Judging and perceiving (2)

As noted in the first Judges post here, the Israelites’ downfall appears to begin in the time of the Judges.  The people had not completely driven out the Canaanite inhabitants from the land, instead being assimilated and integrated, to some extent.

Here, we might acknowledge that the politico-military events described in Judges involve what would today be termed “ethnic cleansing.”  One people group, the “chosen” ones, wiped out other groups.  Some of these realities, as described, are horrific to most 21st-century ears, including mine.  What to do with this?  Some would say that we have in the Hebrew Bible a manifestation of merciless God; others have asserted that the whole Exodus and Conquest of Canaan scenarios were entirely fabricated.  I lean heavily toward affirming historical significance and accepting the events as described, although that inclination is informed by these realizations:

  1. Ancient writers don’t appear to view historicity and the recording of history in the same way a 20th- or 21-st century journalist would.
  2. Theologically oriented narrative sequences do not depend on precise dates and time periods.  Truth and “accuracy” are not to be seen in our strict terms.
  3. The God-ordained conquest of Canaan was not to be the end of the story, and ultimate deliverance is not physical.

With the above in mind, I set out to record some anecdotes harvested during my reading of Judges.  Please note that I do not present these observations as researched.  I hope they will be, at least at points, insightful, but it will be up to the reader to determine accuracy (e.g., of speculation about the meaning of names)—and to discern whether any insights or theories here can hold water.

First, I note that the tribes of Israel ask who will take the lead.  God replies (1:2) that Judah—indicating the tribe descended from the fourth son of Jacob—would do so.  Is the early, prominent mention of power/leadership indicative of what is to come in the book?  It could be signaling something I want to pay attention to, but I shouldn’t allow myself to assume the book is playing into my presuppositions.

Right away in the narrative, we read of violence.  Horrific, mean-spirited, gruesome violence.  Adoni-bezek (meaning “lord of Bezek”), a Canaanite king, was captured and had his thumbs and big toes cut off.  Othniel, the nephew of Caleb (and cohort of Joshua, of conquest fame), arises as a military leader.  His name is said to mean “Lion of God” . . . so “Othni” must mean “lion,” because the oft-seen syllable “el” is a shortened form of “Elohim.”  Othniel’s battle success earns him a wife; he becomes Caleb’s son-in-law, as well.  And isn’t that interesting?  For the Hebrew who hears or reads this story, the faith of Caleb and Joshua (the God-oriented two of the twelve spies who had been sent on reconnaissance) becomes linked to the work of God.

The Israelites settled in with existing people groups, e.g., the Amalekites and Jebusites (from what would become Jerusalem).  This had not been the plan.  God calls the people on the carpet, as it were, in 2:1.

Following the death of Joshua, the deliverer, the new generation is generally unfaithful.  More unholy integration is noted in 3:5-6.  In the memorable story of Ehud and his brutal slaying of the Moabite King Eglon, there is no mention of God.  Only the sword.  The land’s “rest time” under Othniel and Ehud is roughly 120 years—a long period, it seems to me.

Shamgar, officially Judge #3, has only one event attributed to him.  Perhaps he is particularly strong, or at least driven by adrenaline, foreshadowing Samson:  he kills 600 Philistines single-handedly.  As with Ehud, God is not mentioned in connection with Shamgar, so I begin to suspect that the narrative is intent on showing a misplaced focus, i.e., on human strength apart from God.

God shakes things up in the person of Deborah.  She is the only female judge and is also a prophet.

Next:  Deborah, Gideon, and Abimelech

Advertisements

Judging and perceiving (1)

It took me six days, but I did it.  I had told myself I was going to sit down and read the Hebrew Bible book of Judges in a sitting.   It’s only 21 chapters and should have taken 2-3 hours, I figured.  I was pre-motivated by the redemptive and historiographical “kingdom” significance I perceived, but it still took me six days.  Pathetic, I know.

I did learn a few things.  Or, more accurately, I observed a few things that might or might not be valid.  (You’ll have to be the judge.)  For instance, the duration of the period of the Judges seems to have been between 300-400 years.  Early on in reading, I also recalled that the people of Israel sometimes eliminated the existing inhabitants of a region, and sometimes, they didn’t.

The book of Judges begins by telling us that Israel hasn’t completely driven out the Canaanites from the land.  Instead, Israel follows their corruption and child sacrifice, becoming just as bad or worse.  – The Bible Project

This seems to be the beginning of the Israelites’ downfall.

Out of the gate, I will admit to having prejudged Judges:  I’ve begun to see it as (1) a historical theology book (2) in which Israel’s stark slide toward ignoring God’s kingship could be plainly seen.  My premise, in other words, is that we find a significant era in the time of Israelite Judges.  The Bible Project’s video introduction bears this out, referring to the “tragic downward spiral of Israel’s leaders and people” and to a “descent into madness.”  Of course, there had been numerous departures from God in the past, but once the people had been finally delivered from the Egyptian oppression and enslavement, had suffered, wandered, and finally been given their promised inheritance in the new land, it would seem that God’s reign would be clear to them—and honored by them.  This was not to be the case.

I judge that I have more to learn about the word “judge” (Heb. shophet).  I have come to suspect that the English word does not do justice to the original role, as conceived and lived out among the ancients.  The role also seems to have shifted with the time, personality, and need.  One source¹ frames the scene well, I suspect:  the Hebrew judges were people “who served roles as military leaders in times of crisis, in the period before an Israelite monarchy was established.”  It’s important to recognize that there was no “nation of Israel” per se at this point in history.  The judges, therefore, were not national leaders; they were “unelected non-hereditary leaders”¹—more like regional/tribal lords who arose, or who were elevated, based on military need and proven might.

Some judges failed miserably at points, but they also had many impressive successes.  In general, we see in the book of Judges that it is God’s power that provides victory.  On the contrary, when God is forgotten or ignored, bad things happen.

The number of Judges counted in this time period varies from 13-16, upward to 19 or 20 if others are counted that are not mentioned in Judges or 1Samuel.  The events of Eli’s and Samuel’s lives, for example, seem to be in the line of Judges.

Next:  the first three Judges


¹ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_judges

What if I’m wrong?

I’ve noticed a certain disappointing conclusion in a number of books and sermons lately.  I’m prone to exaggeration, but this thing keeps coming up, so maybe I’m onto something in thinking it’s a trend.  The particular disappointment has to do with the eschaton (end-time eventualities)—particularly, any viewpoint that anticipates a physical, earthly manifestation of everlasting heaven.  The disappointment grows in intensity when the viewpoint is espoused by a person whose scholarship and/or philosophies I respect.

Rick McKinley and Matthew Bates, two new-favorite author-thinkers, have greatly impacted me with important notions around (1) biblical faithfulness and (2) kingdom.  Both of these have apparently arrived at roughly the same place on this eschatological question:  anticipating a renewed earth for all eternity.  Those who agree with them, including a large proportion of evangelicals, can hardly breathe when asked to consider another point of view; the same may be said of those on the other side.

With the latter group, I have throughout my life taken the position that this earth will eventually be entirely done away with.  As I read and hear key thinkers on this, many end up disagreeing with me, although some of them and I do turn out to agree.

Could I be wrong?  (I ask that question both seriously and tongue-in-cheek.  I could falsely find comfort in being in a minority.  You know, “few there be that find the narrow way” and all.)  I’m really not ready to admit it just yet.   The problem for me, on this topic and others, is this:  when I find holes in others’ logic, I may feel justified in ceasing to think logically.  The primary hermeneutical non sequiturs I find in this sphere concern people’s inability to distinguish apocalyptic literature from narrative or didactic literature.  If people assume Revelation is to be taken as literally as one takes, say, Mark or Acts, they may jump to conclusions.  See this Wikipedia reference to interpreting Revelation; the point is that it is a particular way of reading Revelation that results in some theological positions.  What if everyone read most of Revelation as primarily figurative?  (One can do that while still respecting scripture, you know.)  Arguments would be avoided, and more people would agree with me.  That’s good, right?  🙂

→ See here for a brief spotlighting of the different types of biblical literature.

So what if I turn out to be wrong?  I find myself partly aligned with the amillennialists (not postmillennial, not premillennial) and, to a degree, with the preterists.  A friend says he’s an “I don’t care-ist,” meaning he doesn’t really care what the Lord does “at the end” . . . anything is OK with him.  Following his lead, if the Lord disagrees with my present conclusions, I can live with that.  (This is pretty much the case with other  “doctrinal” matters, too.)  What am I going to do—stand at the throne and discuss eschatology with the One who is outside time and planned it all, anyway?!  I’m thankful that my relationship with Him—both the “here and now” and the “there and then” aspects—does not depend on drawing correct conclusions.

Verifiable words on real, organic church

Following up on recent thoughts on being vulnerable and real, I’d like to share “Strategic Words in Facilitating Movements.”  I take these thoughts as dealing with real church.  This isn’t to say that non-organic, hierarchically organized churches aren’t real; rather, it is to accentuate some positive qualities of a genuine, scripture- and discipleship-based movement.  In other words, this is not about a denomination’s regional staffing decisions or a megachurch pastor’s move to establish another “campus” a few miles away.  This is about something that appears to move on a smaller scale and yet possesses great potential.

Since I am currently in Africa working with phenomenally fruitful leaders, I thought it would be good to share a few “key words” on church planting movements.  These words are adapted from Galen Currah who adapted them originally from David Watson.  Each “word” listed here has so much meaning and power when walked out.

[Selections mine — bc]

1. Prayer:  . . . Know the mind of God and join Him in His work.  Deep intimacy with God is the foundation for everything else!

3. Disciples:  Make Disciples, not converts.  Converts focus on religion.  Disciples focus on Jesus and obedience to His teachings.

5. Churches:  Communities of Believers.  Form new believers into minimal Bible practice groups that will become Communities of Believers (churches) who transform families and communities.

6. and 2.  Authority and scripture:  Authority of the scriptures and the Holy Spirit are all that is needed to start.  Church Planting is an act of God and His people who are obedient to the Word and the Spirit.  ||  Scripture is foundational and the source of all teaching and preaching.  Scripture → Principle → Practice

9. Plan:  Act Intentionally:  Organic does not mean the same things as “accidental.”  Crops are grown through intentional sowing with wisdom.

14. Culture:  Redeem local culture by embracing all you biblically can in a culture and transforming or redeeming the rest.

As I read and revise this for the last time, I am struck most by the phrase “minimal Bible practice group” in #5 above.  Minimalism tends to be tiresome to me in music, but “keep it simple,” “less is more,” and the “tiny house” bandwagon are contemporary cultural examples of related values.  The “minimal practice group” concept draws me.  How about you?

→ Roger Thoman’s original blogpost, quoted above, may be found here in its entirety.  For more, read this post:  Underground Revolutionaries

Real words on real church

Suppose a leader wants to show others what “church” is all about.  He might have some great ideas, facilitate some good things, and analyze those well over the short term.  Still, “church” will seem incomplete at best.  (Isn’t it always lacking?)  I myself have wanted to show others what church is about, and I’ve not succeeded very much.  Each of us is a product of his experiences; every vision is limited.  Our values have, in part, been shaped by our respective personalities, emphases, and opinions.

About 15 years ago, I started drafting a charter for a new “church.”  (Here, please substitute small group of believers for “church,” a word that typically implies more organization and institutionalism.)  I revised that document from time to time, based on growing, changing emphases and understandings.  The vision has never amounted to anything and probably never will, but I still dream.  I still feel I know a few things church is not about, primarily:  doctrine, buildings, opinions on assembly procedure, and clergy/hierarchy.  But isn’t it more important for me to discern what church is?  Should it be . . .

A hospital?

A shed for grace and love to be stored and brought out once in a while?

A set of programs that feel comfortable and/or purposeful?

A charging station for the electric-car needs of all who’ve been racing down the freeway?

Church certainly shouldn’t be an opportunity for isolationists to bury themselves deeper, but it has been thought of as a haven.  Is that image sufficient?

I’m not so sure that any presumably advanced, contemporary manifestations and iterations of church are any better than your basic mainline Christian club.  (Indulge me as I revert to considering more of what church is not.)  Is it really that important if the latest, greatest speaker and the richest, most flavorful coffee and the most charismatic greeter and the best-organized parking lot ministry are combined for a great Sunday experience in YCCCoT?¹  First Methodist or Main St. Presbyterian or East End Christian Church might offer just as much nourishment, and I might find a beautifully devoted, exemplary disciple of Jesus Christ at Johnston St. Church of Christ or St. Paul Lutheran.  Coffee bar or not, contemporary music or not, great programs or not . . . church is more about helping disciples on their way in living loyally to God, honoring him.

There is in some sense, after all, a call—and that call might be easy for some to answer initially, but it is anything but comfortable to continue a disciple’s walk over the long haul.  An e-friend recently disseminated some provocative thoughts from respected writer John Stott.  I pass them along here:

The Christian landscape is strewn with the wreckage of derelict, half-built towers—the ruins of those who began to build and were unable to finish.  For thousands of people still ignore Christ’s warning and undertake to follow him without first pausing to reflect on the cost of doing so.  The result is the great scandal of Christendom today, so-called “nominal Christianity.”  In countries to which Christian civilization has spread, large numbers of people have covered themselves with a decent, but thin, veneer of Christianity.  They have allowed themselves to become somewhat involved, enough to be respectable but not enough to be uncomfortable.  Their religion is a great, soft cushion.  It protects them from the hard unpleasantness of life, while changing its place and shape to suit their convenience.  No wonder the cynics speak of hypocrites in the church and dismiss religion as escapism…  The message of Jesus was very different.  He never lowered his standards or modified his conditions to make his call more readily acceptable.  He asked his first disciples, and he has asked every disciple since, to give him their thoughtful and total commitment.  Nothing less than this will do.     – John Stott (1921-2011), via Bob Lewis
Seen on a T-shirt, July 2019

Surely church is nothing if not a group of devoted disciples, living loyally to the Lord.  And surely church is nothing if the disciples stay home.

Next:  More Real Words—on the “Strategies” of some successful church planting activities (from David Watson, adapted and selected by Galen Currah, Roger Thoman, and me)


¹ Yuppie Christian Community Church of Today

Being real & vulnerable

Some topics I touch are ones I should probably stay away from.  “Vulnerability” might be one of those.  Inimitably and famously, Brené Brown has given talks on this topic, touching something deep within many of us.  Surely no one like me could add anything worthwhile to her research and insights on this topic.  On the other hand, it might just be that I can note and transmit something very important, being an under-informed but sincere, sometimes-earnest observer of people and culture.  I’m betting many of you will agree that the following material about vulnerability and the pressure of social media is on track.

A book by Donna Freitas is titled The Happiness Effect:  How Social Media Is Driving a Generation to Appear Perfect at Any Cost (Oxford University Press).  Freitas, also the author of Sex and the Soul, “comes from an epicenter of sociological research on adolescents and young adults, Notre Dame’s Center for the Study of Religion and Society.”  She conducted 200 interviews of university students.

The Happiness Effect is organized around the topics covered in these conversations.  Each chapter overflows with personal stories, making the book an enjoyable read.  But on a deeper level, Freitas has a theory to test.  She contends that headline-grabbing abuses like bullying, stalking, and sexting are not the greatest dangers that social media poses for young adults.  Rather, they distract from a more insidious phenomenon:  the drive to look perfectly happy, all the time.  (emph. mine   -bc)

. . .

As Freitas puts it, Facebook and Twitter are, in a way, the anti-confession, the places we pretend that we have it all together as though we were the gods of our own future.  The gospel challenges the assumption that confessing weakness and need makes you a failure. . . .

– Andrew Root, Reviews, Christianity Today, March 2017

“Church” has for decades (centuries?) been a place for facades, for hiding.  The age-old story of the stereotypical, churchgoing family yelling at each other, slamming doors, stewing in silence all the way to the church building, then putting on fake smiles and acting as though “God is good all the time” is anything but humorous.  Despite encroaching reports of the likes of emotional illnesses, divorce, pain from LGBTQ concerns, human trafficking, and more, some Christians are still fixated on the need to “celebrate Jesus.”  This celebration sensibility comes from reasonably good, yet partly shallow theology and from good-hearted people.  I, on the other hand, resonate more with the need to be communicative, “real,” and vulnerable, sharing every emotion and experience, not only the nice ones.  I’d go further, too:  lament and other negatives need some affirmative action in churches.  In other words, there’s already enough celebration and praise, way too much slap-happy trivia and hype, and not nearly enough honesty.¹  Let the vulnerability emerge.

Facebook is not the only venue through which anti-confession (falsely presenting oneself and one’s situation as marvelously in control and persistently happy, as though there is no weakness and need) rears its head, but it’s a nearly omnipresent one.  Most of those I know are both well acclimated to FB and/or aware of its limitations and potential fallout.  Let us use it well (and not too much).  Let us share the great pics of our kids and our food creations, and maybe an interesting selfie or two (up to two, not two hundred, thank you very much).  Let us share our inspiring thoughts for the day and our scriptures.  But let us also share² our weaknesses, our vulnerabilities, and even our griefs.


¹ Our chosen, local church takes as its moniker “Historic Faith – Honest Fellowship – Humble Service.”  It makes quite a nice triumvirate, I think, and here, I would call every reader to the “honest fellowship” part—honest both with God and with other believing journey partners.

² Facebook allows one to share selectively, i.e., via private message and to specific individuals or groups.

An Angell in the mind field

During some lazy afternoon reading-while-grilling, my mind connected a movie and a wind band piece:  Angels in the Outfield and Angels in the Architecture (Frank Ticheli).  Frankly (pun intended), that Ticheli piece doesn’t appear on my list of favorites of his.  Parts of it remind me of the older Vesuvius, but Angels uses a soprano voice along with the winds and percussion, and a soprano, in my book, is often a detriment.  Plus, I prefer many better baseball movies over “Angels in the Outfield.”

Nonetheless, there is that “angels” thing that connects the two with the noted baseball writer Roger Angell.  I just read an Angellic passage that I wanted to share.  Put this in the categories of random delights, skilled writing, and musicianship—actually being a musician, not just someone who plays “my music” through earbuds as she hibernates from humanity while walking around or hanging out with friends.  Of course, add the category of baseball.  Allow yourself to imagine, to get lost in the little thing called the baseball “box score.”

Angell in March 2015
Roger Angell, baseball essayist

A box score is more than a capsule archive.  It is a precisely etched miniature of the sport itself, for baseball, in spite of its grassy spaciousness and apparent unpredictability, is the most intensely and satisfyingly mathematical of all our outdoor sports.  Every player in the game in every game is subjected to a cold and ceaseless accounting; no ball is thrown and no bases gained without an instant responding judgment—ball or strike, hit or error, yay or nay—and an ensuing statistic.  This encompassing neatness permits the baseball fan, aided by experience and memory, to extract from a box score the same joy, the same hallucinatory reality, that prickles the scalp of a musician when he glances at a page of his score of Don Giovanni and actually hears bassos and sopranos, woodwinds and violins.

Just as one’s baseball imagination can be enlivened by reading a box score, particularly if one knows the players’ names, a similar “hallucinatory reality” permits the conductor to audiate as he studies (and conducts from) a music score.  Those notes are not just gobs of ink.  No, they mean something!  They stimulate the memory and imagination.  They can become uniquely enriching for the human soul.

→ For more on the many-faceted word “score,” try this.  It’s fun!

This week marks the last of my son’s fourth baseball season.  Three games this week!  He has in some ways had his best season ever, and his comprehension and love of the game have grown, but those stats could use some improvement.  (Good thing they don’t publish box scores for this league.)  He’s gotten to pitch a little, and he loves every practice and every game.  We’ll both miss the season when it’s over.

Baseball is a great game, and the relatively slow pace of the game is good for the soul—not lazy at all if you like strategy and imagination!  Thanks to Roger Angell for writing so marvelously about baseball.  Your work, as it deals with the most appealing kind of sports field there is, is also good for the field of the mind.

Xposted: Freedom, Pleasant Valley, Exile, Presence, and Dentist’s Office

On this day, should you wish to ponder as well as celebrate and recreate, I might point you to this posting from about this time last year:

Freedom reflections

All the links in this cross-posting should open in a new tab in your browser (not sure what happens on a smartphone; I tend not to read much there since I like to see more than 20 words at the same time!).  Here is a link to a recent post on my (less active) Christian Assembly blog:

A pleasant dip in a valley, in which I mention a few good thoughts on a good assembly experience

Recent posts on my Subjects of the Kingdom blog include these:

Exile, in which the pervasive notion of exile is spotlighted

Practicing the presence, in which the presence of God is compared to the presence of His Kingdom

The dentist’s office, in which sterile, calm atmospheres are contrasted with the Kingdom

Redefining “people person”

A “people person,” supposedly, is one who enjoys and likes crowds of people, parties, and such.  What if we could redefine “people person” as one who places a high value on other people and interactions with them?  One definition doesn’t necessarily exclude the other, but the focus is very different with the more customary understanding.

Image result for extrovert

Consider the person who is relatively extroverted (a quality that one source equates with being a people person), loving groups and large-scale social intercourse.  It’s fine to be extroverted, but merely being Image result for people personin groups without genuine interaction or concern for other people isn’t of much interest to me.  Moreover, if an individual were to show disregard or discourtesy, I would generally have to challenge that person’s connection with, and interest in, other people—at least in those moments of self-centered indifference.  It can be more detrimental to disregard someone than to treat him/her with hostility.  Can a person who is so disconnected that he does not truly regard others be a “people person”?

A persistent lack of interest in communicating with another person would tend to indicate a lack of genuine regard and empathy, all other things being equal.  My antennae are up for manifest empathy these days.  About 20 years ago, on a personality profile test, I had a high empathy score, but I don’t know that I would score that high today.  There could be multiple explanations for a lack of empathy here and there, but could someone who rarely cares for others’ pain really be considered a “people person”?

For that matter, was Jesus a “people person” in the stereotypical sense?  Could we say that?  I’d suggest that it depends on the definition.  Some well-meaning extroverts seem to be of the skewed opinion that introversion is actually a weakness to be overcome!  (Here I would refer you to this 3-minute video I recorded a few years ago about a “Bible study”—which really wasn’t one, I hasten to point out.)

Unless I’m conducting or teaching, it’s not natural for me to be extroverted or gregarious, and I doubt anyone would think of me as particularly congenial these days.  I did get place 2nd in the “Mr. Congeniality” voting as a 17-year-old at a Christian camp, but that was a long time ago.  In 2019, I may or may not look forward to a small party or a dozen people at a dinner table, but I did enjoy two such events within the last month or so.  Typically, after that type of gathering, I can use some time alone, or with one or two people.  I do relish connections with people.  I want to spend time with them.  And I sincerely hope I’m still viewed as caring and interested.  We introverts do actually enjoy people and conversation and laughter!

Congeniality and empathy could be said to be traits of a people person.  Extroversion is more typically connected with being one, and that’s what I resist in my attempt at redefinition.  I suppose it isn’t very Image result for people personrealistic to take a term that usually means one thing and unilaterally superimpose another meaning on it.  In the final analysis, a “people person” is probably whatever this or that person thinks it is.  My hope would be that those who know me on any level would not think me a nonpeople person simply because I don’t care to spend too much time at large parties or in shallow, loosely connected groups.

As I think about people and connections. . . .

Some people regularly challenge me to be a better version of myself by their presence or their words.

Others present opportunity to show grace or patience.

Still others demonstrate starkly how not to live.

And all of those are valuable human beings, deserving considerate regard, kindness, and grace.  I’m not suggesting that I myself always do right by people.  Rather, treating others well is a goal.  Genuinely regarding all people, paying attention to them, and interacting with them as valuable humans—sometimes one by one instead of in large groups—is a valid way of being a people person.

In sum:

  1. If “people person” is as shallow and as large-group-centric as it often seems, I want little or no connection with the label.
  2. On the other hand, I’d like to change people’s conception of what a real people person is:  one who interdependently lives in and among people, being with them in various ways and enjoying various levels and types of productive and/or spiritually helpful relationships.
  3. I’m somewhat a people person (not in the common sense) now, and I want to grow more in terms of healthy interdependence and interactivity.

B. Casey, 4/3/19 – 7/2/19

Celebrities (and authors and Dad)

Celebrities attract the attention of many.  For my part, I don’t recall ever having watched a single episode of a series with the word “celebrity” in its title or its background concept.  (Not even “Shark Tank.”)  I do have to admit that I have a few celebrity autographs, including former major league baseball players Pete Rose and Jay Johnstone, and Colonel Harlan Sanders.  Yes, that Col. Sanders.  I wasn’t chicken to approach him and get his autograph in the airport.  He didn’t seem too fried from his bad flight, and I did respect the pecking order, and I didn’t run a-fowl of airport security.  No, meeting him wasn’t on my bucket (of chicken) list.  Now the jokes are done.  Like a good, rotisserie chicken.

Anyway.  It’s not as though I’m completely unaware of celebrity status.  I’ve been excited by the fame of some.  In music worlds in particular, I’ve had some pretty cool meet-ups.  Here are a few names (several of whose autographs I also have):

Musicians

  • Mason Jones (who was principal hornist for the Philly Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy, compiler/editor of a stock-in-trade collection of horn solos … and who, I discovered, was the solo hornist for Disney’s Fantasia
  • Rebecca St. James (autographed a songbook at a Christian concert I attended with teenage friends)
  • Col. Arnald Gabriel (while a grad student, I shuttled him to and from his CO All-State Band rehearsals)
  • Col. John Bourgeois (I played under him in the HAWE in Hornell, NY)
  • Canadian Brass (autographs at a concert)
  • Bonnie Keen, Marty McCall of First Call (autographs at a concert)
  • Michael Card¹
  • Fernando Ortega²
  • Phil Ehart, Rich Williams, David Ragsdale, Billy Greer, Steve Walsh (the 2011 iteration of the rock band Kansas), and Kerry Livgren³

¹ If I had a Christian music idol, it would probably be Michael Card.  Prodigiously prolific for 40-or-so years, he is humble and free of hype and glitz.  One of his principal gifts is locating and distilling core scripture messages into wonderfully acoustic (read:  not over-electronicized) songs.  A group of us attended a Card concert once.  One friend teased me about being such a fan that she was worried I’d throw my underwear onto the stage.  Mine wasn’t that kind of fandom, but I did and do respect Card’s contributions wholeheartedly.  I have referred to him before on this blog, notably here.

² Fernando Ortega has been around in my life for almost as long.  In his inimitable way, he has compelled, driven, and drawn my heart so many times I’ve lost count.  Sometimes, to the point of tears.  I met him face to face once, and I introduced a church elder to his music.  He and his wife became Fernando’s acquaintances, traveling to him and getting pictures taken with him.  I’ll admit to a little jealousy here!

³ And if I had any rock music idol, it would be Kansas.  In my unstudied rock hierarchy, Kansas’ musical and lyrical content  are tops.  Their music consistently manifests qualities that draw me, energize me, and stimulate creativity.  I don’t have the autograph of their principal songwriter, Kerry Livgren, because he could no longer play with the band after a stroke.  Livgren is now a serious believer, and we recently met him at his church.  See here for an account of a special event with Kansas about eight years ago.

Dad and Christian speakers/authors

Today my dad would have been exactly 79½.  He was no celebrity himself, but he did garner some well-deserved awards; he was the first scholar-athlete at Harding College and was later Harding University’s School of Education’s Alumnus of the year.  As a congregational deacon and shepherd/elder, Dad modeled the way to regard those who enjoy celebrity and fame.  He simply treated them like other people.  (No need to stand in awe.)  On the other hand, he must have had an underlying drive to take advantage of the capabilities of some who had, by their virtues, become somewhat famous.  Dad was for years the force that brought well-traveled, well-reputed, “big name” speakers to us.  Our church was in the Mid-Atlantic region, a/k/a the “Northeast,” and we would otherwise have been largely ignored because we were neither huge nor in the Bible belt.  Primarily because of Dad, we had these guest speakers at our church:

  • Cliff Ganus, Jr.
  • Lynn Anderson
  • Jerry Jones
  • Jimmy Allen
  • Harold Hazelip
  • LaGard Smith
  • Rubel Shelly *
  • Jim Woodroof
  • Max Lucado

I might have autographs for a couple of the above (on the title page of a book), but the main thing was having heard them speak in person.  I also shook well-known author Max Lucado’s hand once, because he spoke at a men’s retreat at our beloved Camp Manatawny in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

∗ Shelly’s “shift” is noteworthy—from (1) prize of the far-right, defensive CofC adherents to (2) de facto mouthpiece of the genuinely nondenominational, thoughtfully progressive “wing.”  I heard him speak in a couple other settings, too, and one of his books (I Just Want To Be a Christian) had a deep impact on me.  See here for a touting of that book.

I also have autographs for these other Christian authors in one or more books:

Christian Authors

  • Leroy Garrett
  • Cecil Hook
  • Richard Hughes
  • Gary Collier

I myself invited the late Leroy Garrett to my Delaware church to speak on unity and the Restoration Movement—and to impersonate “Raccoon” John Smith in one of his iconic presentations.  Leroy stayed in my home, and visited in his.  I was in the late Cecil Hook’s home, as well.  Cecil was the less credentialed but also sharp-minded author of Free in Christ (also touted here) and other freedom-themed books, several of which I had the distinct honor of collaborating on.  I’ve eaten lunch with the insightful Richard and Jan Hughes, along with mutual friends the Crowes.  My association with Collier has lasted longer and run deeper than with the others.  I have spent meaningful time with him as friends, collaborated with him (including recently embarking on a significant project), and have been in his home.

On the one hand, celebrity status means little to me, because it so often has little to do with quality, lasting values, or eternity.  On the other hand, some have become celebrated for good reason, and I am glad that my life has involved crossing paths with such men as Anderson, Collier, Garrett, Hook, Hughes, Card, Ortega, and others who have meant much to me.

Rich Mullins’s swan-song album The Jesus Record includes “Man of No Reputation,” a song recorded on a cheap tape deck by Mullins and then later refined by his band.  This song takes a translation of a phrase in Philippians 2 and expands ironically on the awe-inspiring reputation of our Messiah-Servant, Christ Jesus.  Jesus’ lack of celebrity status, combined with His singular attention to His mission and role, impel us to honor Him.

CBDNA, part-sharing, and copyright

For one reason or another, I haven’t posted anything in a while.  It’s not that I don’t have blogs in progress; it’s that I haven’t felt like anything was quite finalized yet, and my energies are often taken with other priorities.  So, as I procrastinate with 2-3 posts for probably another week or more, I’ll offer this brief one with no ado or rumination.

CBDNA

The president of CBDNA (College Band Directors National Association) sent this missive dated 6/10/19:

Due to concerns with copyright liability CBDNA will no longer allow requests for scanned or copied parts through the CBDNA email listserve. We realize this is a change and inconvenience, however, it is important for everyone to be copyright compliant and to follow the laws and limitations of distributing copyrighted works.

Here is my (public) reply, not sent to him personally:
I feel this is a sad development.  Requesting and receiving a couple of parts when they are on order (or out of print) is like borrowing sugar from a neighbor.

 

I would challenge large-scale publishers to defend that they have factored into their pricing in a certain number of lost parts, i.e., that they expect subsequent income from selling replacement parts.  In other words, do they really price a set of music at $250 when it’s valued at $260 because they know they’ll eventually sell $10 worth of replacement parts?  I would further question whether self-published composers would want to bother with selling a replacement part for $2-$3 rather than benefiting from the word-of-mouth advertising received when someone needs a part to his or her piece that’s about to be performed.
Liability is what it is—i.e., not always related to facts, ethics, or right. vs. wrong—so I understand this decision in that it addresses the potential monetary losses of a large organization.  Still, I find the necessity of making such a decision to be a sad commentary on society’s litigiousness and perhaps the self-preserving bent of certain factions.

 

Chamber formations

Chamber music has for quite a while been a strong interest.  The first group I remember Image result for images chamber musicforming, or helping to form, was the Harding Brass Quintet.  One year, we had a euphonium instead of a trombone, and we enjoyed a few performances during a year or two of my later undergraduate years.  I remember playing the Ricercar del Primo Tuono and a Gabrieli sonata or canzona.  We did fairly well with the classic Sonate die Bankelsangerlieder, too.  The players were Glenn, Daphne, me, Ken, and Bob, and then Ken switched from euphonium to tuba, and we had Milton on trombone.  Good times.  I don’t recall significant chamber experiences before that time, so I suspect it was the HBQ (sponsored by the late, gracious Dr. G.E. Baggett) that started whetting my appetite for one-on-a-part playing.

As a master’s student at the University of Delaware, I formed a quintet that enjoyed, as I remember, only one gig—Easter Sunday at the church where the choral professor was also the music director.  This was a good group that included one nursing faculty member and four music students (Jon, Chris, me, Julius, and Al).  During roughly the same time, I was co-founder of Quintessence, a woodwind quintet.  I don’t remember performing at all with that group, but rehearsing was a pleasant experience.

Later moving to the Heartland, I did not form a group but played with a town-gown orchestra and auditioned for the Kansas City Wind Symphony.  Playing principal horn in the KCWS gave me inroads into both the quintet and large-ensemble iterations of the Kansas City Brass Project, and some great music was made.  Moving on to Colorado, in my second year as a doctoral student, I formed and conducted the Foundation Brass, a full-size brass ensemble of the most talented players in the entire School of Music.  I also co-founded the Grad Brass Quintet.

In New York, I was more creative with an ensemble name, founding the Alle-Catt Brass Quintet—students and faculty members from two colleges.  Respectively, we lived in Allegany and Cattaraugus Counties—thus the name.  We played all the good stuff, and some of my own arrangements and compositions, too.  I’ve kept in touch with a couple of those players but have lost touch with a couple others.

While I was Director of Instrumental Activities at Houghton College, student chamber ensembles were professionally highly significant, not to mention providing salve for the soul and a place to thrive and be encouraged.  Scheduling can be a problem in an academic setting, especially given the exceptionally time-intensive music major curriculum.  As reported in a faculty communiqué,

[I]nstrumental chamber music is being coached and rehearsed largely between 11:00 and 1:00 on Thursdays, during major ensemble time, during an isolated hour or two, e.g., Friday mornings, and as a matter of course in the studio enterprise.

I have frequently gone on record to sing the praises of chamber music in the collegiate setting.  Here are a few words from piece quoted above:

[S]tudents reap tremendous benefits through chamber endeavors of various shapes and sizes, [and] it is worth the effort in order to provide greater breadth of opportunity for musical maturing in terms of such aspects as stylistic matching, intonation awareness, and independence.

During that particular year, which to that point was the most active in terms of chamber music at that institution, I enumerated and provided some details on the following groups:
  • faculty-coached brass quintet
  • ad-hoc brass ensemble for one program
  • double wind quintet–movements from Mozart serenades
  • two woodwind quintets
  • string quartets
  • student-led vocal chamber group
  • flute choir
  • flute-oboe duo
  • double-reed trio
  • clarinet choir
  • saxophone quartet
  • horn quartet
  • percussion ensemble

Here is a sample program. from that very active year.

It has been said that a (high-functioning) string quartet is the most perfect example of positive, interactive human behavior.  I would expand that to all good chamber music-making.  For the last five years, I have not had the opportunity, drive, or resources to form or work with any small chamber ensembles.  I miss this kind of music-making terribly.

Image result for woodwind quintet