Monthly Archives: June 2011

Praise Notes: The Book of Praise Eight


Eighth in a series of posts that go through hymns in The Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. 

Hymn #29

Oh send thy light forth

Psalm 43
St. Paul
Paraphrase, Scottish Psalter 1650
Music: James Chalmers’ Collection, 1749 
public domain
 
Oh send thy light forth and thy truth;
let them be guides to me,
and bring me to thine holy hill,
even where thy dwellings be.
Then to God’s altar I will go
to God, my chiefest joy;
O God, my God, to praise thy name
my harp I will employ.

Why art thou then cast down, my soul?
What should discourage thee?
And why with vexing thoughts art thou
disquieted in me?

Thou art my refuge and my help,
my God that doth me raise.
I hope in God; I will again
have cause to give thee praise.

The paraphrase is good.  It skips over the first section of the Psalm and then follows quite closely for three verses without any strange syntax in order to achieve rhymes.  The final verse is a combination of lines from the opening sequence of the Psalm and the last two lines. 

The tune for this hymn is also a good one.  I prefer it without the use of the half-notes at phrase endings.  I believe they were put in to approximate the traditional practice of putting a fermata at the end of each phrase.  I’m not sure about the half notes at the beginning of the phrases, they seem a bit gratuitous.  Check out the rhythm in hymn 76 to see how much more nicely it flows.

 

All Stars, Some Grass, And A Dandelion:Evoking Summer


flickr.comphotos11872189@N004656068717

What is it about this picture which is so appealing?  The colours are great!  The green is so rich, the yellow so bright and sunny, the blue of the sneakers whimsical, and the little pink line around the toe is a lovely touch.  Did the makers of Converse sneakers have this sort of thing in mind when they designed these shoes?  I’m pretty sure they did not.

Maybe the appeal comes from imagining the fun the person is having who has stepped out of these sneakers on this bright sunny day.  Maybe lying on a blanket in the sun with a good book, or no book at all just enjoying the feeling of summer.  Perhaps running around enjoying the feeling of the fresh grass under foot.

Whatever feeling or ideas are evoked by such a picture they are bound to be positive and that is just what is called for as we come into the holiday weekend that really begins summer in North America.

Praise Notes: The Book of Praise Seven


Seventh in a series of posts that go through hymns in The Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. 

Hymn #26

As Pants the Heart

Psalm 42
Martydrom
Paraphrase, Tate and Brady’s New Version 1696
Music: Hugh Wilson (1766-1824) 
public domain
 
As pants the hart for cooling streams
when heated in the chase,
so longs my sou, O God, for thee
and thy refreshing grace.For thee, my God, the living God,

my thirsty soul doth pine;
oh when shall I behold thy face,
thou majesty divine?Why restless, why cast down, my soul?

Trust God, who will employ
sure aid for thee, and change these sighs
to thankful humns of joy.God of my strength, how long shall I,

like one forgotten, mourn,
forlorn, forsaken and exposed
to my oppressor’s scorn?Why restless, why cast down, my soul?

Hope still, and thou shalt sing
praise to thy God, the living God,
thy health’s eternal spring.

The lyrics for this hymn are a paraphrase and of the three parahprase versions of Psalm 42 in the Book of Praise, this is the one which covers the majority of the Psalm. The phrasing in the first two verses fit with the pattern of the music perfectly while the other three continue through the midpoint.  Because of this and the fact that most of us need to breathe, the meaning tends to be lost or at least muddled.

The tune for hymn 26 isn’t my favourite.  There are many other 8686CM tunes in the BOP which would work if you don’t like this one.  Despite the fact that the paraphrase is better, I would choose hymn 25 which uses the English folk tune O Waly, Waly or 27 with it’s own tune As The Deer.

 

He-man, Hosea, Gomer and Me (via )


Marie is the writer of one of the blogs I follow. Check out this great post!

He-man, Hosea, Gomer and Me Gentle Reader, This morning I punch at anxiety, but my jabs are weak. I'm tired of this battle. I'm ready to give up, give in, run away. Whatever it might take to silence the incessant noise of fear. Heman the Ezrahite (you had no idea that He-man was biblical, did you?) and his Psalm 88 are my good friends right now. There's nothing like a good, fist-shaking lament when you're feeling edgy. There's also nothing like a little knowledge. In Hosea … Read More

via

The Chairs Are All Stacked, The Papers All Filed


It is the last day of work for teachers in my school district today.  In classrooms everywhere the desks and chairs are all piled up, the paperwork is all filed and our desks are cleared of any sign of all that we have done for the last ten months.  I joke with my students that there are only two days in the year when you can actually see my desktop, the first day I report to work and the day before I leave for the summer.

In our “paperless” society my desk was normally buried under seven or eight piles of paper; things to be marked, things to be filed with the office, notices to pass out, notices that were handed back in, planning aids, and professional readings usually to a depth of about three inches.  As well my in boxes and out boxes would be filled, sometimes to overflowing.  In amongst all this there were batteries for the babies, id tags and security bracelets, bottles, diapers etc. (if you are new you should know that my class uses the Real Care Babies).

Along with the papers, my computer was on and running almost continually (except for that one horrible day when we couldn’t get any of the electronics to run and had to teach the old-fashioned way) with mark programs, attendance programs etc.

More important than all of this, of course, were the thirty some young people in the room with me who needed attention, inspiration, direction and often comfort and guidance as well.  When not in class, before school, at lunch and after school teachers are engaging with students, watching for problems, and running clubs and organizations.

So, here’s to my empty desk and those of all the other teachers who are finishing their school yearsMay our coffee mugs grace our deck furniture and side tables, may our email all be of a personal nature, and the desktops gather dust until we begin it all again in the fall!

Ten Ways To Get Rid Of A Volunteer


The following is a primer on the best ways to lose a volunteer.  You need not employ all the methods, many people will quit after only one strategy.  Remember, volunteers are individuals so you may need to experiment before you find an effective method for each one.

  1. Perhaps the best way to lose volunteers is to fail to recognize them.  People do not, as a rule, choose to volunteer to get credit, recognition or attention.  People choose to volunteer for various organizations  because they believe in the cause or the need of the people for whom they are working.  That being said, there is a limit to how long they will continue to be engaged if nobody says thank you at some point.  If you look you can find blog posts, and even books on the topic of how to keep volunteers and the top of the list is usually acknowledgement of their efforts.

  2. You can actually lose volunteers before they even start!  To do this, do not return their phone calls or emails in which they express interest in being of help and or place a lengthy complicated process in place (especially if you call it an application process).

  3. Select one volunteer to do a task that really requires several.

  4. Give several volunteers the task of doing something simple which would be better and more efficiently done by one.

  5. Fail to  listen to their suggestions for improvement.  Treat them as though they have no education, background, or expertise.

  6. Hover over them as though you don’t trust them to be competent.

  7. Get a volunteer started on something and then never check in to see how things are going.

  8. Expect that they will stay forever/ make it a life sentence.

  9. Arrange times to meet with your volunteers and then cancel without notice, “Because something important came up.”

  10. Stop thinking of a volunteer as a person, once they are on board they are just one of the numbers.

Hopefully it is clear to my readers that I do not actually advocate any of the above actions.  Indeed it would make an excellent list of what not to do when you are working with people, either employed or volunteers.

Life is like a marble


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Too much to eat: gluttony in a land of plenty


I just came out of a restaurant with my parents having finished a great meal and, of course, feeling over-stuffed! Even having ordered the “mini” plate of liver and onions I was unable to finish all the fries. Don’t get me wrong though, I still had carrot cake for dessert!

A few days ago a friend sent me the following email which included pictures of families with the food they would eat in an average week on display.

“Quite a powerful story in pictures. What is eaten in one week around the world?  Very interesting assortment.  Note the large amount of drinks in some pictures.This is undoubtedly one of the most interesting e-mails I’ve ever received.  Take a good look at the family size & diet of each country, and the availability & cost of what is eaten in one week.

Germany: The Melander family of Bargteheide, Food expenditure for one week: 375.39 Euros or $500.07

United States: The Revis family of North Carolina(Sure hope most American families eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and less junk food than this family.)Food expenditure for one week $341.98

Italy: The Manzo family of Sicily, Food expenditure for one week: 214.36 Euros or $260.11

Mexico: The Casales family of Cuernavaca, Food expenditure for one week: 1,862.78 Mexican Pesos or $189.09

Poland: The Sobczynscy family of Konstancin-Jeziorna, Food expenditure for one week: 582.48 Zlotys or $151.27

Egypt : The Ahmed family of Cairo, Food expenditure for one week: 387.85 Egyptian Pounds or $68.53

Ecuador : The Ayme family of Tingo, Food expenditure for one week: $31.55

Bhutan : The Namgay family of Shingkhey Village, Food expenditure for one week: 224.93 ngultrum or $5.03

Chad : The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp, Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23

Don’t know about you, but right about now, I’m counting my blessings!”

It is a pretty stark picture of the plenty with which most of us live, while others are smiling and proud to display what we would consider to be barely enough.  Growing up many of us were told to consider the starving Armenians when we didn’t finish all our supper.  Obviously our parents were hardly planning to send our left-overs overseas, but they were on track with their mention of the need to stop and think about the lack of balance in food distribution worldwide.

Prophet or Voice of Doom?


I think it is safe to say that there are still prophetic voices out there in the world today, probably not being paid much attention.  I think it is also clear that there are many people who get their five minutes of fame by predicting doom over one issue or another and they seem to be paid a great deal of attention.

 

I got the idea for this post a while ago while watching When Harry Met Sally with my daughters.  As he states himself, Harry has a dark side.  Particularly in the early part of the movie Harry makes many pronouncements which, while not necessarily without basis in reality, would suck the enjoyment out of almost any moment!  For instance;

 

Harry Burns: You take someone to the airport, it’s clearly the beginning of the relationship. That’s why I have never taken anyone to the airport at the beginning of a relationship.
Sally Albright: Why?
Harry Burns: Because eventually things move on and you don’t take someone to the airport and I never wanted anyone to say to me, How come you never take me to the airport anymore?
Sally Albright: Its amazing. You look like a normal person but actually you are the angel of death.

 

Later he and Sally actually discuss this tendency to the dark side;

 

Sally Albright: I have just as much of a dark side as the next person.
Harry Burns: Oh, really? When I buy a new book, I read the last page first. That way, in case I die before I finish, I know how it ends. That, my friend, is a dark side.

A doomsayer is “one given to forebodings and predictions of impending calamity”  (http://www.merriam-webster.com) Harry, is a doomsayer!  Another good candidate for the title of doomsayer would be Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh;

 

“Good morning, Pooh Bear,” said Eeyore gloomily. “If it is a good morning,” he said. “Which I doubt,” said he.”Why, what’s the matter?””Nothing, Pooh Bear, nothing. We can’t all, and some of us don’t. That’s all there is to it.””Can’t all what?” said Pooh, rubbing his nose.”Gaiety. Song-and-dance. Here we go round the mulberry bush.”

 

If predicting calamity is what it takes to be a doomsayer, then why do we not have a section in the Bible after the Pentateuch and Psalms and Wisdom Literature called Doomsayings?  If you read the beginning of many of the stories in the books of the prophets, they begin with warnings of catastrophe about to befall the people of Israel who have strayed from the ways of the Lord in one way or another.  Predictions of pandemics, military defeat, destruction of the Temple, and being taken into captivity abound!  I’m not sure I’d be in a hurry to invite a prophet to dinner at my house for fear they may have just such a message for me.

A prophet is,“one who utters divinely inspired revelations: as a often capitalized : the writer of one of the prophetic books of the Bible b capitalized : one regarded by a group of followers as the final authoritative revealer of God’s will <Muhammad, the Prophet of Allah> 2: one gifted with more than ordinary spiritual and moral insight; especially : an inspired poet 3: one who foretells future events : predictor” (http://www.merriam-webster.com)

 

The fundamental difference is that a prophet is divinely inspired.  The messages prophets share with the people around them are the words of God.   Some prophets in the past were pretty unhappy to be called upon to give the message they were told.  Jonah really didn’t want to help out the people of Nineveh and even ran away, but that didn’t end well for him and he delivered his message in the end.  There are stories of prophets hiding in caves in the wilderness to avoid crowds who were out to get them.  In 1 Kings 19 we read about Elijah, having challenged the prophets of Baal and won, ran away to a cave on Mt. Sinai to hide from Queen Jezebel who had vowed to kill him.

 

Regardless of the message a prophet may carry to us, our problem remains.  How can we tell when we are hearing from a true prophet and not a doomsayer?  Recently there was an individual who “prophesied” the coming of the rapture.  He claimed that the date and time were to be found written in Bible.  Many people were convinced by this prediction, some even selling all they had.  Many took it as a joke and there were many photos posted on Twitter of people’s clothing laid out as if they had just vanished from within them.

 

Our best hope is to look to the Bible to determine validity of such claims.  “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32)  This is also stated in Matthew 24:36 and echoed again in Acts.  If our doomsayer of the day had really been speaking words from God, he would have known that the hour and the day would not be written in the Bible.’  Through study and prayer we seek the truth of God.

The Verses In The Plain Brown Wrapper: Why The Lectionary Skips Verses


If you look at the Revised Common Lectionary listing of Bible readings over a three year period you will notice that while in theory it covers the whole Bible in each cycle there are parts you may never hear preached.  Thankfully one section in this category includes most of the book of Numbers which contain seemingly endless lists of genealogies.  One of the most curious things is that even with the Psalms there are frequently parts of the Psalm which are not designated as a part of the reading.  For example; two of the Sundays in June had small pieces removed from the Psalms in the RCL.  On June 5 we read Psalm 68 but left out verses 11-31.  On June 12 the reading was Psalm 104 and we left out verses 1 -24 and 35A.

If you read these Psalms responsively in your worship service, these skipped sections can lead to confusion for the congregation as well as the minister, unless you print them out.  What could be so wrong with Psalm 68 verses 11-31 that would deem it unusable in worship.  It is a part of the Bible, that is not denied, the planners of the lectionaries, though, presumably thought it best to skip them.

Psalm 68
11
The Lord gives the command;

great is the company of those who bore the tidings:
12   ‘The kings of the armies, they flee, they flee!’
The women at home divide the spoil,
13   though they stay among the sheepfolds—
the wings of a dove covered with silver,
its pinions with green gold.
14 When the Almighty scattered kings there,
snow fell on Zalmon.
15 O mighty mountain, mountain of Bashan;
O many-peaked mountain, mountain of Bashan!
16 Why do you look with envy, O many-peaked mountain,
at the mount that God desired for his abode,
where the Lord will reside for ever?
17 With mighty chariotry, twice ten thousand,
thousands upon thousands,
the Lord came from Sinai into the holy place.
18 You ascended the high mount,
leading captives in your train
and receiving gifts from people,
even from those who rebel against the Lord God’s abiding there.
19 Blessed be the Lord,
who daily bears us up;
God is our salvation.
Selah
20 Our God is a God of salvation,
and to God, the Lord, belongs escape from death.
21 But God will shatter the heads of his enemies,
the hairy crown of those who walk in their guilty ways.
22 The Lord said,
‘I will bring them back from Bashan,
I will bring them back from the depths of the sea,
23 so that you may bathe your feet in blood,
so that the tongues of your dogs may have their share from the foe.’
24 Your solemn processions are seen, O God,
the processions of my God, my King, into the sanctuary—
25 the singers in front, the musicians last,
between them girls playing tambourines:
26 ‘Bless God in the great congregation,
the Lord, O you who are of Israel’s fountain!’
27 There is Benjamin, the least of them, in the lead,
the princes of Judah in a body,
the princes of Zebulun, the princes of Naphtali.
28 Summon your might, O God;
show your strength, O God, as you have done for us before.
29 Because of your temple at Jerusalem
kings bear gifts to you.
30 Rebuke the wild animals that live among the reeds,
the herd of bulls with the calves of the peoples.
Trample under foot those who lust after tribute;
scatter the peoples who delight in war.
31 Let bronze be brought from Egypt;
let Ethiopia hasten to stretch out its hands to God.

I assume that in the case of the above verses there were a couple of concerns.  In many of the verses God is portrayed in a very militaristic and vengeful light.  God’s army is huge, will shatter the heads of the enemies, there is talk of feeding the enemy to the dogs and the victors bathing their feet in blood.  Yuck!  One of the things that is most disturbing about reading in the Old Testament comes from this sort of portrayal.  This is not the loving God with whom we grew up in the mainline churches!  The other thing I noticed was how much God’s desire of a mountain top abode, receiving of gifts etc. reminds me of what I have taught for years in my unit on Mesopotamia and other ancient civilizations.  This is not surprising exactly, but in early days it would have been very important to distance Christianity from pagan practices.

Would the reasons be the same for Psalm 104?

God the Creator and Provider

1 Bless the Lord, O my soul.
O Lord my God, you are very great.
You are clothed with honour and majesty,
2   wrapped in light as with a garment.
You stretch out the heavens like a tent,
3   you set the beams of your chambers on the waters,
you make the clouds your chariot,
you ride on the wings of the wind,
4 you make the winds your messengers,
fire and flame your ministers.
5 You set the earth on its foundations,
so that it shall never be shaken.
6 You cover it with the deep as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
7 At your rebuke they flee;
at the sound of your thunder they take to flight.
8 They rose up to the mountains, ran down to the valleys
to the place that you appointed for them.
9 You set a boundary that they may not pass,
so that they might not again cover the earth.
10 You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
they flow between the hills,
11 giving drink to every wild animal;
the wild asses quench their thirst.
12 By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation;
they sing among the branches.
13 From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.
14 You cause the grass to grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to use,
to bring forth food from the earth,
15   and wine to gladden the human heart,
oil to make the face shine,
and bread to strengthen the human heart.
16 The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
17 In them the birds build their nests;
the stork has its home in the fir trees.
18 The high mountains are for the wild goats;
the rocks are a refuge for the coneys.
19 You have made the moon to mark the seasons;
the sun knows its time for setting.
20 You make darkness, and it is night,
when all the animals of the forest come creeping out.
21 The young lions roar for their prey,
seeking their food from God.
22 When the sun rises, they withdraw
and lie down in their dens.
23 People go out to their work
and to their labour until the evening.

35 Let sinners be consumed from the earth,
and let the wicked be no more.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Praise the Lord!

As you could see, Psalm 104:1-24  had none of the more disturbing elements to it at all.  Paired in the lectionary as it is with the creation story from Genesis, I think we can be fairly certain that this shortening was done for time.  The Genesis reading is long and covers all the same ground as in verses.  Verse 35A however consigns sinners to be consumed (one assumes by fire) which seems contrary to the concept of Christian love.

I wonder if we do too much of this covering up, or brushing aside, the uncomfortable parts of the Bible.  I certainly understand that one might not want your five-year-old repeating lines about feeding their enemies to the dogs, or bathing their feet in blood.  My concern is that it is a little like issues of family violence.  People didn’t ever talk about family violence.  It was something to keep behind closed doors.  Neighbors might be somewhat aware that things were happening, but would never think to ask or offer help.  What ends up happening, in the case of the Bible, is that we educate Christians while side-stepping the issues, and then later when they come across these verses in their own study they are ill prepared to deal with them.  I know I wasn’t prepared the first time I seriously sat down and read the Old Testament!

I’m not sure what a solution might be.  Perhaps we need to be offering Bible studies on the unpalatable parts, but then, being so unpalatable, who would attend?  I do feel, however that it is important to get the verses out of their plain paper bags, and into the open.