To remember and honor: Grandmother Casey

Ruth Edwards Casey, b. 7/14/1914, Denmark, AR

Grandmother Casey would have been 104 today.  The picture above was probably taken in Texas, perhaps when she was in her late 60s.  She was the last of my grandparents to live on this earth, and she was an unassuming, industrious, unselfish, worthy woman.  My grandparents’ house, also unassuming, was on Market Street in Searcy, just across from the sidewalk that split the student center and the American Heritage Building.  The house no longer exists, but memories do.

Two cars could park parallel to the street in front of the house.  I remember four cars my grandparents The 1963 Chevrolet Impala Sport Coupe had crisp and angular styling.owned from my early childhood through my 30s:  a ’53 Chevy that my grandfather drove to work in Judsonia, a white Chevy sedan that looked much like the one here; and two green Plymouth Furys from the 70s.  I drove one of those Furys myself, and I can remember how it sounded when it started.

There was a tiny storage barn “out yonder” on the north end of the property.  (I think it had once housed chickens.)  The large front porch featured a hanging bench swing.  I remember the unheated, fully enclosed “back porch” where one could always find aged 2-liter bottles of Dr. Pepper and Coke, old newspapers, a washer and dryer, and cleaning products.  A door went through to the 2nd bedroom, but that door was almost never opened.  Back in the back room (also unheated, and reached only through the 2nd bedroom), there was an 8-track player with two cassettes that Grandmother had won in a radio call-in contest.  I remember a box full of simple toys—for example, a nonfunctional camera and some empty, plastic, Avon bottles—that Grandmother or Granddaddy would get out when the grandkids came home for Christmas.  Grandmother would giggle and sometime even cackle.

Arkansas could be awfully hot, and there were two window air conditioners.  It could also get deceptively cold in winter, and Grandmother would stand near the “fire” (a large, vented gas heater in the corner of the living room) with her hands behind her, warming herself.  I remember her kitchen—dwarfed by a table that could seat eight if it had to—and the lack of counter space that she somehow worked with anyway.  She had a wooden stool with fold-out steps, and I would sometimes find her up on it, reaching for something in an upper cabinet.  We went out once a month or so to eat at Wendy’s or Pizza Inn.  She never had much money, but she had a few good friends; Laverne and Lavelle stand out in particular, but people all over who knew her had kind words for her.  She picked strawberries every spring with Laverne during the time I was aware of it.  She had younger friends, too—for instance, Patti, our family’s good friend from Delaware, attended Harding and was at Grandmother’s house regularly.  Patti has spoken glowingly of Grandmother to me, indicating how she “loved Ruth Casey.”  Marcella from next door considered her a friend, too.  The Latham sisters’ storm cellar, three doors down, was a haven during a tornado warning a time or two.

I had the benefit of Grandmother’s cooking on a daily basis during my 3.5 years as an undergraduate at Harding University.  She would serve lunch according to my chorus rehearsal schedule (11:45-12:35 one year, 1:00-1:50 the next, then back to 11:45).  Dinner came after band rehearsal, around 5:45.  I don’t think she left me without a meal once, although I barely took enough time to thank her.  (Yes, I gained weight during college!)  Grandmother once scolded me a little for not wanting her to spend time ironing my shirts.  She liked serving others and would sometimes also welcome my friends to her table–Kandy, Allen, Glenn, Jim, and Debbi, for instance.

Grandmother was a homemaker most of her life but had worked outside the home briefly.  She took up the piano in her late 50s or early 60s, acquiring a cast-off upright from the college.  That piano was in its only possible place in that house–the 8×8 hall with five doors, leading to bedrooms, the bathroom, the living room, and the front porch.  (The door to the porch was never opened after the piano was moved in.)

I sometimes left notes on the telephone table across from the piano, and I addressed them to “GMC,” but I called her “Grandmother.”  That might sound formal or distant if you called yours “Grandma” or “Nana,” but that doesn’t mean my grandmother herself was distant in any sense.  She was comfortable to be around, and I always liked being in her house.  My sisters also had the benefit of living with her for a year or two during college, and they then called her “Gram.”  These days, if she were around, and in view of one of my own developing interests, I might call her “Gramma(r).” ¹

Compared to my other grandmother, Grandmother Casey was less educated, more nurturing, and non-judgmental.  She attended the College Church pretty much every time the doors were open, sitting near the back, often with a friend.  She had only two Bibles:  a KJV and a Living Bible.  She read them at home but didn’t talk much about anything deep.  I’d say she was shy but was also a true believer.  On a few occasions, I tried to engage her about spiritual things, and she responded with faith, concern, and not too many words.

After Grandmother died in 1992, my uncle uncovered her checkbook and showed it to my dad.  She had done the math meticulously and apparently often was down around $1.00 before the next Social Security check came.  There was always room in her house and at her table for another, though.  I wish my son could have known her,² but she was gone nearly two decades before he was born.  Grandmother Casey was a good lady.  I miss you, Grandmother, and I wish you had met Karly and Jedd.

¹ Here is a short list of gramma(r) issues I’ve heard just in the past week or so, from three different people:

  • I need it broke down.
  • It was already ran.
  • I seen him.

My grandmother had fine grammar, especially for an uneducated woman.  I just felt like including the above.  🙂

² Jedd has what I consider a skewed sense of extended family, for two reasons.  (1) the generations are very spread apart, so more grands and greats have died, and (2), to say the least, there are some very unbecoming, non-familial people on both sides of our family.  I am thankful that Jedd knows well his great-grandmother Clara and a great aunt Marie on Karly’s side, and he knew/knows both of my parents.  A couple years ago, he had met a great-grandfather, John, and he’s been a round a few others.


You’ve got this (they say)

Image result for catching fly ballIn baseball, when there’s a fly ball near two players, one is supposed to call, “I’ve got it!” (if in fact he is sure he can catch it in the air).  If he turns up with the ball in his glove, well, then he did in fact get it.  The results are pretty clear.

In various life situations, it’s fashionable to assert “I’ve got this.”  Alternately, friends who wish to be supportive will sometimes say to someone facing an obstacle, “You’ve got this.”  The “___ got this” sometimes turns out to have been an overstatement at best.  I think immediately of two situations in which the result could be called into question.

  • A woman confidently asserted, “I’ve got this” and did in fact make a great stride, but it is only a temporary, limited victory.  Did she “have this”?  Time will tell, but I doubt it.
  • A dad encouraged his young son the pitcher with “You’ve got this!” but turned out to be incorrect.  More batters walked, the pitching form deteriorated further, the umpiring didn’t really help, and the game was lost.

I’ve begun to look the other way in sympathetic embarrassment, not wanting people who say “I’ve got this” or “you’ve got this” to be proven wrong.  When someone says one of those things, the reality of the result isn’t always as clear as with a fly ball to the outfield, but the situation can usually be sized up at some point.  I start to think “You’ve got this” is little more than an empty phrase.

In Christian circles, some are fond of saying, “God’s got this.”  As for me, I wonder how they Image result for God's got thiscan be so confident.  A Google image search brings up a whole caboodle of e-designs, most of which were probably originally on church signs or PowerPoint sermon slides, e.g., the one shown here.  I suppose God Himself could utter this pop-culture saying, and He would always be correct.  I mean, if He actually were to proclaim, “I’ve got this,” well, then, He does.  (Would He say “I got this” instead of “I’ve got this” in order to communicate well with English speakers who don’t use good grammar?  Maybe so.)

In one sense, it is an expression of faith to assert that God’s “got” something, but I still wonder how the reality, or lack of it, is ascertained in some situations.  Honestly, the saying sometimes seems more like shallow, nearsighted, human overconfidence than faith.

Fly balls may fall to the ground; pitching and personal business may go out of control.  Those are normal-life things, some of which we can control,¹ to an extent.  You or I might claim “I’ve got this” with limited implications.  The “God’s got this” thing, though, goes directly to the eye of faith:  how far, and how well, can I see?  And I’ll go further, out on a limb:  how can a “got-this” God who exists out of time be seen by those who are bound within time?

On this point, please take a few minutes to hear and ponder the late Rich Mullins’s words, from his song “Hard To Get” (YouTube link here).  I resonate with one of Mullins’s poignant prayer-thoughts:

You who live in radiance,
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in skin.

¹ Some would say that any sense of human control over events in our physical lives is an illusion.  I disagree.

Solemnity and sleep

When I see my dad’s sleeping body in a picture now, I feel more of an emotional pull than I did during the initial days of heightened activity and responsibility that came immediately after his death.

Around the casket, clockwise from bottom right: Greta, Mom, (Jedd), Bailey, Karly, Hannah, Rebecca

Although the picture gives me an uncomfortable feeling, I remind myself that it is only his body.  My dad’s soul rests, but I take that part of him to be very much alive.

Asleep in Jesus (Margaret Mackay, 1832)

Asleep in Jesus! Blessed sleep,
From which none ever wakes to weep;
A calm and undisturbed repose,
Unbroken by the last of foes.

Asleep in Jesus!  Oh, how sweet,
To be for such a slumber meet,
With holy confidence to sing
That death has lost his venomed sting!

A living, undisturbed repose sounds good, doesn’t it?  Would you even go with “sweet”?  “One Sweetly Solemn Thought” is a rarely used, death-aware song; it has the distinction of being the only hymnal song I’ve ever seen that has a stanza that ends with a dash, strongly connecting it to the next stanza.  The first stanza expresses a sweet reality:  “today I’m nearer to my home than e’er I’ve been before.”  The final two stanzas are below.

One Sweetly Solemn Thought (Phoebe Cary, 1852)

4. Savior, confirm my trust. Complete my faith in Thee,
And let me feel as if I stood close to eternity—

5. Feel as if now my feet were slipping o’er the brink,
For I may now be nearer home, much nearer than I think.

I think I will always be able to quote those words from memory.  What a splendid, solemn thought—to be secure in “slipping over the brink” into restful sleep in Jesus.

Finally along these specific lines, I am reposting some commentary and the words to “Still, Still With Thee,” which will probably always be a go-to death-and-new-life song for me.¹

So, what will the first day be like — that first “day” after Jesus’ return? ²  What might we imagine in terms of our own presence in that moment of all moments, that event to end all earthly events?  How will it be for me?  I have no idea, really, but I know, by faith, that my spirit’s awareness of God will eclipse all else.

Still, Still With Thee (Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1855)

Still, still with Thee, when purple morning breaketh,
When the bird waketh, and the shadows flee;
Fairer than morning, lovelier than daylight,
Dawns the sweet consciousness, I am with Thee.

Alone with Thee, amid the mystic shadows,
The solemn hush of nature newly born;
Alone with Thee in breathless adoration,
In the calm dew and freshness of the morn.

When sinks the soul, subdued by toil, to slumber,
Its closing eye looks up to Thee in prayer;
Sweet the repose beneath the wings o’ershading,
But sweeter still to wake and find Thee there.

So shall it be at last, in that bright morning,
When the soul waketh and life’s shadows flee;
O in that hour, fairer than daylight dawning,
Shall rise the glorious thought, I am with Thee.

Stanzas one and two:  The first two stanzas, unified, poetically express the encounter of the eternal in terms of a resplendent, earthly daybreak.  All the beauties of the dawning of a new day while in a natural surroundings are, however, eclipsed by the breathless adoration of our stunningly brilliant God.

Stanza three: As death appears imminent, and even potentially in the actual experience of dying, the believing soul casts his eyes in faith toward God.  As a foreshadowing of the final rest, for the human who experiences the Lord’s protective peace, a certain rest may come.  Yet a humanly experienced peace is neither satisfying nor absolute.  The waking—the arising to a consciousness of a Presence like no other—this is the completion.

Stanza four:  There is no more lofty, no more finally fulfilling thought than to be with God forever.  Come, Lord Jesus, and take Your bride home.

It is happenstance that all three of these poems were written during roughly the same period in American history.  Perhaps I have simply not been looking for death-related poetry written more recently.  Or perhaps there are other reasons for an uncommonly rich focus on death in the Lord during the middle 1800s.

Find other posts on death and dying here, beginning with my father’s death notice here and a tribute to his caregivers here.

¹ I learned “Still, Still With Thee” as an arrhythmic chant for male quartet.  Unlike “Crossing the Bar,” featured here, I have never come across a better musical match for the “Still” words than the male quartet music.

² Then, days may not exist, as such, but they might not have existed during the creation of the world, either.

Memories, poetry, and music

Last fall, the Benedictine College bands presented a program of instrumental music with a Veterans Day theme.

As it happened, the concert occurred shortly after the death of Karen Soyland, the wife of another member of the Brass Band, which is the ensemble in which I perform.  The memorial focus of the concert was therefore expanded to include not only deceased soldiers, but also, one known more personally.  I became inspired, and I offered, and the conductor of the ensemble (Director of Instrumental Studies Ted Hanman) graciously interjected my trio arrangement within the published brass arrangement—complete with the suggested oral reading of Tennyson’s poem, which may be seen here.

The Parry tune was new to me, and I find it a better marriage of music and words than the male quartet music I had learned as a youth.  There is a plethora of tunes and arrangements available, and apparently no one knows or sings the quartet arrangement I’ve known for decades, because it’s available nowhere on YouTube.  At any rate, regardless of the music, my favorite line in the poem—both the culmination and the closing—is this:  “I hope to see my Pilot face to face when I have crossed the bar.”  The imagery, which I don’t claim to comprehend fully, is nonetheless rich, and the members of the Brass Band knew personally this one who had “crossed the bar” very recently.

Below is my arrangement.  (I started to retake the photo when I saw the light streams, but they struck me as a potentially inspirational symbol, so I left them in.)  I chose three instruments/players that could carry this off in little rehearsal time.  Each instrument has at least a few measures with the melody, and the counterpoint and harmony are somewhat more complex than in the full-band arrangement.  All the instruments in my arrangement are Bb instruments, meaning the written pitches you see below actually sound a whole step lower.  Note that the euphonium part is written in treble clef, as per convention in British brass band music.  The euphonium part sounds a major 9th lower than it appears here.

You may access the live performance sound file here.  The above “trio” portion, with oral reading, begins at 1:16.  The reader did not rehearse with us and did not read especially effectively, but the balance at least makes both elements audible.


It was my hope that this musical tribute to the dear, believing spouse of a believing friend would be meaningful and eventually be a good memory for him, for the deceased’s family, and also for others.

Find other posts on death and dying here, beginning with my father’s death notice here, a tribute to caregivers here, and a mention of the exceptionally poignant funeral for Karen Soyland here.

A birthday tribute to the late KCR and ATR, Jr.

There are probably only two dozen birth dates I have remembered through the years, and this post comes precisely between two that have always stood out in my memory.  109 years ago last Wednesday, my maternal grandmother was born.  Two weeks later, my maternal grandfather was born.  Here they are in a well-worn photograph, at approximately the age I remember them best.

Kathryn Delma Cullum married Andy Thomas Ritchie, Jr. in 1933, and they had been married barely 50 years when the latter succumbed to congestive heart failure and other circulatory concerns (presumably related to diabetes).  Both of their fathers had been influential Christian leaders.  The two met at David Lipscomb high school and also attended David Lipscomb college (now University) in Nashville.  Their early life together included stints in radio and church work in Texarkana, Nashville, and Washington, D.C.  They would soon move to Searcy, Arkansas, where they would reside for the rest of their earthly lives.  Grandmother taught math at Harding Academy, and Granddaddy led the Harding College (now university) Chorus for approximately a decade, then taught Bible courses for the remainder of his career. 

After their children were grown, they took a voyage across the Atlantic—the trip of a lifetime—making stops in the Holy Land and in Scotland.  My perceptions of the two are limited since I saw them but once or twice a year through my childhood and teens, and I did not take enough advantage of their presence while I was a student at Harding.  Still, I can attest, based on second- and third-hand interactions, to the fact that their lives had impact on a great many people.

Grandmother played the piano well, often accompanying Granddaddy’s bass-baritone voice.  She had exceptional responsibilities for his care, since he was not only diabetic but also legally blind for the latter half of his life.  In hindsight, one of the things I would say she was known for was “juggling” a full-time teaching position, the raising of four children, and the care and support of her husband.  Rare would be the Harding Academy high school student who did not respect Kathryn Ritchie’s math teaching capability, her intelligence, upright living, and Christian devotion.  The College Church’s congregational singing included her strong alto for decades.

Also rare would be the spiritually attuned Harding College student in the late 40s, 50s, and 60s who did not hold Andy T. Ritchie, Jr., in the highest regard as a deeply, genuinely pious Christian and a devoted, humble servant of his Lord.  He led quite a few summer evangelistic campaigns in the Northeast, preaching nightly, and he worked in Christian camps, as well.  As a church leader, he was known for preaching and also for leading congregational singing, emphasizing high-quality songs with good poetry.  He led worship in song long before the term “worship leader” was fashionable.

I recently unearthed a song for which I’d written the music long ago.  I had set a poem that Granddaddy favored when performing weddings, including a few family ones.  Below is the complete poem by Richard Wightman:

Of course, the question how far will you go with me? and the ultimate notion of “going to the end of the lane” rise well above the sophomoric.  Grandmother, a late-in-life cancer victim who outlived Granddaddy by almost five years, certainly “traveled the lane” with devotion, and the two were a pair until the end.  Since I have no recording available of Granddaddy’s voice reading this poem, please accept two of my favorite songs from his solo record as a consolation prize.  At the point at which he recorded these, his voice and ear were probably a bit past their prime, but one can still perceive the talent and the storytelling ability.

Big Bass Viol

Little Boy Blue

Past blasts #4: AVB’s “U Can’t Go 2 Church”

A few people in my past were big fans of the A Cappella organization.  At one point, it was just two guys on tour with pre-recorded tracks, but it was more often several guys.  Later, additional groups were spawned, including women and children.  AVB, the A Cappella Vocal Band, made forays into rappish tunes and used more vocal percussion effects.  I was never too big a fan myself, but I find myself going back to the past once in a while now.

Here is a YouTube link to an AVB song I happened to pull out yesterday.  Jedd and I listened while on an adventure and hour-long errand.  The message is simple but simply provocative for all of us—even those of us who’ve heard throughout our lives that we should call “Bible things by Bible names.”  I was happy this morning to be able to remember the words to the chorus.  I left the last line open for Jedd to fill in, and fill it in he did, with a smile.  I think this song’s punch drove home something he’s known for a few years already.

U Can’t Go 2 Church

You can’t go to church as some people say —
The common terminology we use everyday —
You can go to a building—that is something you can do—
But you can’t go to church
‘Cause the church is you

While I’m heading into the past with music from the 80s and 90s . . . a song that still gets to me, as sung by the parent group A Cappella, is “Fly Away,” in which I am reminded that “we will fly away when He hears His Father say, ‘Jesus, go and get your bride, today is your wedding day.'”

Programming for ensembles (and Easter?)

Concert programming for large ensembles can be a function of diverse considerations, such as

  • the calendar
  • the budget
  • the ensemble’s capabilities
  • recent performance history
  • pedagogical or developmental needs (particularly in an academic setting)
  • rehearsal schedule limitations and learning/assimilation capacity of the ensemble (only one rehearsal per week?  or three or more short ones?  usually better to have two or three rehearsals, at least one hour each, per week)
  • the ensemble members’ preferences and musical interests
  • the conductor’s values
  • variety in terms of compositional form, structure, and proportions (e.g., single movement, suite, symphony, variations, song)
  • specific concert requirements (e.g., holiday seasons)

Interested readers may find my succinct but relatively thorough three-page essay “On Repertoire and Programming” here.

In the collegiate ensemble music setting, it is important to have regular performance goals at reasonable intervals.  Many colleges and universities tend to fall into similar patterns in concert scheduling, yet variants may be found.  At the University of Northern Colorado, the Director of Bands was in the habit of scheduling the top ensemble for brief concerts (featuring marches and novelty pieces) about two or three weeks into the semester.  This practice seemed to work well, kick-starting the semester.  At some colleges, regular opportunities for short performances of one or two pieces (at a ceremony, in “chapel,” etc.) may provide appropriate performance goals.

For large instrumental ensembles at institutions on a “quarter system,” one performance in each of the three quarters could be a reasonable plan, whereas in the more common semester system it is generally optimal to have two or more concerts per semester.  Having only one concert in a semester would either mean having thirteen or fourteen weeks to prepare (creating a mismatch with the corporate energy peaks and valleys) or having a few blank weeks at the end of a semester without a performance goal.  Single-concert programs can end up confined to light holiday fare in December and “pops” in May.  Those types of concerts, which may be nice for public relations in a non-musician administrator’s eye, are not enough, pedagogically speaking.

Following the formation of an ensemble early in a semester, here is a typical schedule I believe is generally good:

  • 12-18 rehearsals (six weeks)
  • 2nd week of October:  concert with ~60 min. of music
  • 12-18 rehearsals (six weeks)
  • 1st or 2nd week of December:  major concert with ~60 min. of music
  • 1 week of reading, student conducting finals, or other

In the fall of 2011, two special, early-fall events virtually dictated the concert schedule for my ensembles that semester.  It went something like this:

  • 3-4 weeks of rehearsal
  • Special event with 45 min. of music
  • 7 weeks of rehearsal
  • Early November: major concert with 60-70 min. of music
  • 3 weeks of rehearsal
  • Concert with 45 min. of (generally easier) Christmas music OR joint program with ~20 minutes of music per ensemble

That schedule worked out fine on a one-time basis, although the three- or four-week preparation period for major concert events was a bit intense.

The perceived trajectory of the semester ultimately tends to have a “shape” in the sensitive program director’s mind, based on rising and falling musical intensity and difficulty levels—and, realistically speaking, also on student musician dedication levels.  Even the most mature, devoted student musicians will naturally have periods in which they are less available and energetic, due to requirements in other classes, Thanksgiving break time, and so forth.

At an avowed Christian college, I considered a spring-semester (“spring”? nevermind that winter could extend through nearly two-thirds of the semester!) plan that had a single, major concert about two-thirds through the semester, just before Easter.  That program would have featured music amenable to Easter-minded individuals.  The concert might have been titled “Rising” or “Above” or even “Resurrection.”  Here are some of the pieces I’d considered programming, in no particular order:

[An arrangement of Mahler’s “resurrection theme” from Symphony No. 2 or other “spirits soaring” piece]
[Air Force flight piece]
As Summer Was Just Beginning (Daehn)
Ascension (Mobberley)
Ascent (Gorb)
Fiddler on the Roof medley (including an excerpt with the song “To Life”)
Firefly (Ryan George)
Funeral March for Rikard Nordraak (Grieg/Fennell)
Funeral Music for Queen Mary (After Purcell) (Stucky)
High Flight (Turrin)
Music for Prague (Husa)
My Faith Looks Up To Thee (Rhea)
One Life Beautiful (Giroux)
Red Balloon, The (McGinty)
Rising (a new fanfare I once planned to write myself) (Casey)
Salvation Is Created (Tschesnokoff)
Via Crucis (Ellerby)

The thematic connection with some of those works will be obvious.  Any single concert would have included only a handful of them.  The “Above” or “Rising” idea might have featured

  • a work connected to human flight;
  • the technically difficult Firefly
  • Ascent
  • a funereal piece, and/or
  • extended, lyrical, moving music such as Mahler’s “Resurrection” theme.

If the programming went in the overtly Christian direction, perhaps I would have included the perennial favorite Salvation is Created, which is musically rich and intense.  It requires focus but is not technically difficult, so it might balance any quicker, more technically challenging pieces.

In thinking of funereal pieces, the tie with the Jesus’ body in the grave is obvious.  Would it be appropriate in a Christian campus setting to include one of the many beautiful works written to pay tribute to others?  I think of Giroux’s One Life Beautiful, written as a commissioned as a memorial for the daughter of a well-reputed college wind band conductor.  The most mature, artistically capable ensembles might perform the late Karel Husa’s Music for Prague 1968, a provocative, poignant tribute to the people of his beloved Czechoslovkia after a siege.

On Friday, I was reminded of my late father’s love of a particular song that acknowledges death.  This song is tenderly sung by a “barbershop” quartet.  Even the thought of this song causes emotion to rise within.  Seeking such inspiration and even consolation in music can be rewarding.  Such is not the only pathway to concert programming, of course, but at Easter, thinking along these lines can speak to the soul.

Past blasts #2

Below is an excerpt from a very nice note, recently unearthed, having been written to my mom and me many years ago.  It pertains to the memorial service for my mom’s friend’s mother.  I think I had met the man who wrote this letter once, but I really had only an arm’s-length connection with him.  I share this here as a blast from the past, yes, but for two other reasons:

  1. To illuminate someone’s general thoughtfulness and courtesy—from a time that almost seems like another era now
  2. To encourage myself to be more mindful of meaningful, personal gestures such as attending funerals

Following the passing of my own father late last fall, I still have in mind to share in more depth some thoughts about death and dying.  For now, maybe this will perk your heart, too.  I myself am encouraged that someone was encouraged by sharing tender moments with people of “like precious faith.”

Technology and Millennials

Within the context of a finance/banking and technology perspective, a new friend cites industry authorities.  With good statistical reasons, he believes that Millennials

  • prefer phone apps over traditional banking with “tellers”
  • trust “FinTech” companies over banks for most consumer-oriented financial purposes

I’m sure my friend is right, yet I question the wisdom, scope, and longevity of some of the enterprises in which Millennials are apparently placing their trust.  My ruminations have continued about generational technology preferences and general inclinations.  I don’t keep in mind the year-boundaries that are used to delineate between the “Baby Boom” and “GenX” and “GenY”/Millennial generational groupings, so I get foggy, but of this I am sure:  there will always be exceptions within the groups.

Based on age, my friend would be classed as a Millennial, but he is thoughtful and intelligent, a unique set of experiences in the world, so I imagine that he would be somewhat an exception himself, defying any label “Millennial” at points.

As for myself, sometimes, I am kind of an “old soul” who harks back to the values of minds and spirits of the long-ago past.  In some respects, I share the opinions and worldviews of those 5-10 years older than I, or even of my parents’ generation.  In other spheres, I am an impatient whippersnapper who wants desperately to move past silly traditions and pointless machinations.  In all, I long for substance and actual value over form.  Perhaps I am a quasi-postmodernist-1/3-Boomer-1/3-GenXer with a few GenY traits (who experiences deep angst about being labeled at all).

It’s no surprise that Millennials will gravitate to phone apps.  As for me, I see the apps’ shortcomings and inefficiencies, as compared to desktop computers and even in-person banking.  Are all Millennials so oriented?  I must admit that I wonder about those individuals who don’t own printed Bibles and who never see more than a tiny screen’s worth of scripture text at a time.  Yes, I use a Bible phone app, and I greatly appreciate its capabilities.  I like running Bible software on my computer even more, because it allows me to see more and to use it in other dimensions and formats.  It simply must be admitted that seeing only 3-4 verses at a time on a tiny phone screen will have ramifications, including limiting one’s contextual awareness.

I also wonder frequently about the interpersonal connectedness of anyone—Millennial or otherwise—

  • whose neck and hand are permanently locked into the look-at-my phone position
  • whose quick first impulse is to go to the mobile device for answers

Could it be that non-high-tech sources are better for some things in life?

I remember two very fine students who were the only two (that I knew) without their own cell phones.  I remember each of the students as very having very strong character, and as being spiritually sensitive, service-oriented people.  One was particularly focused and engaged as a student, and they were both dedicated to their studies and to people.  I can see each of their faces as if it were yesterday, and it has been five years since I last saw them.

Now, I would strongly suspect each of those students has one or more mobile devices at this point, but my point is that those Millennials were really okay without devices then.  I’d say their whole selves were at the time wonderfully unfettered by phonedom, and they were none the worse for it.  Quite possibly, they were better off, not having all the technologies their peers had.

In the next post I’ll deal with technology in instruction, touching on “distance learning.”

My father

After a complex set of illnesses and a period of hospitalized treatment by many expert physicians and nurses, Gerald Casey’s earthly frame was exhausted, but his spirit continued, even through his final hospitalization, in worshipful focus on his eternal Lord.  He died on November 28.

The son of Max and Ruth Casey, Gerald was born January 1, 1940, in Pangburn.  He is survived by his wife of almost 57 years, the former Bettye Ritchie; a brother, Lanny (Linette) Texas; three children, Brian (Karly) of Kansas; Laura (Bruce Finnie) of Pennsylvania; and Greta (Neil Floyd) of Washington; and seven grandchildren.


The past five weeks have been rather intense—and intensely rewarding, as well.  I’ll surely have more to share on this blog about relationships, death, dying, hospital caregivers, and more.

Spot-on advice

Recently published interpretive advice from Dr. Suzanne Nicholson is golden.  I can’t resist extracting bits and phrases for those who may not click the link below.

“Words have different meanings in different contexts”

“looking at the text closely and seeing what is really there”

“not to read 2,000 years of Christian theology into the passage”

“How does the structure highlight the meaning?”

“how does a single passage reinforce the themes of the book?”

“don’t jump straight to application”

The entire post is brief.  Go ahead and read the whole thing.  It will take all of one minute.

Suzanne Nicholson (Malone University) on “What Makes a Good Biblical Scholar or Theologian?”