Of Africa and of course the incomparable Casablanca, and if you ask me, which I know you didn’t but I’m just saying, the motion picture industry is in a great decline nowadays with the notable exception of the three Lord Of The Rings movies, and this is Billy Ray Barnwell signing off.

Maybe you didn't need your hankies after all.

Why I Blog

The Writers Guild of America strike, now in its eleventh week, has produced an interesting byproduct (I mean besides the cancellation of the Golden Globes Awards telecast). A new blog called "Why We Write" started 23 days ago, and each day another member of the Guild writes a short essay explaining his or her raison d'être. It has contained informative and entertaining stuff, although I personally could do without the increasingly obligatory four-letter words. On one of my bookshelves is a book entitled, "Why I Write: Thoughts on the Craft of Fiction" that I bought in 1998; it includes essays by Norman Mailer and Pat Conroy and Terry McMillan and Richard Ford, twenty-six people in all. Now that my blog is almost four months old (glory be! who woulda thunk?), the time has come for me to think out loud about why I decided to start blogging.

In December of 1972, when I was thirty-one years old, I wrote my first poem. I know the date because the poem's title is "December, 1972." Clever, huh? I put it in a folder and put the folder in a desk drawer. Over the years since then, I have added another poem occasionally to the folder. I say occasionally because the folder now contains around 40 poems, not enough to make a book, but too many to ignore. They call to me from their desk drawer.

In 2006, when I was sixty-five years old, I started writing a book (who hasn't?) and it was finished in time to give each of my children a copy at Christmas 2007. Thanks to the Fed Ex-Kinko people, there are exactly four spiral-bound copies of my book in existence: the three I gave away and the one I kept. My book's title is Billy Ray Barnwell Here (The Meanderings of a Twisted Mind). You can say you read about it here first. Midway down the title page are the words "Not a memoir...Not an autobiography...Not Grapevine, Texas" and at the very bottom are the words "A Truly-Godawful Book" (which doesn't necessarily mean what you might be thinking). I'm not sure what I intended my book to be, but it turned out to be what it is. If it's a novel, it's a most unconventional one. I broke, on purpose, every rule of writing known to man. For example, the first sentence is 274 words long and there are more commas than you could shake a stick at. Maybe one day my book will find a publisher who will distribute even more copies. One can only hope. Why did I write it? Because I could, I suppose. In the meantime, while waiting for lightning to strike, I blog.

Writing/blogging is a form of self-expression, of course, but self-expression can also be achieved by throwing rocks at passing cars. Not that I would ever do that. When someone once asked Georgia's own Flannery O'Connor why she wrote, she answered bluntly, "Because I'm good at it." I hope that's one of my reasons too, but I would never be so bold as to say it out loud. Oops, I think I just did. (That's the thing about blogging, people can read your mind. If you're not ready for them to, maybe you'd better not start.) Mama always said, "Don't break your arm patting yourself on the back." Listening to your Mama can be quite instructive, depending on the kind of Mama you have. If you weren't happy with yours, you can always put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and tell the whole wide world about it. The world may or may not choose to listen. That's strictly up to them.

I think a third reason I write is to make a difference. When Paul Revere (or Dr. Samuel Dawes or whoever the historians have decided it was) went riding through the Massachusetts countryside yelling "The British are coming! The British are coming!" one April night in 1775, his chief reward was that someone out there was listening. I can only hope to be as fortunate.

A fourth reason I write is to discover who I am. As T. S. Eliot wrote in Little Gidding, "We shall not cease from exploration. And the result of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."

Perhaps I have just begun to answer the question, "Why do I write?" Perhaps I'll be writing more on the subject later.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

Something akin to ecstasy has overtaken North Georgia tonight--it is snowing! Church services have been canceled. School tomorrow is iffy. People are stocking up on milk, bread, and toilet paper. And why? It is snowing. Children's faces are plastered to the windows; parents have turned on the patio floodlights. Why? Because it is snowing.

Snow doesn't occur very often hereabouts. People don't own snow tires, snow blowers, snow ploughs, snow shovels, or snow shoes. Television newscasters spend as much time on "the great storm" as their weather-forecasting colleagues, thereby doubling its effect. The total accumulation may be only an inch or two, but no matter. When it snows in North Georgia, everything comes to a stop and we marvel anew at the goodness and severity of God. Goodness, because it has snowed. Severity, because it has snowed.

Lyricist Sammy Cahn and composer Jule Styne said it best, way back in 1945:

"The weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful,
And since we've no place to go,
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!"

Admittedly, "frightful" is a relative term. Northerners may snicker and talk about how silly we are, how this is nothing, how bad it got back in nineteen-whatever in Chicago or Detroit or wherever they previously called home, but Southerners don't care. Why? It is snowing!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The aftermath of a hospital stay

The orthopedic surgeon replaced Ellie's knee last Monday, and the hospital let her go home on Thursday afternoon. Since then, she has been improving every day. Her walker and bedside commode and Arixtra syringes and blood-glucose-testing thingy are all at the ready. I have been helping her with such activities as getting into and out of bed, emptying the commode, doing laundry, making the bed, bringing various medicines, bathing, et cetera, et cetera (as Yul Brynner said in The King and I). A physical therapist came on Friday and also a visiting registered nurse. The physical therapist will be coming by three times a week and the visiting nurse will be visiting on Mondays and Thursdays.

Now for the really important stuff. Yesterday our daughter-in-law brought over a turkey/wild rice/broccoli/cheese casserole, and her mother sent along two quarts of homemade vegetable beef soup, a pan of cornbread, and a Coca-Cola® cake. Today our neighbor Debra from across the street brought over a piping hot dish of macaroni and cheese. Beginning tomorrow, several ladies from the church choir, all of whom are excellent cooks, will provide our evening meal for about a week. In the food department, things are not just looking up, they have never looked better. I mention this only because four days of eating in a hospital cafeteria left much to be desired. My other daughter-in-law did rescue me with two suppers and a breakfast at her home, I must admit. But at the hospital I rejected most of the offerings as completely unappetizing and probably inedible. On one occasion I settled on a scrumptious (not!), well-balanced meal of greasy French fries, a taco made of mystery meat, and a dish of banana pudding. You use your food pyramid; I'll use mine. In my defense, Ellie says I can make a mean scrambled egg and an even meaner BLT sandwich.

Seriously, your continued prayers for Ellie (and me, if you think of it) are greatly appreciated and play no small part in her recovery.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

We interrupt this short intermission to bring you an important announcement:


God is still on the throne.

At church this morning the anthem by the choir was, "Thou, O Lord, Are A Shield For Me," a magnificent setting of the first five verses of Psalm 3. The accompaniment was an orchestral track from a project produced by the great Prestonwood Baptist Church choir in Dallas, Texas, and even though their choir has 400 singers and ours has about 25, I think they would have heartily approved. The song has become something of a theme song at our church, and whenever the choir sings it, every member sings with great conviction, and every member obviously believes the message being conveyed. You can see it in their demeanor and in their faces. You can certainly hear it in their voices; some people say that angels must be joining in. More importantly, many in the congregation are stirred to worship openly.

First the women sing in unison in E minor, "Many are they increased that trouble me! Many are they that rise up against me." Then the men sing, also in unison, "Many there be which say of my soul, 'There is no help for him in God.'” The choir then breaks into four-part harmony in G major, proclaiming, "But thou, O LORD, are a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter of my head!"

Next comes a sort of awe-filled bridge, "I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and He heard me out of His holy hill. I laid me down and slept; and awaked; for the LORD sustained me." Finally, the phrase "Thou, O LORD, are a shield for me: my glory, and the lifter of my head!" is repeated several times through several half-step rising key changes (G, Ab, A, Bb) with an ending tag for added emphasis, "My glory, and the lifter of my head!" It is truly a song of triumph and of victory, an example of how faith overcomes in the midst of depression and adversity.

Ellie's suitcase is all packed for tomorrow morning's trip to the hospital for her surgery. One of her favorite Bible passages is from Psalm 121: "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, who made heaven and earth." What will help us through these days is the sure knowledge that He is a shield for us, our glory, and the lifter of our heads.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Ladies and gentlemen, there will now be a short intermission

Ellie is entering the hospital on Monday to undergo surgery that will replace her right knee with titanium and ceramics and "I don't know what all" (as Andy Griffith used to say). Preparing for this event and then supporting her emotionally and physically will be my full-time job for the next little while, so blogging is going to have to take a back seat until we get on the other side of this. The length of the inter-mission is unknown, but there is probably going to be surgery to replace Ellie's left knee as well in the not-too-distant future. And lots of rehab.

So au revoir, auf wiedersehen, sayonara, adios, and arrivederci for the time being. It's been fun.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

If you're not musically inclined, you might want to skip this one altogether...

and even if you are (musically inclined), it may still prove confusing. But just in case anyone wants to sing the door song, "One Door And Only One (And Yet Its Sides Are Two)" from my New Year's Day post, here are the notes in the melody line, in the key of F:

F-C-C-F-F-C, C-F-G-A-Bb-C,
D-Bb-D-C-A, F-G-G-A-G.
F-C-C-F-F-C, C-F-G-A-Bb-C,
D-Bb-D-C-A, F-A-A-G-F.

Rhythm, rhythm, how to convey the rhythm. I'll use H to indicate a half note, Q for a quarter note, E for an eighth note, and S for a sixteenth. If an E is followed by an S, the eighth was really a dotted eighth. Ready? Here's the rhythm for "One Door And Only One":

Q-E-S-E-S-E, S-E-S-E-S-H,
Q-E-S-Q-E, S-Q-E-S-H,
Q-E-S-E-S-E, S-E-S-E-S-H,
Q-E-S-Q-E, S-Q-E-S-H.

Is everything perfectly clear?

We also sang another song back in that little Methodist church in the 1950's. We sang it for both Sunday School and Vacation Bible School simply by changing the word "Sunday" to "Bible."

Step, step, step, step,
We're going to Sunday School.
Step, step, step, step,
We're going to Sunday School.
We're going there to work and play,
We're going there to sing and pray,
Step, step, step, step,
We're going to Sunday School.

Using our now tried-and-true method, here are the notes (again in the key of F) for "Step, Step, Step, Step (We're Going To Sunday/Bible School," followed by the rhythm pattern:

C-D-E-F, F-A-Ab-A-Ab-A,
C-D-E-F, F-Bb-A-Bb-A-Bb,
Bb-A-G-F#-G-C-A-G,
A-G-F-E-F-A-F-D,
C-D-E-F, F-A-F-G-E-F.

Q-Q-Q-E, S-E-S-E-S-H,
Q-Q-Q-E, S-E-S-E-S-H,
S-E-S-E-S-E-S-E,
S-E-S-E-S-E-S-H (held),
Q-Q-Q-E, S-E-S-E-S-H.

I believe someone in that little Methodist church, possibly Mrs. Sally Huffman, wrote both songs and also a little poem that was used for birthdays. During Sunday School opening exercises, for which all ages were present, people who had celebrated a birthday during that week walked forward and placed an offering in the flower-fund jar, then turned and faced the congregation to receive the following birthday blessing, recited by young and old alike, en masse:

Many happy returns of the day of thy birth,
May sunshine and gladness be given;
And may the dear Father prepare thee on earth
For a beautiful birthday in Heaven.

Something else I believe: They don't make churches like they used to. [Update. Someone told me that "that little Methodist church" now has more than 3000 members and is the biggest church in town.]

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Thoughts on New Year's Day

"In Roman mythology, Janus was the god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings, and endings. His most apparent remnants in modern culture are his namesakes: the month of January and those caretakers of doors and halls, janitors.

"Janus was usually depicted with two faces looking in opposite directions and was frequently used to symbolize change and transitions such as the progression of past to future, of one condition to another, of one vision to another, the growing up of young people, and of one universe to another. He was also known as the figure representing time because he could see into the past with one face and into the future with the other. Hence, Janus was worshipped at the beginnings of the harvest and planting times, as well as marriages, births and other beginnings. He was representative of the middle ground between barbarity and civilization, rural country and urban cities, and youth and adulthood."

So says Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia.

Change. Transitions. I am reminded of a verse in the New Testament, 2 Corinthians 5:17, which states, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." Just like Janus, we can look into the past with one face, an old one, and into the future with another face, a brand new one, but only if we are in Christ and have become new creatures. This, by the way, is not self-reformation or turning over a new leaf; this is asking Jesus Christ to give us a new life. Lot's wife, who had her own way of doing things, looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt. And even though it is not we who change ourselves, we do have a role in the process. The Apostle Paul said, "I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13-14)

And speaking of doors, I'm also reminded of a little song we used to sing in the children's department of the First Methodist Church in Mansfield, Texas, way back in the 1950's before the United Methodists were United:

"One door and only one,
And yet its sides are two:
Inside and outside,
On which side are you?

One door and only one,
And yet its sides are two.
I'm on the inside,
On which side are you?"

Your reading assignment for today is the Gospel of John, chapter 10.