Memorable Monday: Thanksgiving Week!

It’s back again—Thanksgiving Week!  For many of us—especially those of us in the cushy racket known as “education”—it’s scarcely a week at all, just two days of relaxed, stately learning before five straight days of loafing and turkey-filled indolence.

I’m kicking off the laziness early with a throwback post to last year’s Thanksgiving Week—a post entitled, appropriately, “Thanksgiving Week!”  It’s a post that celebrates the insanely short week—and opines for it to become scarcely a workweek at all.  I also delved into a discussion about slippery slopes—my favorite logical fallacy that often becomes true—and the necessity for a ten-year moratorium on immigration.

I’ll likely be doing more throwback posts this week as I indulge in some family time and gluttony, but I’ll keep trying to provide top-level italicized commentary for your amusement.  Also, we’re just a few days away from 700 days—that’s 100 weeks!—of consecutive posts.

In all seriousness, there is much to be thankful for this year.  Even in 2020, a number that has taken on a reputation only slightly less horrifying than the Mark of the Beast, there is much God has done for us.  A promising vaccine for The Virus—produced in what must be record time for a vaccine—is surely one such thing for which we should give thanks.

Turn to God in times of trouble, not just when things are going well.  Easy to type, hard to live.  We’d be all better off, though, if we made the effort to adopt gratitude as our default position.

Here’s “Thanksgiving Week!“:

Read More »

The Joy of Hymnals II: The Cokesbury Worship Hymnal

This week I’ve been teaching and learning a great deal about George Frideric Handel, the great German composer who became, over his long life, a great British one.  In discussing Handel and other Baroque composers with my students, we also veered into the world of hymns.

Hymns were and are important in Protestant congregations as simple, memorable tunes with theologically rich texts.  Hymn melodies are often based on folk tunes or popular compositions.  In some cases, such as the lovely Christmas carolSilent Night,” the text is written first, then set to music (indeed, most hymns, being based on Scripture, evolved this way).  Sometimes the tune is written, then an enterprising poet sets the text.  Such was the case with Isaac Watts, who set his text for “Joy to the World” to a Handel melody.  And, of course, there are hymns written and composed by the same person.

In talking about hymns, I brought to my students a slender little hymnal in my small collection of them, The Cokesbury Worship Hymnal.  From what I can gather, my copy was published in or after 1966, when the copyright from 1938 was renewed.  There is a stamp on the inside front cover stating that the hymn book once belonged to Carteret Street Methodist Church, which I thought was in Charleston, but appears to be in Beaufort, South Carolina.  The hymnal includes 296 hymns, with fifty responsive readings—a good collection, but slim by the standards of a pewback hymnal.

Read More »

Monsters

Back in May I stumbled upon an online culture journal, The Hedgehog Review, a publication of the Institute for the Advanced Studies of Culture.  I don’t know much about either the publication or the IASC, other than they’re based out of the University of Virginia, so I can’t speak to their degree of implicit Leftist infiltration, but default position is that any organization in 2020 that isn’t explicitly conservative is probably Left-leaning.

It’s sad that I even have to make that disclaimer, because some part of me still clings to the old ideal of a broad, humanistic approach to knowledge—that we should examine ideas on their own merits, not on the politics of the entities espousing them.  I still believe that ideal is worth pursuing; I just also believe it is currently dead, or at least on life-support.

But I digress.  The then-current issue of The Hedgehog Review was dedicated entirely to the theme of “Monsters.”  It being the Halloween season, the time seemed ripe to revisit those pieces, and the idea of “monsters.”

Read More »

TBT: The Joy of Hymnals

It being October, I tend to focus on the spookiness of the season.  I love Halloween, ghost stories, and scary movies, but it’s important not to get too bogged down in the chills.

So as I was going through posts from October 2019, I stumbled upon one of my old favorites:  “The Joy of Hymnals.”  My small church roped me into playing piano for Sunday morning services maybe two years ago, and it quickly rekindled an old love of hymns and hymnals.

Hymnals are my favorite items to find in old second-hand shops and antique stores (the latter of which often selling them at an egregious markup).  It’s fun to see which hymns do—and, more importantly, don’t—show up in any given hymnal.  I particularly like slender volumes, the kind that were meant for carrying from service to service or camp meeting to camp meeting, and which tend to possess hymns from the canon, if such a thing exists, of hymnody.

I even recorded and released a very lo-fi EP, The Lo-Fi Hymnal, which consists of crude recordings of my Sunday morning playing.  That short collection also includes a PDF version of today’s TBT feature.

Here is “The Joy of Hymnals“:

Read More »

Gardening

We’re back into the full swing of things after the glorious three-day weekend.  As I noted in various weekend posts, I spent much of the Labor Day holiday gardening.  My house was starting to look haunted, the weeds were growing so high:

Flower Beds - Before

My girlfriend took the weeding with gusto, while I raked out pine straw and debris.  I also pulled and cut some gargantuan weeds from my woefully neglected grapevines (which are, nevertheless, producing big, fat grapes).  After a couple of hours the beds were much improved:

Flower Beds - During

As with many home improvement projects, there’s the tedious part—in this case, weed-pulling—and then there’s the fun part.  For us, the fun part was going to Home Depot and Lowe’s to find plants to beautify the beds.  Over the course of two days, we found some beautiful options, including some colorful mums.

Read More »

Music Among the Stars

Back in 1977, NASA launched Voyager I, which is some 14 million miles from Earth.  The super nerds behind the mission stowed two golden records on board.  Those golden records included various selections to represent life on Earth, from “Johnny B. Goode” to nature sounds to classical music.

Over the Labor Day weekend a colleague e-mailed me Classical Archivesweekend newsletter, which includes some musings about why humans developed the ability to create—and their interest in—music.  The newsletter features the blog posts “Can E.T. Carry a Tune?” and “Music for Extraterrestrials… Sampling the Music Selected for NASA’s Voyager I.”

The former explores the possible deep origins of humanity’s music-making abilities.  It posits several theories developed from evolutionary biology.  As  a Christian, I find these explanations ultimately wanting, though they each make interesting points (the second proposed theory, for example, suggests “that music arose because it was a social glue that helped our ancestors bond with one another and with a group”).  Music serves many purposes, even if those purposes are not strictly utilitarian (and even then music can serve that function, such as coordinating workers’ movements via work songs).

Chiefly, though, music is intended to praise God.  Like the other arts, music is God’s grant of a small sliver of His Creative potential to His Creation—Tolkien’s “sub-creation” of Middle Earth serving as a prime literary example.  The highest form of musical expression, then, lifts up songs of praise to God.

Read More »

Things That Go Bump in the Night

Audre Myers over at Nebraska Energy Observer always has some interesting observations about the world around us (indeed, once a week she writes a post called “Random Observations“—check it out).  Her latest post—the whimsically titled “ooOOoo – BOO!“—explores the world beyond our observation, the world of ghosts, spirits, demons, and “haints.”  It’s also the world of angels, and of God.

Myers makes a point that that really hit me when I was in college taking a senior seminar history course called “Society and the Supernatural”:  that as Christians, if we believe in the Holy Trinity, we also have to believe in a broader supernatural world.  For Christians, there is ample scriptural evidence of not just the presence of the Holy Spirit, but also of angels—with their own hierarchy and roles—and demons, those fallen angels that joined Lucifer in his prideful rebellion against God.  The Bible speaks often of “principalities” and spirits that rule over ungodly nations.

How far beyond Scripture such supernatural creatures extend is a source of speculation and debate, and I suspect we won’t truly know until we’re on the other side.  There is a danger in exploring the non-godly supernatural, as it opens spiritual doors within us that could make us susceptible to demonic influence—or, at the extremes, possession.  Compulsive sinning can have the same effect, but messing with the occult—even out of an innocent curiosity to understand that world better—seems far likelier to result in catastrophic unintended consequences.

What I did learn in that college course, though, was that at least one member of the Scottish Enlightenment (whose name and work I cannot locate—blast!) expended a great deal of energy trying to discover fairies (apparently, people are still looking for them).  He reasoned that if fairies, giants, and other mythical creatures of Scottish folklore existed, that would prove the existence of the supernatural.  If the supernatural is real, God is real; if God is real, then fairies can exist.

Our groping, grasping attempts to understand the supernatural are, well, natural—it’s certainly a fascinating subject.  But the Bible makes it clear what fate awaits us if we accept Christ—and what awaits us if we reject Him.

Still, I do not discount out-of-hand the possibility of supernatural presences beyond what we know from Scripture.  I don’t want to go poking around in their domains for the reasons stated above, but it’s intellectually arrogant and shortsighted to assume we know everything.  That’s the folly of our modern age—we applaud ourselves for demystifying the world, yet we’re more lost and in the dark than ever.

And what of those Scottish fairies?  Surely their existence is more than the feeble attempts of ancient minds to explain the natural world, as the priests of scientism and materialism would argue.  No, there is too much anecdotal evidence—across thousands of years and cultures—to discount the existence of such things.

All I know is that Jesus is alive—and all this talk of ghosts has me excited for Halloween.

Psalm 13 and Patience

Yesterday my pastor’s sermon came from Psalm 13, a six-verse Psalm in which King David cries out in despair to God.  Here it is in its entirety, from the King James Version (c/o Bible Hub):

1{To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.} How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?

2How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?

3Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;

4Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.

5But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.

6I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.

The title of the sermon was “What Do You Do When God Delays?”  The whole point was that we’re always eager for answers and results now, and our tolerance for what we perceive to be as delays is pitifully short.

Of course, God isn’t delaying—He’s on His timetable, not ours.  When everything is going well, we don’t think about it, but when things go wrong, we’re often desperate for life to return to normality; if it doesn’t do so immediately, we get impatient with God.

Read More »

Lazy Sunday LXXX: Forgotten Posts, Volume IV

We’re continuing our dive into the B-sides and deep cuts of the TPP oeuvre.  For this Lazy Sunday, I decided to check out September 2019.

Whoa!  What a gold mine of hidden gems and nuggets, forgotten in the tide of events.  I didn’t realize how many good posts I generate during that first full month of the 2019-2020 school year.  There’s enough for a couple of weeks, but here are three forgotten posts to tide you over until next Sunday:

  • Remembering 1519” – With The New York Times‘s 1619 Project all the rage—a retelling of American history in which racism and slavery  are the only pertinent factors in our grand national story—this post examined a piece from The Federalist about Hernan Cortez’s conquest of the Aztecs in 1519.  Rather than framing it as evil Europeans callously destroying the peaceful natives (any fifth grader can tell you the Aztecs were anything but peaceful), he flips the script to something closer to the Truth:  the Catholic Christian Spaniards toppled a wicked regime built on human sacrifice and false gods.  The Spanish weren’t angels, but they destroyed a great evil.
  • Saturn: The Creepiest Planet?” – Quora inspired this post, and the site has now become a favorite of mine for people smarmily answering astronomy questions.  The Solar System has always fascinated me, and Saturn in particular is alluring—so mysterious and regal, with its massive rings.  I’ve even written a song, “The Rings of Saturn,” which I will hopefully record one day.  The Quora post in question asked “What is the creepiest planet in our solar system?”; the answer, per a recording of Saturn’s electromagnetic waves, is Saturn.  The embedded video to that recording is now, sadly, dead, but I’m sure some intrepid searching could turn it up.
  • A Tale of Two Cyclists” – One of my more frivolous and cantankerous posts, this short screed denounces “spandex-festooned cyclists riding in the middle of a busy lane during rush hour.”  Yet my sympathies are entirely with the second cyclist, “a black man of indeterminate age…. wearing street clothes, and riding what appeared to be a fairly rundown bike.”  I have no problem with folks who use a bike as their primary means of transportation, lacking any other options.  But these large groups of “cyclists” who ostentatiously hog entire lanes at 5 PM drive me batty.

That’s it for this Sunday!  We’ll continue our exploration for at least another week, as there are some more goodies from September 2019 to explore.

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments: