Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Very Different Church Service

Our church recently finished a detailed study of the book of Matthew (a year and a half long) and we've starting a new study of Nehemiah. This week, instead of an introductory sermon, we simply read the whole book aloud, thirteen chapters.

This has precedent, incidentally -- in the book of Nehemiah itself:
So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.
And what should be our response to a sermon on the Law?
For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Outdoing Themselves, Unfortunately

I was returning from a quick business trip to Charlotte and needed supper on the road. Being somewhat in the wilds of south-central North Carolina the choices were a bit limited but I remembered the deli counter at Wal-Mart had prepared food that at least offered variety from the hamburger chains.

Sure enough, there were several possiblities on display, including one I tentatively matched with the menu board as "boneless buffalo wing bites" or something of that sort.

I asked the young woman behind the counter what "that" item was.

"Chicken chunks," she replied.

Really... She confirmed it when I repeated it back to her.

The price was okay and I've paid twice as much for worse food on many occasions, especially on business trips. "Chicken chunks" it is, I suppose, technically correct, like a butcher shop that advertises "pieces of dead animals", but it's not astute marketing.

Wal-Mart tops itself again, courtesy another untrained or inattentive employee. A shame, really; the "chunks" weren't bad.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Notes from the Carnival

Tami Fox is moderating the Carnival of Homeschooling this week and two on my blog roll are highlighted. Leading off is this tribute:

I have been captivated by a new blog, Number One Son Report, this summer. It is an account of a high school, homeschool student who is living and working in Asia this summer. This entry is one of the first entries on the blog, but I encourage you to read the rest of it as you have time. It has been fascinating for me to read Number One Son Report.

Later in the COH is this item:

Mamahadeen tells us, "Lots of folks have asked us how we have dared to allow our boys to grab some of the wonderful, but scary opportunities they've taken advantage of. It's because that's what we've aimed at from the beginning! This post describes some of the practical ways we've prepared our sons to stand like men earlier than our culture thinks possible," in her post, "Teaching Boys to be Men."

UPDATE 19:43 - Visits are way up at Number One Son today, and The Common Room has linked over there too. Mamahadeen got a boost as well. Observation: People actually do read and click through ...

Monday, July 23, 2007

Journalist In Chief

A journalist, after all, is technically one who records in a journal. We use it to refer to a reporter, a media type, but in fact, a committed diarist is also maintaining a journal. QED.

After years as a political commentator, though -- and I highly recommend Reagan In His Own Hand to sample this phase of his development -- the fortieth president was qualified as both, an astute observer and analyst of the political forces and persons around him, and here, one who kept a fascinating personal diary of his eight years as president.

I got to review The Reagan Diaries for the August issue of Carolina Journal, and I have to say this is one of the hardest I've had to write. The man was so quotable and entertaining I had real difficulties confining myself to a thousand words.

One comment I didn't work into the article was when Sam Donaldson asked him if he didn't share some responsibility for the recession of 1981-1982; the president said,

"Yes, I do. I was once a Democrat."

Another matter that comes up regularly enough is whether Reagan was really as religious as the Right likes to imagine; after all, they point out, he didn't attend church that much while he was president -- a true statement borne out by his diary. What skeptics don't acknowledge is the tremendous disruption caused by a visit from the president; the Reagans decided, reluctantly, that it was too much commotion for them to inflict on the congregation. On the occasions that they do get to worship, Reagan mentions how much he misses it and his desire to be there more often.

Never mind that he found himself in the emergency room, 69 years old with an assassin's bullet in his lung, praying for the gunman. There is an enlightening entry as Reagan considers his father-in-law's rapidly declining health:

Nancy is very depressed about her father's health and understandably so. I want so much to speak to him about faith. He's always been an Agnostic -- now I think he knows fear for probably the 1st time in his life. I believe this is a moment when he should turn to God and I want so much to help him do that. (May 19, 1982, p. 85)

That just isn't the comment of a lukewarm or half-hearted believer.

There is a wealth of interesting first-person material in this volume and I can only scratch the surface in my review. You can read it in the print edition of Carolina Journal here .

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Tunes by William Billings

So I don't lose them, here is a collection of MIDI sequences of tunes by William Billings. These have a very Renaissance sound to them, more than the electric-piano tone I usually find in MIDI files.

There are several articles and comments about Billings himself at the top of the page, but persevere, the MIDI links are about half way down.

Here is Is Any Afflicted? in MIDI. The Choral Public Domain Library has the pdf version for singing parts but I don't have time to look them up for a link this evening.

You can also hear a few of his works sung by His Majestie's Clerkes (now Belle Voce) at The Art of the States website.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


There is a land of pure delight,
Where saints immortal reign;
Infinite day excludes the night,
And pleasures banish pain.

There everlasting spring abides,
And never with'ring flowers;
Death, like a narrow sea, divides
This heav'nly land from ours.

Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood
Stand dressed in living green;
So to the Jews old Canaan stood,
While Jordan rolled between.

But tim'rous mortals start and shrink
To cross this narrow sea;
And linger, shivering, on the brink,
And fear to launch away.

O could we make our doubts remove,
Those gloomy doubts that rise,
And see the Canaan that we love
With unbeclouded eyes;

Could we but climb where Moses stood,
And view the landscape o'er,
Not Jordan's stream, nor death's cold flood,
Should fright us from the shore.


This is the title track of a favorite album of mine, A Land of Pure Delight. Unlike Moses, though, we have an expectation of more than just viewing.

Here's a link to the Billings tune "Jordan" on the album (Paul Hillier and His Majestie's Clerkes)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Busy This Week

Looking at the last post I see it's been a week already. It's been a busy one; our brightest new prospective customer has been in Atlanta for back-to-back trade shows the past two weeks and sending very encouraging reports from our samples he is showing. The latest was a scramble today to put together a novelty-sort of hanging tag to display one product on the retailer's shelves -- due to technical and timing difficulties, I had to run the tags 45 miles away, to the other side of Raleigh, to catch a late drop off for Monday delivery. But that was just last night and today ....

I've also been catching up on a few of the other accounts that had to coast a few days while we handled last minute issues with the new customer. There may be an interesting follow up to the school bus story as well.

Not to miss the family holiday on Thursday, either -- wife Melanie and I took the afternoon off to celebrate our 21st anniversary with a visit to Raven Rock park, a hike down to the Cape Fear River, then dinner at a favorite local Chinese restaurants. (Too bad we haven't found a good Shanghai dumpling nearby; the closest I've met is actually in Wadesboro, of all places)

In the meantime, I finished Dorothy Hughes' biography of Erle Stanley Gardner, The Case of the Real Perry Mason. This was a re-read, but more interesting now that I'm writing more, considering a book project, and eagerly following my brother Davis' purchase of a publishing company (only thirteen days to closing now ...) Gardner was a prodigiously productive writer, turning out a full novel in four days or less, routinely, but at the cost of nearly anything resembling a family life. This is plainly and unblinkingly described in the book so there's a balance to the "wow".

Possibly more later including a movie review but I'm finishing preparation for a sermon tomorrow.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Sunday morning

Awake, my soul, in joyful lays,
And sing thy great Redeemer's praise:
He justly claims a song from me,
His lovingkindness is so free.
Lovingkindness, lovingkindness,
His lovingkindness is so free.

He saw me ruined in the fall,
Yet loved me not withstanding all,
And saved me from my lost estate,
His lovingkindness is so great.
Lovingkindness, lovingkindness,
His lovingkindness is so great.

Through mighty hosts of cruel foes,
Where earth and hell my way oppose,
He safely leads my soul along,
His lovingkindness is so strong.
Lovingkindness, lovingkindness,
His lovingkindness is so strong.

So when I pass death's gloomy vale,
And life and mortal pow'rs shall fail,
O may my last expiring breath
His lovingkindness sing in death.
Lovingkindness, lovingkindness,
His lovingkindness sing in death.

Then shall I mount, and soar away
To the bright world of endless day;
There shall I sing, with sweet surprise,
His lovingkindness in the skies,
Lovingkindness, lovingkindness,
His lovingkindness in the skies.

-- The Trinity Hymnal, no. 138

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Inundated, sure, but not this way

Our celebration of Independence Day ended with an unplanned swim in Lake Wateree, as our family's aged dock gave way at the end of the fireworks. Thankful toward God, no one was seriously hurt, though plenty alarmed.

Wife Melanie has a fuller account on her blog Mamahadeen.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Nothing New

That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.

Is there anything of which it may be said, “See, this is new”?
It has already been in ancient times before us.

There is no remembrance of former things,
Nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come
By those who will come after.

Ecclesiastes 1:9-11

It strikes me that ignorance of history is not a uniquely American problem, nor is it modern. It is, however, a failure on the part of both the older generation as well as the younger.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Sunday Evening Late

Come, my soul, thou must be waking;
Now is breaking o'er the earth another day:
Come to him who made this splendor;
See thou render all thy feeble pow'rs can pay.

Thou, too, hail the light returning;
Ready burning be the incense of thy pow'rs;
For the night is safely ended,
God hath tended with his care thy helpless hours.

Pray that he may prosper ever
Each endeavor, when thine aim is good and true;
But that he may ever thwart thee,
And convert thee, when thou evil wouldst pursue.

Think that he thy ways beholdeth;
He unfoldeth ev'ry fault that lurks within;
Ev'ry stain of shame glossed over
Can discover, and discern each deed of sin.

Only God's free gifts abuse not,
Light refuse not, but his Spirit's voice obey;
Thou with him shalt dwell, beholding
Light enfolding all things in unclouded day.

-- The Trinity Hymnal, no. 334