Comparison

Some six years ago (and it seems like three times that, believe me), I noticed an unassuming septuagenarian in a church gathering.  She was holding a parallel KJV-NKJV Bible.  I had never seen one of those before.  Now, I generally like parallel Bibles, but that particular pairing boggled the mind.  No, actually it doesn’t.  We humans do lots of silly things.  The marketeers who conceived and then published this essentially useless parallel KJV-NKJV product must have been mere marketeers, not exegetes or literary interpretation experts or even pastors.

Some of the KJV’s poetic language is nice, and using it for comparison can be helpful.  The KJV was actually great in its time, but that time is long past.  These days, using the KJV and NKJV for study or interpretation (as opposed to poetic/oral reading here and there) is like choosing to walk along a river on huge boulders that block your way, then hopping over to a parallel set of boulders with a little groove etched in them, and essentially not knowing where you’re going or even where the river is anymore.  Instead, we ought to choose a path beside a level stream, right there with the flow of the language.

Why not use versions that have incorporated changes in language in order to communicate in the present day?  We ought not to use language that’s 400 years old willy-nilly or with blinders pulled over our eyes, such as with certain churches that proudly carry banners proclaiming they are KJV-only.  And why not use versions that have employed recent archaeological finds?

I sometimes use a parallel “text comparison” function in my Bible software.  There’s a parallel that I find helpful.  I’ve chosen these versions for this purpose:

ASV 1901 | CSB | ESV | ISV | MSG | NET
NASB95 PARA | NEB | NIV2011 | NJB | NRSV | RSV

A couple of these are admittedly a bit unwieldy in certain respects, but most of them are decades old, not four centuries old.  These translations may not be “all over the map” in some estimations, but I do find a helpful smattering here.  Three or four mechanical ones, one loose paraphrase, some widely used standards, some middle-of-the-road, and a couple that are off the beaten path.

When I originally wrote about having seen the parallel KJV/NKJV, a distant relative took me to task, essentially saying it was none of my business which Bible someone read.  I do affirm that any Bible is better that no Bible at all, but in this era, if there are multiple versions available to a person, the choice ought to be something other than the KJV.  For those who feel they only want “literal” translations, I would say this:  all translations make interpretive decisions.  Every single one of them.  No “perfect” “literal” translation exists; when one undertakes to compare different versions, the process tends to aid in interpretation.

~ ~ ~

For the last 2-3 months, an opportunity has been brewing for me to facilitate/lead a small group.  It soon became clear that it made sense for me to co-facilitate with Roy, and we are set to dig into the JohnGospel.  Roy and I don’t know each other well, but every indication says that we could be friends.  He reached to me, having noticed something I said in a meeting.  In a sense, I think he was comparing my “take” on Bible study to that of the common person.  Later, I reached to him, and we’ve talked a little.  We both have a great interest in actually studying our scriptures instead of things superimposed on them . . . which brings me to more comparisons.

The acronym REACH serves as an outline for a “Bible study” that’s being used by other small groups in this program.

Receive the gospel

Enlist in the body

Abide in His presence

Contribute to His cause

Heed His commands

While the material found therein appears “scriptural” in that it refers to scripture “verses,” it is more theological than scripture-based.  In other words, it starts with theological concepts or topics and looks for “scripture verses” to attach to them.  That’s backwards.  Christian clichés and fluffy discussion questions might on the surface be relational and might serve general, devotional purposes, but they don’t often pay the right kind of attention to scripture texts.  REACH’s usage of scripture texts doesn’t compare well to responsible, contextual readings.

~ ~ ~

As Paul wrote in the letter we call “2nd Corinthians,”¹ “You are our letter.”  I don’t think Paul was making the point that living is more important than reading or studying texts, but he did seem to have the idea that the proof was in the pudding, i.e., whatever he had written to those Corinthian Christians should have been displayed in their lives.  It still serves well for us to realize that we are living ambassadors, although we are not necessarily carrying any documents with us at all.  We are “texts,” in a sense, and it’s good to ponder the potential comparison of (a) what people read in us and (b) what they read in scriptures.²

Leaders of established, Google-searchable (I can’t say “Yellow Pages” anymore, as I did here, nearly 8 years ago) churches almost always write, or at least reuse, texts about their identity and beliefs.  The “what we believe” explanations from websites and brochures and pamphlets and signs do communicate things, enabling the shopper to “compare.”

Seen in the best possible light, the very best creeds strike me as a nod to what is expected of the creed-makers.  Passersby/visitors/searchers have come to expect these “belief” statements, so councils and boards and pastorates compose creeds.  I mean, if you can’t find “what they believe” on their website, maybe they’re not a real church, right?  Para-church organizations also feel compelled to create such statements; the best ones are brief, simply pointing the reader to God, the scriptural texts, and possibly a basic philosophy or raison d’etre.  Other creeds are verbose, appearing to offer unrequested rebuttals to yet other creeds.  When a creedwriter reads something in another church creed, in a theology book, or on a website that he doesn’t agree with, he might feel the need to assert the contrary position—you know, for comparison’s sake.

I’ve never seen a single church creed-text that was above scrutiny, as I compare them to the messages contained in our scriptures.  Personally, I become dejected at the suggestion that I must agree with a board or a pastor (who might be less informed or studied than I) on certain points.  He might well be a better “living letter” than I am, but that doesn’t help me in dealing with a creed.


¹ Likely, “2nd Corinthians” would be at least the 3rd letter to them, because 1st Corinthians 5:9 refers to a previous letter.

² For a time in my life, I had these symbols on my cars.  I realized that there were times my actions on the road didn’t speak well of inner peace or grace, or ambassadorship for the Lord, or following Him in any sense, so I did the easy thing:  I stopped putting them on my car!

Memory

Once upon a church life, I was influenced by various wonderful adults who not only lived well themselves but who poured so much of themselves into the teaching of children.  In my church’s program, we typically changed teachers every three to six months. At the moment, I remember Peggy, Dot & Lou, and Judy & Mike as teachers specifically, but there were many others.  Memory does fade. . . .

A few in our circles called it “Sunday School.” Most of us, though, called it “Bible class” or just “class.”  At our church, Bible classes were always after the regular assembly.  The church gathered as a whole first, for about an hour and 15 minutes, and then we broke up into various classrooms, both on the lower floor and the upper.  After we moved to our classrooms, George or John would announce over the PA system, for all to hear, that “classes may now begin and will be dismissed in 45 minutes.”  (On Wednesday nights, it was 35 minutes.  I don’t know how teachers did anything in that short a time, but attention spans were better then, so I suppose more content could be packed into shorter time periods.)

Monitoring the Brain's Memory-Making Cells | National Institutes of Health  (NIH)

I learned a lot during those years in church Bible classes.  A lot.  I’m ever grateful for church, camp, and Vacation Bible school experiences.  I heard biblical stories and learned about the Lord Jesus, Moses, Joshua, King David, Paul’s missionary journeys, and more.  And I learned and memorized. . . .

In VBS, for a few years, it was lists that I memorized.  Lists of plagues and judges and sons of Jacob and apostles.  And the books of the Bible, of course.  There were also memory verses.  I vaguely recall going around the circle when we got to class to see who had learned his memory verse. 

At Camp Manatawny, where I was a summer camper (9 years) and a staff member (mostly later, 7-8 years), memorization was also emphasized.  I don’t know whether this was a Camp Board policy, but it was certainly prevalent, if not ubiquitous, for campers to have time devoted to memorization.  In high school, this practice did not subside in the slightest.  Rather, there was a heightened emphasis on memory for older campers.  During Senior High Week, after lunch, there was a rest period that allowed for final studying of the text block to be memorized.  Roughly a fourth of us would go up to the Rec Hall during the last 15 minutes of rest period while some just stayed in the cabin and rested.  One of the Bible teachers would hand out sheets of paper, and we would write (not recite) the memory passage quietly.  Quietly.  And those words sunk into my heart.

“If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, . . .”

“You are a royal priesthood, a chosen nation, a people for God’s own possession. . . .”

“He is the image of the invisible God. . . .”

“The Word became flesh. . . .”

“Have this attitude in yourselves, which also was in Christ Jesus. . . .”

(I checked the above wording out of curiosity, after having typed the words from memory. One of those passages was ingrained to the point that it made it into a song I wrote, some 20 years later.)

The memory passages for Senior High Week were usually 4-6 verses long.  Philippians 2, Philippians 4, Hebrews 11 and 12, Colossians 1, Romans 6, 1 Corinthians 13, and more. I remember once that I memorized four or five verses out of 2nd Peter 2 instead of the intended 1st Peter 2.  I can’t remember if they gave me credit or not, and I don’t remember feeling too annoyed with myself for making a mistake.  Even then, I was probably aware that anything memorized was probably a good thing, even if I didn’t get credit and a certificate. 

I almost always pursued these memory opportunities with energy.  Later, of my own accord, I would memorize even longer passages a few times.  I memorized a longer section from Hebrews 12, and all of Peter’s Pentecost sermon from Acts 2.

I was moving in the right direction.  The memory lists and verses of youth instilled a habit and a consciousness of the importance of the scriptures.  The practice of memorizing text blocks during the teen years was better.  Memorizing longer sections such as the Peter sermon was even better.

Sadly, I can’t even remember the last time I memorized something.

But I do know far more about texts and the study of them than I did.  And I’m committed to contextual, responsible study that seeks more and more to understand the significant dialogues in which these texts are engaged. I try to read, interpret, and understand each text on its own terms.

Since I have had a fairly good diet of scripture throughout my life, and since I’ve had the great blessing of knowing many people who knew and loved God, I suppose that memorizing a “verse” might serve some value.  It would stimulate thoughts based on my larger repertoire or past nutrition (pick your metaphor).  However, I am far more convinced that if one only knows and memorizes a verse or a phrase, he is likely missing the meaning.  No verse stands alone.  (See here for more on this point.) It simply doesn’t.  “I can do all things through Christ which who strengthens me” only has its intended meaning within its context.  We might take that those words and attempt to extrapolate so we can feel good about what we are doing that day . . . but at that point we are no longer seeking the meaning of what Paul wrote by God’s inspiration.

Memories of learning are good.  They make me appreciative.  Memorizing seems to have served a purpose for me.  Knowing the literary and historical contexts of scripture texts serves a better purpose for the maturing believer. 

It’s a complicated world

A few years ago, a colleague looked at me disbelievingly with his head tilted when I suggested that the world is infinitely more complicated than it was when we were kids.  I think he existed in a world of blissful unknowing.  Although a very smart and capable person, he didn’t seem naturally to ponder the inner workings of things.  I’m speaking specifically of technology here.

Things have only gotten more complicated in the intervening years.  In my world, rarely a day goes by now without something not working.  The complications often have layers and tentacles.  There are multiple layers, for instance, of software construction, of “sales and service,” and of attention to detail (or lack of it).

Recently, I tried to unlock a no-longer-used smart phone so I can sell it.  I followed the instructions I’d been given previously.  The phone had been on an installment plan, but I paid it off outright.  Although my account shows the payment, something in the system still hasn’t been updated, it seems.  It could be that it actually took more than 60 days for this cycle to be completed, whereas the representative didn’t know how long it would take.  The lack of accurate information is one of the complications we deal with.

Likely, a half-dozen things had to happen for that system to work, and I’m guessing someone forgot to update the update, or upgrade the new protocol that someone else had required at some point along the way.  Since some little step wasn’t handled, the system told me I hadn’t paid off my phone, which I had.  I called customer service, and of course I got the unintelligent IVR (“Intelligent Voice Response”) system. These are never (NEVER) set up to handle whatever I am asking, so I always (ALLLWAYS) have to say “representative!” in my most authoritative, annoyed voice (which never [NEVER] helps, because no one is listening).  The system says it will text me with information.  It sends me a text indicating the same inaccurate news I’d gotten on the website to begin with.  I will wait a few more days and try again.  Maybe there is some “update” or software patch that was applied, and maybe it takes 30 more days to enable the unlocking.  Of course, representatives and IVRs and websites FAQs should communicate these kinds of things in the first place, so customers wouldn’t waste their time and grow frustrated, but I’ve come to expect ineptitude, so I wasn’t really even that frustrated.

One of my (many) problems is that I know just enough about IT stuff to think I know what might have happened.  In another sector of the tech world, within the last week, I made an IT professional aware of an issue, which he tried immediately to correct, having missed a step himself.  One thing got better, and another didn’t.  I waited and tried again in a few days.  Yet another problem.  He fixed it again, and it worked this time.  Now, he should not have had to do any of this if the system had been designed well to begin with.  But the world is complicated, and he is but a cog in a giant machine.

Although I turn out to have on-target instincts about these things some of the time, I’m often wrong, too.  With the cell phone company, it’s impossible to predict whether I’ll finally get someone on the phone who knows what s/he is talking about.  Some people know; some don’t.  The people at the “authorized retailer” store sometimes know more than the call center, but the retail reps aren’t enabled to fix everything.  A friend who runs his own enterprise often spends disproportionate amounts of time working on, reporting, and following up on technology issues.  He would also tell you that he sometimes discovers what’s nonfunctional sooner (and more aptly) than the people who designed the system.  It takes great energy and persistence to follow these complications through to resolution . . . only to have them “break” again with the next update of some component.

The smartest tech reps are the ones who know what they don’t know.  (They also know what they can and can’t do.)  The ones who act like they know (or act like they can), are the most frustrating.  And they are probably Mac and iPhone users who just let stuff happen, unaware, and hopeful that it will keep working!

The complications in living are real, and the sheer number of complications grows persistently.  All this is a first-world problem, I know. And the blessing of having a smart phone—or a PC, or a smart TV, or bluetooth headphones, or whatever—is just as real as the frustrations of the attendant complications.

And what of the complications of “church”?  If only church were reduced to what’s central, or even to a few things that are important. . . .

Legalism and “compliance”

Compliance.

Legalism.

Both of these words engender negative reactions, if not outright rebellion, in my head.

I’m put off by the shallow, shadow-chasing enterprise that I find “compliance” to be in the financial world.   I imagine it’s very similar in the insurance and healthcare worlds.  Essentially, if we approach every question on the basis of compliance with rules, we end up with a watered-down nothingness that helps no one.  On the other hand, I do understand that if an institution is found to be systemically non-compliant, serious ramifications may result.

“Legalism” and “legalistic” entered my vocabulary sometime in my late teens or early twenties, as I became aware that the particular denomination in which I was raised is broadly accused of legalistic approaches.  My particular congregation was considerably left of center in most respects, but the effects of fear-based legalism sometimes surfaced.  Even today, having moved beyond that a great deal of the denominational “stuff,” I am regularly reminded of said stuff second-hand.

If we approach every God-question on the basis of what the law says, we might just end up treading water.  On the other hand, if one starts with central questions such as who God is and what God wants, or even what makes sense and what gets to the heart of the matter . . . well, then we might be moving along with the intent and not flailing about or swimming upstream.

Some seem to have the cockles of their hearts warmed by complying with rules and discovering new regulations with which to comply or align.  They might even love finding fault with those who don’t fall into line with supposedly “scriptural” positions.  Orthodoxy, though, is highly overrated.  Compliant and legalistic mindsets extend to the other side of the ideological spectrum, too.  If one doesn’t kowtow to the current notion of “wokeness,” for instance, s/he is seen as noncompliant by a different set of forces with power.

It’s a fearful existence, this rule-based “compliance.”

Of tubas, tempos, and kittens

“Even Crispen, the kitten, was in no way disturbed.”

So wrote Philip Catelinet, the principal tubist of the BBC Theatre Orchestra who also performed with the London Symphony and Philharmonia Orchestras.  Catelinet was referring to a nearly impromptu first reading of Vaughan Williams’s tuba concerto in the composer’s home in 1954.  Since then, the concerto appears to have provoked considerable anxiety among tubists, not the least of which was Catalinet himself, who was caught off guard by a request to play for the composer and Mrs. Vaughan Williams one afternoon.

“The first and last movements were my main worry.  Separated from the accompaniment I just couldn’t make the music flow in what I considered to be the correct style.”

“The tempo of the finale was, and still it is, questionable  . . .  the indicated tempo sounds uncomfortably rushed, even when [the player’s] technique is equal to its metronome mark.”

[About the premiere with orchestra]  “The last movement rollicked along, musically sketchy, but somehow held together with the confidence coming from under-rehearsed orchestral players determined not to admit musical defeat under any circumstances.  The applause seemed sincere enough; probably happy, along with me, then I had finally made a tuba concerto sufficiently plausible musically to be acceptable.”

Of late, I have had opportunity to review this concerto with a student.  A tuba player I am not, so it’s a good thing that this student is both capable and motivated by music and dialogue.  It’s difficult for me to imagine that a poor kitten would have been unfazed by this music!  Apparently young Crispen Vaughan Williams, following the reading session, “decided to enter the bell and, being but a tiny kitten, was soon lost sight of.”

– Philip Catelinet, “The Truth About the Vaughan Williams Tuba Concerto,” ITEA Journal, Vol. 14, No. 2 (Nov. 1986)

Ralph Vaughn-Williams and Philip Catelinet

Fallibility and the nature of things

Prevalent evangelical views regarding the Bible notwithstanding, I have for some time been developing a nuanced and granular view of our scriptures.  I can’t say I’ve enjoyed this journey, exactly; some scruples and opinions do not make existing alongside other believers very easy!  Yet I cannot deny the views or their implications as I continue on this pathway. 

In no way do I disrespect the scriptures; quite the contrary.  Although I confess a decreased activity with them in recent months, that is a function of life circumstances, not a reflection of intent or the value I inwardly place on scripture study.  I continue to believe that it is an inestimably good use of time to study scriptures responsibly, paying close attention to them.  I suppose I’ve spent more focused study time than 90% of the Christian believers I’ve ever come in contact with, but my total time has still been a pittance, compared to the time and effort the scriptures deserve.  Our Bibles contain the clearest, best indications of the ongoing conversations between God and humans throughout our existence, so they deserve persistent, devoted attention.

Of course there is a divine element in biblical documents; few if any readers here would deny that.  Coming from another angle, though, I want to spotlight briefly the human aspect of Christian¹ scriptures.  I think human choices were involved.  I reject the idea that specific words were required by God, but I still think delving into the words of the original language is tremendously helpful and illuminating.  I don’t suppose I hold to any particular theory of the mechanics of inspiration, but I find it particularly untenable to believe that God somehow dictated exact words or physically moved the biblical authors’ hands as they wrote.  It’s not the words themselves that are best said to have been “inspired.”  Instead, inspired authors wrote, and there have been rich, ongoing dialogues around those writings throughout the centuries and millennia that have followed.  Humans—God’s special, fallible creations!—have played an integral, even crucial role.  We might note well some aspects of human roles in scripture production, as articulated by Bernard Ramm:

Ramm gives four defenses for an understanding of Scripture as fallible (or at the very least in need of a new definition, as well as reconsidering the word inerrancy as it lacks historical theology authenticity).  These four defenses are as follows:

* the canon was decided upon by human beings

* the autographs that are currently unavailable are considered and created on purely human terms and critiques of extant copies and manuscripts

* the human decision of how much of the Old Testament is still applicable to the church today;

* and finally the endless human decisions on the part of the interpreter as they exegete a text.

Ramm, After Fundamentalism, 106.  Quoted in Tavis Bohlinger, “Assessing Barth’s Evangelical Interlocutors,” Logos Academic Blog, accessed 11/12/20.  (Format altered here. -bc)

While I don’t find equal significance among the four items, each is a human element that deserves attention.

I suppose I’d rather not emphasize the term “fallible,” but when terms such as “infallibility” and inerrancy have developed lives of their own in most evangelical circles, it might just be necessary to speak of the fallible aspect—in order to “speak truth to the power” of the institutional church momentum.  In other words, when the authority figures’ assumptions stand in the way of more adequate understandings, it might be appropriate to counter the assumptions with charged descriptions of scripture, e.g., “fallible.”  And, after all, all humans are fallible.  That is part of our nature.

As a new phase of study life² is set to begin for me, I wanted to remind myself of something of the nature of scripture.  Perhaps you’ve gained something by reading, too.


¹ The notion of Christian scripture, for me, is not limited to the so-called New Testament.

² https://www.biblicalconversation.com/   Through the Institute for the Art of Biblical Conversation (which is not by any means a group that sits around gabbing about stuff without direction or bona fide, responsible methods), I’ll be studying and pondering the nature and role of apocalyptic literature.  Although the time to register for the live, weekly study is expiring today, it will still be possible to register to watch recorded videos of this course.

Pre-dawn

Driving before dawn, I am reminded of the poetic words of Landon Saunders: 

“Faith is the bird that senses the dawn and sings while it is yet dark.”

Skeptics, please don’t read that and think faith must be blind. (Mine is not.). 

Believing siblings, please don’t read that and think only, “Oh, what a nice thought for my heart today.” Trust and hope maybe connected to faith, but faithfulness — loyal  living — should follow.

Reading activities (2) and Subjects of the Kingdom Xposts

A little bit ago, I shared reading bits from the spring and summer, leaving one category till now.  There have lately been two “politics” books I couldn’t keep my hands off of.  These are not standard fare.  These are not even standard “Christian” fare.  (I don’t tend to gravitate to such.) 

Popular Christian views move mostly in one direction, and now, some, in another.  My views largely move in another dimension.  A reader might think I am crazy (and perhaps I am), but I am not alone.  I do not exist in a vacuum.  Sure, I gravitate to writings that harmonize with, and bolster, my views, but I try to be fair-minded.

Recent readings along nonstandard lines have included

  1. Scandalous Witness:  A Little Political Manifesto for Christians, by Lee C. Camp
  2. Resisting Babel:  Allegiance to God and the Problem of Government, ed. John Mark Hicks
These books offer a worthy, bird’s-eye Christian view of politics that is neither partisan nor subservient to the ideals of any one nation.

Below are links to two of my most recent posts on the Christian and government. I share them not with the intent to upset anyone, yet with the full knowledge that some of my minority thoughts will strike the majority as odd, at best.  I have this in my favor: I am not alone, and many of the ideas in those posts come from others!


Calvin on God and Government

I’m no Calvinist, but he was a thinker if nothing else, and some of his thoughts are good.

It’s Time (sharing alternate views of Christians and politics)

Views of young thinkers such as Gurchiek and Stringer are, for me, far more worthy than those of charismatic Christian nationalists such as Graham and Dobson.  Maybe you’ll agree.


This book is available for purchase on Amazon

 

Mourning

I was trying to cheer myself up when I played the piano a few days ago.  I chose songs instead of piano-only jazz or Schumann or MacDowell . . . but every piece of sheet music carried me into some type of mourning.  That is not necessarily a bad thing, mind you—see scripture sampling below¹—but it wasn’t what I was expecting.  Here are notes on four songs that gave me pause:

“A Chosen People”   I wrote this song in 2004, based on thoughts in 1Peter, to recognize a then-newfound hope in two small groups in Kansas.  A few years later, I learned that one of the more outspoken, seemingly dedicated members of one group was having an ongoing affair with a woman on a mission field.  His wife and children were later left bereft, and the loss of a Christian family’s unity is always something to mourn.  The members of the other group have, to a person, all gone away:  one to early death, three to no faith at all, one to willful, selfish sin, and two into relative hiding.  I mourn the loss of the familial hope that was once found in both of those groups.

“When Trials Come” (Keith and Kristyn Getty)  This song acknowledges the presence of struggle and also reminds me of a great group of serious believers, all but one of whom are living loyally to the Lord.²  My arrangement of this song was OK, but not as strong as the spiritually minded intent of the sister who brought it to us.  I mourn the loss of that group and its vibrancy in my life, and I now also lament  my inability to look to God very persistently in trial.

“Reveal the Kingdom”  This captivating song contains a few B+ lyric elements but manifests an A+ concept.  I have no idea whether the one who originally shared this song thinks of the Kingdom-concepts.  Perhaps she just likes it because the lead vocalist sounds like Freddie Mercury (Queen).  I arranged this song, too, but there was little hope for it to succeed in our group at the time.  (It was a work of the heart, but not of the musical craftsman in me.)  Close-mindedly, I wish the vocalist/cowriter hadn’t gotten mixed up in Queen’s Legacy Tour, but mostly, I wish the song’s concepts were more embedded in my heart presently.  I also mourn the compromise of the once-pure faith of the one who shared it—and of a deeper relationship that was largely lost because I spoke the truth in love years ago.  And now, as I think of others who had begun to catch on to the eternal kingdom but who have lost that focus, I mourn anew.

Reveal the unseen Kingdom
The glory of the new Son
Where ever more His love imparts
The kingdom in our hearts

“Richer Blood”  I wrote the music for this song 2½ years ago for our home study group.  It never caught on.  One of the members of the group thought it was out of style.  That person was probably right, but the words, most of which are by noted hymnist Isaac Watts (flourished early 18C), are timeless.  My 3rd stanza capitalized on concepts derived exegetically from Galatians, e.g., being a child of promise, and faithfulness/allegiance in the Christian community.  As I ponder these rich concepts and the rich, sufficient work of the Christ, I selfishly mourn what feels like the waste of a personal gift.  My vocal/song styles are largely passé, so the time of using my music in Christian assemblies is no more.  I have no expectations or even wispy thoughts for the future, but if I had been more of a marketer, a few of my songs might have taken hold in the 90s and early 2000s.  Surely a dozen of them were better than popular ones of the time.  I actually like this song “Richer Blood,” and I feel it was relatively well composed.  It might have been one of my own top 10, but it had no life at all.  More than the comatose birth of this song, though, I mourn my own lack of attention to Yeshua the Messiah, whom I have claimed as Lord but to Whom I do not show nearly enough allegiance.

“His is a sacrifice that far surpasses the old ones, and His, the richer blood today.”

There is so much to lament.  Next, I think I should—but will I?—focus on some songs that carry more hopeful concepts for me than these.


¹   Eccl 7:4 — The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
Jas 4:9-10 — Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
Jer 31:13 (not as popular as 31:31) — I will turn their mourning into joy. I will comfort them and exchange their sorrow for rejoicing.
Rev 21:4 — He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

² Three of these couples are also producing offspring—five so far!—that I expect to be faithful disciples, too.

(Secretly) glad

The school secretary called this afternoon to tell me that Jedd had mistakenly left his school-issued iPad at school. “No problem,” I said. “I’ll be right there to pick it up.”

I had already heard from Jedd.  He and a friend had helped his teacher clean up, then he’d run to the band room to get this trombone, and he’d almost missed the bus.  (It’s hard to run with a trombone case, especially if you’re not much taller than it is.)  When I texted him not to worry about it, he texted back, “Oops!” and I was secretly glad that he knew I was there for him and would take care of this little mistake.

The secretary smiled as she brought the iPad to me at the school door.  She commented, “We really like Jedd.  He’s a great kid.”  I was glad, and I beamed (not so secretly).  They know and like him already, and it’s only two months into the school year at a new school (middle school)!  I was secretly glad that he had remembered his trombone—and apparently valued it over the iPad.

Now, this weekend, I want to make it my ambition to be openly (not secretly) glad that we get to spend time together.  We might even get to play brass instruments!

B. Casey, 10/23/20

Reading activities

During the spring and summer, I kept a little record of some bits I was reading.  “Bits” are still about all my dwarfed attention span can handle.

Some bits are enough.
Some are more than enough.
Some make me want to know more.
Some are confusing and/or complicated.

Below is a partial reading log, arranged by category.  I’ll save one category for a possible, later installment.

Education

  1. An academic dean’s bulletins and requests.  Good tone always.  Meaningful, caring, and academically appropriate, yet full of personality and warmth toward both students and faculty.
  2. Google Classroom “Weekly Summary” for my son’s online schooling.   Teachers did admirably last spring, but this summary tool was always balderdash.  Google must have had high school dropouts programming and labeling things that were meaningless for anybody who has ever taught or taken a class in anything.  They didn’t even understand the meaning of “last week” and “this week.”  Everything was confused.  UPDATE:  As of 9/25/20, there is little improvement.  I still lay little to no blame at the feet of the educators themselves.  Although I’m guessing it’s possible to change some settings to make the Summary tool more effective, the complex world of computer technology grows more complex and more obtuse by the week, it seems.
  3. Gerard Morris:  COVID-19 response and small band programs—timely, well-communicated
  4. Mark Spede:  COVID-19 Response Committee Report—ditto

Music & Arts

  1. Trae Blanco:  Curving the Canon is a short introduction to interviews on the wind band repertoire.  I kept this in front of me for nearly two months but never got into it.  I thought I needed to, but (call me judgmental) something kept me from thinking that the particular interviewees were the ones I need to help shape my opinions of large ensemble repertoire.
  2. Nikk Pilato:  WRP and Flex Instrumentation/Small Bands.  The Wind Repertory Project has been a frequently used resource, and I was glad to see this new category.  It’s a practical one, especially in this season.
  3. Now comes this one:  David Frese, in KC Studio, May/June 2020, “Chris Ortiz: The Lawrence-based Documentary Photographer Turns His Lens to Punk Culture.”  If I had seen the subtitle, I wouldn’t have read further.  Here are the closing lines:

To Ortiz, punk rock touches everything around him.

“It’s a scene I’ve been in since I was 15 or 16 years old,” he said. “It has shaped my life, and I guess this is my thank you to it, for allowing me to thrive as a person and be who I am today.”

It’s rather pathetic to have one’s life shaped by punk music.  For the record, I would say it’s sad to have your life entirely shaped by any particular music—classic rock, chamber music, opera, or most country music I’ve ever heard.

  • Other bits from the KC Studio magazine all over the map in terms of significance:
    • the notice of a display of pianos in Manhattan Kansas, a horse sculpture, and a new arts studio opening in Independence, MO
    • something about “cutting-edge choreography,” with an un-stirring, unintelligent bit about a spontaneous reaction:  “We’ve had people walking by and be like, ‘This looks cool; what are you doing here?  Can I jump in?’”
    • a one-pager about Kansas City jazz saxophone dynamo Bobby Watson’s transition from academia at the UMKC Conservatory to the touring/performing scene.
  • The most substantive article that drew me in is the one on composer Virgil Thomson. The little contact I’ve had with this thinker-composer’s output and influence on music world is not enough.  That he is a native of KC, the nearest metro area, is mildly interesting; mostly, I want to know more about his music and influence.

Misc.

Netflix e-mails ask,  “Περιπατεiτε, what are people watching in your area?”  Actually, I don’t care much what other people are watching.  This is not a key area of investigation, or really one of much interest at all, unless I know you.  Even then, I’d probably rather talk about something other than Netflix.  If you think I’m going to make live stream entertainment decisions on what is popular in my area, you are deluded.  Something that’s popular in my particular would be of even less interest than if I were in, say, Texas or Wyoming or Delaware.

Now if you want to ask me about why I chose that Greek word (transliterated “peripateite”) for my profile name, then I’d be glad to share.  The reason is linguistic, scripture-based, philosophically life-oriented, and related to a dear friend’s care.  (I’ll also gladly relay that my son chose “Pair of Potatoes” for our shared profile!)

Fiction

I picked up a “bookspot” (apparently a contemporary term for a novella) titled Manhunt by James Patterson and a co-writer.  I couldn’t stay interested.  Earlier, I’d trashed a book of nice-length short stories because several of them were dark . . . even grotesque.

God material

Phillip D. Stewart, “Wordplay in Genesis,” Biblical Archaeology Review, Summer 2020, 58-61.  Definitely makes me want to come back.

Mitra R. Golub, “What’s in a Name?  Personal Names in Aancient Israel and Judah,” Biblical Archaeology Review, Summer 2020, 46-51.  Interesting, but sufficient, because I’m afraid it fed my interest in etymology too much.

Brent Nongbri, “How Old Are the Oldest Christian Manuscripts?” Biblical Archaeology Review, Summer 2020, 39-45.  Nongbri is a respected academic in the field and has been referred to and engaged more than once by another scholar-writer  This gave me a good, nicely succinct primer on carbon-14 dating.  A keeper.

“Finally available for Logos Bible Software:  Texte aus der Umwelt des Alten Testaments (TUAT).”  This posting from the Logos Academic Blog tells of a newly available resource.  It’s not something I will acquire for myself, but I was interested to know that a study of the societies, cultures, and religions of the Ancient Near East is available.

Paula Fredriksen, When Christians Were Jews:  The First Generation.  I bought this and was reading at it for a while.  Fredriksen is a known scholar and was praised by the late Larry Hurtado before his death last year.  The topic and Hurtado’s recommendation combined to lead me to buy the book.  I had mixed reactions and feel she is sometimes on dry, if not shaky, ground.

Collier, Gary D, The Art of Biblical Conversation.  This is a new book by my close friend Gary D. Collier.  I’ve had the pleasure and honor, along with several others, of reading drafts, so I know this book is brimming with both significance and potential.  Look for an announcement shortly.

Soon, I might share some thoughts from books about living in this world as a pilgrim-disciple-subject of the King.

News

[The bits that I’ve read or listened to haven’t done much for my life or soul, so . . . nothing here.]

Supporting people’s writing

I like to support people’s writing, and I like for others to support mine.  Such support is a nice eventuality in life.

I supposed I learned much about writing and language from my parents, both of whom earned related academic credentials.  Because of their influence, I don’t have the sense that public school language teachers had much impact on my writing, but I do often recall one paper, returned with some marks by Mr. Groo in senior Engligh.  I learned something about diction and flow from a single comment he made.

My college papers weren’t much about to write home about, by and large, but I saved a couple.  An independent study that substituted for one semester of private voice was significant:  I researched and wrote about the song cycle.  As a tech employee of a banking company in the 90s, I didn’t write myself, but I proofed a few write-ups for a friend named Ed.  He took all my suggestions gratefully (except that he didn’t like the dash in business writing, so he opted out of those).  I’ve found through the years that pretty much everyone is appreciative of help, but most want to retain rights to do at least one thing against my recommendations, which is fine.  During doctoral studies, I learned a great deal about writing by two generous taskmasters:  Drs. Bellman and Singleton.  I have had the distinct pleasure and honor of supporting the writing of Dr. Gregory Fay and Dr. Gary D. Collier.  These dear friends continue to make me feel worthwhile by inviting me into their circles of readers.  I feel that I am supporting them, although I don’t do enough.

On the other side of the proofer’s fence, friends such as Bill and Anne and Mike and Rachel and Gary and Chuck have strongly supported my writing.  My dad seemed never to stop actively supporting what I was writing about (the assembly, worship, the Christian and government) and offering suggestions.  Primarily, he made me feel affirmed, although he offered many valuable proofreading and editing bits.  A list of my books, written over a period of a dozen years but all compiled and published during a relatively short span during the last two years of Dad’s life, is available here.

Blogging constitutes most of my writing these days.  I’ll take this opportunity to rant about WordPress’s new “editor” function.  (This is not a person but an editing interface.)  I don’t care for it.  It seems to be getting more difficult to get to the Classic editor, and I can’t find the tools I want with the new one.  I find such “upgrades” actually to be downgrades.  As such, WordPress is not supporting my writing all that well.

Now is when I get to support a new book:  authors of the chapters include Richard T. Hughes, John Mark Hicks, and Lee C. Camp—all men I’ve come to respect deeply.  The book’s title is Rejecting Babel:  Allegiance to God and the Problem of Government.   I highly recommend this book!  I am almost finished with it and have only discovered one typographical error.  On the upside, I find that nearly every page has challenging, conceptual depth to offer. 

I suppose that scholars feel most affirmed in their writing when other scholars cite them.  To my knowledge, only one other researcher has ever cited my dissertation on funeral music.  She purchased an e-copy from me.  I was, however, recently gratified to find that Resisting Babel cites my magnum opus, Subjects of the Kingdom.  Embedded chronologically among the works that have treated the influence of David Lipscomb I found the citation of my work, and I wasn’t even looking!  

Finally I’ll note the August 2020 death of a prince among scholars, Tom Olbricht.  As the Christian Chronicle (Oct 2020) has stated, Olbricht’s “academic work shaped generations of Christian scholars, ministers and church leaders.”  He focused on rhetorical studies and church history, according to David Fleer, the director of a scholars’ conference that Olbricht founded nearly 40 years ago.   (The conference was later named in his honor.)  Olbricht has supported countless others through his writing, teaching, mentoring, and recommendations of other authors’ books.  I have not sampled all the much of Olbricht’s writing, and I feel bad about that.  He has sent me small things here and there, and his material on my maternal grandfather, Andy T. Ritchie, Jr., needed a few corrections.  Given his prolific output, I suppose it’s excusable to have a typo here and there!  A fine tribute to Olbricht may be found here, on a Pepperdine University page, where he was Distinguished Professor Emeritus.

Olbricht was a thinker, a gracious colleague, and a friend to many, and I will always be grateful that he wrote a blurb for my book Subjects of the Kingdom, which may be purchased through Amazon hereThat was so very supportive.  I would be honored if readers of this post would show support by purchasing my book, but it would be of infinitely more worth if readers deeply, broadly acknowledged that the King of Kings, not a national/political system, solely deserves our pledges of allegiance.