What Grace is Mine

What grace is mine that He who dwells in endless light
Called through the night to find my distant soul
And from His scars poured mercy that would plead for me
That I might live and in His name be known

So I will go wherever He is calling me
I lose my life to find my life in Him
I give my all to gain the hope that never dies
I bow my heart take up my cross and follow Him

What grace is mine to know His breath alive in me
Beneath His wings my wakened soul may soar
All fear can flee for death’s dark night is overcome
My Savior lives and reigns for evermore

So I will go wherever He is calling me
I lose my life to find my life in Him
I give my all to gain the hope that never dies
I bow my my heart take up my cross and follow Him
I bow my heart take up my cross and follow Him

There IS a Story

I continue reading Thomas Howard’s book, The Achievement of C.S. Lewis. And now I am reading a chapter, “That Hideous Strength: The Miserific Vision”, dedicated to the book from which I took the title for my blog. There is a bear in this story, Mr. Bultitude….

The figure of Mr. Bultitude introduces us to a theme that is most vividly to be seen in the matter of Merlin.  It is the theme of “no going back.”   Various other themes feed into it, such as the idea of things thickening and hardening and coming to a point, and the idea of Aslan’s refusal ever to tell what might have been, and the warning in Narnia against trusting a beast who was once a man, and Ransom not eating the fruit twice in Perelandra, not listening to a symphony again, and so forth.  It all derives from the notion that there is a Story going on, and that to retrace your steps or thumb back through the pages is to refuse somehow the movement of the Story, or worse, the wisdom of the author.  The author has a denouement in mind and you must move through the action at his pace.  Otherwise you will find yourself striving against the author himself, and to be in that position is to refuse both him and the thing he has made.  It is what Lucifer did.


The Bibliobibuli

Patrick Kurp quotes H. L. Mencken:

“There are people who read too much: the bibliobibuli. I know some who are who are constantly drunk on books, as other men are drunk on whiskey or religion. They wander through the most diverting and stimulating of worlds in a haze, seeing nothing and hearing nothing.”

Apparently Mencken himself coined the word, bibliobiduli.  I like the word, but note that some bibulous readers read to improve their seeing  and hearing.


Submission: Freedom

I am reading Thomas Howard’s The Achievement of C.S. Lewis.  From the chapter “Perelandra: The Paradoxes of Joy”:

This is one of the ironies often appearing in Lewis’s fiction, that perfection itself (life in Perelandra in this case) can be made to seem confining and demeaning and boring by the  sullen alchemy of evil.  Dissatisfaction, sailing under false colors of liberation and ambition and progress, is the flagship in Weston’s flotilla, as it were.  And it eventually becomes clear that this dissatisfaction with what is given stands at the polar opposite to the obedience and contentment exhibited in people like the Beavers…..In the world of Malacandra and Perelandra (and Narnia), it appears that acceptance of the given, and submission to it, is the key to contentment.  Paradoxically, of course, contrary to the accusations of all Nietzschean and Promethean romantics like Uncle Andrew and Jadis and Weston that this is all an opiate, this submission is synonymous with freedom and maturity.  It is analogous to one’s submission to the steps of a minuet or to swimming instructions:  here is how it is done, and if you want to know the lovely freedom of dancing and swimming, you must do it this way.  The same bright alchemy that transforms rules and obedience into freedom and joy here can also be seen at work in all gymnasts and ballet dancers and poets and athletes.  They have all learned how it is done.  If it is objected here that this is the very recipe itself for bondage and that on this accounting all tyrants may brutalize the creatures under their rule, it may be pointed out that it is the nature of evil, alas, to ape the good.

He Stoops to Earth

1 Break forth, O beauteous heav’nly light,
and usher in the morning;
O shepherds, shrink not with affright,
but hear the angel’s warning.
This Child, now weak in infancy,
our confidence and joy shall be;
the pow’r of Satan breaking,
our peace eternal making.
2 Break forth, O beauteous heav’nly light,
to herald our salvation;
He stoops to earth–the God of might,
our hope and expectation.
He comes in human flesh to dwell,
our God with us, Immanuel;
the night of darkness ending,
our fallen race befriending.

I am enjoying working on this with my viola.

Bach: Now Thank We All Our God

Yesterday our music director, Dr. Mary McKee played a familiar Bach tune as the postlude. Here is her music note about the arrangement:

“The postlude is a majestic and exuberant arrangement of “Now Thank We All Our God” by J. S. Bach which he wrote for his Cantata No. 79. Virgil Fox, the flamboyant concert organist, then took Bach’s setting and adapted it for organ.  The original tune heard in fragments on the bold solo stops can’t be missed over Bach’s countermelody. ” 

Our neighborhood Episcopal church also heard the same piece of music yesterday because their music director, Mary’s husband, Dr. Tim McKee, also played it. The two organs are quite different, the one at St. Peter’s is a wonderful pipe organ, unlike ours, which is a very nice electric one. The music is glorious!

Here are links to both streamed services, with the time stamps for the postludes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NT8M1TrnPOs  Postlude at 1:05:40

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEi4im7lryY  Postlude at 1:09:20


We need hymns that burn the character of God into our hearts and minds. We need hymns that are actually about the truth of the gospel; while we were dead in our sins, unable to save ourselves, God stepped in and gave us Jesus. We need hymns that do not ignore the depravity of the human condition, and point to our hope in Christ. And we need hymns that are actually hymns, not vapid radio songs written for mass consumption. Hymns written by people who actually understand the history of Christian worship.

That’s why I’ve increasingly found myself eschewing anything new in favor of the riches of older strains of hymnody. I’ll gladly make exceptions when new hymns appear that are beautiful and theologically rich in their own right. Until then, I’ll just stick with the jewels we’ve inherited from the past generations. Heck, some of them have fallen so far out of our collective memory, they might seem new all over again!



To See the King in His Beauty

Your eyes will behold the King in his beauty.  Isaiah 33:17

The more you know about Christ, the less will you be satisfied with superficial views of Him; and the more deeply you study His transactions in the eternal covenant, His engagements on your behalf as the eternal Security, and the fullness of His grace that shines in all His offices, the more truly will you see the King in His beauty. Learn to look at Him this way. Long increasingly to see Jesus.

Charles Spurgeon


Music Notes for Worship

One of the good things that has happened because COVID changed the way we worship at Skidaway Island Presbyterian Church in Savannah, Georgia, is the weekly Music Notes that our music director shares. She had been sharing them with the choir, but more recently has also shared them with the church community. When you read the notes you recognize how seriously Dr. Mary McKee takes choosing music for each worship service. The music is not the main thing, but it has to relate and enhance the worship.

Here are the notes for this week:

Two organ preludes will begin at 9:55 a.m.  The first is an arrangement by Lani Smith of “For All the Saints” which will be sung as the opening hymn. The original hymn tune is by one of England’s most acclaimed composers, Ralph Vaughan-Williams.  In Sunday’s arrangement it is presented three times, each time with a more elaborate accompaniment. The second prelude is an arrangement by John M. Rasley of “Evan” by W. H. Havergal.  For those familiar with the hymn, Rasley keeps every note of the tune but alters the rhythm making it almost unrecognizable yet creates a piece that beautifully sets the tone on a Sunday when we remember those who have died.

After Gene sings the first hymn, “For All the Saints,” he will next sing “Psalm 84” adapted by David G. Preston and recommended by Diane Tracy.  The Irish tune, “Londonderry Air”  will be familiar and an enchanting setting for the psalm which begins “O Lord of hosts, how lovely is Your dwelling place.” 

After the sermon, Ben Cork will play Adagio from Sonata No. 1 in G Minor by J. S. Bach, one of three sonatas for unaccompanied solo violin in which Bach explores and expands the limits of the violin while taking the listener on a spiritual journey.  Ben, originally from Atlanta, is in his final year at Georgia Southern University pursuing a BA in Music Performance. He is the concert master of the Georgia Southern Symphony and the first violinist of the Honors Magnolia String Quartet. He teaches violin and viola to middle and high school students in Brunswick as well as to all ages in the Statesboro area.

During communion, a piece for piano and violin will be played titled “Spiegel im Spiegel” by Arvo Pärt which means “mirror in the mirror,” an infinity mirror in which images reflect unto each mirror and become smaller and smaller into infinity. Pärt employs his own compositional creation called tintinnabulation in which there are two simultaneous voices, the first in the piano that plays tonic triads meditatively throughout the piece and the second voice in the violin that plays fragments of slow scales. Pärt defines tintinnabulation as “an area I sometimes wander into when I am searching for answers – in my life, my music, my work. In my dark hours, I have the certain feeling that everything outside this one thing has no meaning. The complex and many-faceted only confuses me, and I must search for unity. What is it, this one thing, and how do I find my way to it? Traces of this perfect thing appear in many guises – and everything that is unimportant falls away. Tintinnabulation is like this. . . . The three notes of a triad are like bells. And that is why I call it tintinnabulation.”

The closing hymn is “Let Us Talents and Tongues Employ,” words by Fred Kaan and music of a Jamaican folk melody. Kaan, who died in 2009, was from the Netherlands and committed to working for peace and justice.  A phrase in the first verse sums up the music and message after communion, “reaching out with a shout of joy.”

The postlude, “Light Eternal” by Lani Smith carries on the spirit of hope and joy from the final hymn and the message of eternal light that lives on in death.