Sunday, June 27, 2010

Collingsworth Family

A week and a day ago we were privileged to go to Shipshewana, IN, to a concert by Ernie Haase/Signature Sound and the Collingsworth Family. (The Browns--children and mother--were the supporting artists. I'll say a bit more about them in a later post.)

In many ways I'm still processing the concert and deciding how much to blog about. I can't really do it justice and could say so many different things. The thing that will always stick with me the most is how very, very kind these Southern gospel performers are to their fans and especially to young people. My girls got to meet and have pictures taken with all of the performers, to get autographs, and there was no impatience at all, even though it was quite late by the time the concert was finished.

More in a later post about Ernie Haase/Signature Sound, a great bunch of guys with a great sound.

If you have any interest at all in Christian music, especially somewhat old-fashioned, God-honoring music, hymns, etc., I cannot recommend the Collingsworth family too highly. They are incredibly talented. What I didn't know before going to the concert is how hugely talented a pianist the mother is. Kim Collingsworth is simply amazing. Here is (part of) her rendition of "How Great Thou Art."

The entire arrangement is here. (Embedding disabled on this one.)

I was privileged to speak briefly with Kim Collingsworth during the intermission. She has a beautiful, soft Southern accent and is a true lady, sincere, kind, and gracious, which is so striking in a person of such high musical professionalism. She told me, "If you will do the best for God, God will do the best for you. And that's a good deal."

Here are the Collingsworth ladies (mother and two eldest daughters) singing "Fear Not Tomorrow," which I have not heard elsewhere.

Brooklyn, the eldest daughter, is getting married this winter.

Trinity IV

One of the greatest collects in the Prayer Book or in the English language:
O God, the protector of all that trust in thee, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy; Increase and multiply upon us thy mercy; that, thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal. Grant this, O heavenly Father, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Here is an earlier post on this collect.

I see that I did not note in that post the epistle reading for the day. It is from Romans 8 and begins,

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
And that's all I have to say. I recommend just thinking awhile about those two pieces of prose, one from the pen of Thomas Cranmer, the other from Holy Writ (and the Apostle Paul). And I present the first to any readers unfamiliar with the Prayer Book as a reason for reading the collects in it and using them in your own devotions.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Tribute to Walter Kronemeyer: 1910-1996

(This is a post that I thought I already wrote. I was surprised upon googling my own blog to find that it didn't already exist. Apparently I started researching for it and then never actually wrote it.)

When I was quite little, and for something like a decade thereafter, I knew a former missionary to Africa--a missionary for several terms from 1946 to 1960--named Walter Kronemeyer. We all called him Uncle Walt, and he came year after year to do child evangelism at Camp Manitoumi in Lowpoint, IL (which I have also talked about here). Uncle Walt seemed ageless-old when I first new him, and he never seemed to age thereafter. He was like that. His face was bronzed and leathery the first time I met him, and bronzed and leathery it remained. It's hard to imagine that color fading even in the dead of winter, though in Grandville, MI, his home town, winters get plenty dark and long. But I always thought of him in connection with the sun.

Camp Manitoumi has plenty of trees in the surrounding woods, but on the hilltop (such a hilltop as it is) where the buildings are, there is little shade. The landscape is mostly flat, and the sun beats fiercely on the baseball field, the cabins, and the chapel in the center. Occasionally Uncle Walt would seek out a tree to sit under, but often not.

It's an odd thing: Year after year he came and told stories and preached to us children, and I loved him dearly, but I remember now very little of the preaching, except for the sense of a man wholly dedicated to God and to the salvation of souls. I hope he will forgive me. And it's a humbling thing to think, as an adult and a mother--How little do we remember when we are grown up of what the adults said to us when we were children? We remember what they were and what they did.

What Uncle Walt did was to sit cross-legged, often as not in the sun, and carve wood, and talk gently with the children and adults who gathered around. There was a catalpa tree out in the woods somewhere. I don't know who found it for him, but he always liked to use catalpa wood. He would send one of the camp workers out to chop him some round chunks of it, and then he would get to work. I can almost see it now: He would chop off the bark on each side of the chunk in a slab. Those were the sides of the elephant. Then he would begin rough-carving over the top. Gradually the elephant emerged. Always basically the same, yet each one a little different. Acquisitive child though I was, I understood that he had to give them to adults--usually to the camp director or the pastor in charge of that particular week--because there were so many children, and feelings would be hurt if he picked out one child to whom to give an elephant. Occasionally he rough-carved an African mask from one of the side pieces, and somehow I got one of those. I have it still.

It was privilege enough just to sit and watch him. The old hands, very sure and deft. He always knew exactly what he was doing with the wood. And then it was a kind of magic to see the wood get smoother and smoother after he had made the general elephant shape appear.

I know that I talked too much while watching him, because I remember the following incident quite clearly: I'd been sitting and watching for a while, not much thinking about what I was doing, when finally Uncle Walt turned to me with a twinkle in his eye. "Now I tell you what," he said. "I want you to try something. For the next half hour I want you to sit there completely quiet and just watch and listen to everyone else, and see what you notice." So of course I did. (I was terribly disobedient and disrespectful to my parents at home, but camp had a magical effect. While there it seems to me now that I became--mostly--conscientious, hard-working, and obedient to authority.) At the end of a half hour, Uncle Walt turned to me again. "Now tell me," he said, "Who talked most while you were being quiet?" I instantly pointed to a lady nearby. This being family week, there were lots of adults around. She was rather flustered, and everyone laughed. "But I was telling a story!" And that was true. But he asked a question, so I answered. From then on, I was much quieter while watching.

I remember one of the last times I saw Uncle Walt. By then I had graduated to the lofty pinnacle of camp worker. I was fifteen years old. I was in the chapel, where I spent much time that summer. It always seemed cool in the chapel at midday, despite the sun beating down outside. And there was Uncle Walt, coming in the door. I ran and hugged him. But something was different. There was a box under his shirt. "What's that?" I asked--not thinking, as usual. "Oh, it's a pacemaker," he said, quite calmly.

Five years later, when I married, I sent him a wedding invitation. Really, just to let him know that I was getting married. He and his wife Ruth wrote back a loving letter, which I wish I had kept. It was reassuring to think that the pacemaker hadn't meant anything, after all. In the end he lived to be 85.

And we also bless thy name, O Lord, for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear, especially Uncle Walt. Amen.

(Thanks to Kim Raterink Fye, Uncle Walt's granddaughter, who responded so kindly to my out-of-the-blue electronic request for information about her grandfather.)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Father's Day

Please see my Father's Day post if you have not already seen it over at What's Wrong With the World. (Aside: It really seems like it should be "Fathers' Day." Wikipedia says that the woman who originally suggested the holiday called it "Fathers' Day" but that Congress passed the declaration for it with the apostrophe moved over.)

An addendum to that post, which didn't seem to fit in it smoothly: I am adopted. Mr. and Mrs. W. adopted me as a seven-month-old baby. There are a couple of different back-stories to this, most of which I knew nothing about until I was grown. Suffice it to say that I have every reason to be extremely grateful for my adoption and for the stability and love that I have received.

Creative destruction

Okay, this is for fun. Periodically one discusses with anti-capitalists the problems of progress and the way that change puts people out of a job. For the most part people like me are not sympathetic to such complaints per se. The invention of the car put plenty of wheel-makers and blacksmiths out of jobs, and by itself that was not a reason not to invent the car. The light bulb put candle makers out of jobs, but the candle makers were themselves better off for the better light and could likely find other jobs. Anyway, this is a perennial irritation between Marxists and anti-capitalists of many stripes on the one side and advocates of the free market on the other.

In the following funny set of videos we see Dudley Moore (of all people) cast in the role of advocating an inferior product as "progress" (and of course, when the product is inferior, that's highly relevant) and as a movement of the "human spirit" and Animal and Floyd defending the old ways and the old jobs. Very funny.

Apropos of the band's comment, "It's a musical garbage can. Playin' musical garbage," I thought of this video, which the Ironic Catholic rightly calls "simultaneously impressive and abhorrent." Color me skeptical that this is going to put many real drummers out of jobs. It certainly shouldn't. I think I prefer Animal.

HT for "Mama Don't 'Low" to Romish Graffiti

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

You can keep your insurance--Probably not

My assiduous readers will remember this detailed post of mine in which I discussed the repeated claim that if you like your current insurance plan, nothing will change under Obamacare, you can keep you plan. "Move along folks. Nothing to see here but us Democrats helping poor people. You gotta problem with that?"

There I discussed both the elimination of catastrophic-only policies and the setting of all benefits (maximum as well as minimum) by the government for all plans.

Now, post-passage of Obamacare, we hear about something else: So-called "mini-med" plans can and probably will be eliminated under Obamacare by government rules. These are often used for poorer workers such as part-timers or waiters who cannot afford more expensive plans. Poof, gone.

Obamacare--the gift that keeps on giving.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Ordinary care and "expensive" lives

I am not Catholic, but a recent conversation elsewhere has brought back to my mind the fact that the USCCB has implied that a means for preserving life may be "disproportionate" if it imposes "excessive expense."

Some people attempt to use this loophole to justify the murder (yep, I call it that) of helpless people like Terri Schiavo by depriving them of mere nutrition and hydration. The claim is that it is "excessively expensive" to "keep alive" someone like Terri.

My own strong preference would be for understanding ordinary and extraordinary care in biological terms, in terms of whether the body is actively dying, in terms of what everyone needs, and so forth, rather than in terms of expense. But it may be expected that the ordinary/extraordinary distinction will track the "very expensive/not-so-expensive" distinction, on the assumption that extraordinary care involves expensive technology.

People--especially Catholics--who want to excuse depriving the Terris of the world of mere food and water via a perceived "expense" loophole in the Church's teaching need to be brought up short by the following consideration: It is not the "artificial" nature of the nutrition and hydration that are the chief cause of expense for such helpless people. It is the fact that they live, are helpless, and need ordinary care: things like diaper changing, being turned in the bed, bathing, etc. This sort of care is what is most expensive, especially if the people closest to the helpless adult are unable because of strength considerations or unwilling to do that work.

Thought experiment: Suppose that a helpless, severely disabled adult like Terri were magically made able to survive without food and water but still needed day-to-day bodily care. Would the "expense" of her life be drastically decreased? I say that it would not. It's not the cost of the insertion of the PEG tube nor the cans of adult "formula" that are the heaviest expense. It's the fact that the person is alive and needs to be cared for as a baby would.

But so what? Question: Do we consider it "medical care" to bathe, clothe, change, and otherwise care for a baby? Do we consider such normal forms of care to be "extraordinary" or "disproportionate"?

The care of helpless adults is deemed "medical" because their being helpless means that something is wrong with them and also, practically, because it is so much more work to take care of them and is best done (though not necessarily done) by those with special training and a good deal of physical strength.

Once we realize that it is paradigmatically ordinary care that is so expensive for these people--"expensive," at least, in terms of time and effort, even if able to be undertaken by loving family--that it is simply their existence as helpless people that is expensive, I think we will realize that it is the merest sophistry to talk as if it is their "artificial" feeding that is "extraordinary" or "excessively expensive" and focus on that as an excuse for getting rid of them. One irony here is that tube feeding actually decreases the difficulty (and hence, the expense) of caring for a helpless person. It enables that person to get the necessary nutrition and hydration fairly easily, where spoon feeding would be much less efficient, enormously more time-consuming, probably would not provide adequate nutrition to an adult, and takes more skill to do safely.

The issue, then, is not that tube feeding is specially expensive, hence extraordinary, hence conveniently optional. The issue is that people who can't care for themselves need a lot of care.

But we knew that already. And if someone thinks that morally excuses dehydrating them to bring their expensive lives to a quicker end, he has a major problem.

(Warning to liberal trolls: I have a delete key, and I'm not afraid to use it.)

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Trinity I--Collect

O God, the strength of all those who put their trust in thee; Mercifully accept our prayers; and because, through the weakness of our mortal nature, we can do no good thing without thee, grant us the help of thy grace, that in keeping thy commandments we may please thee, both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Thomas Cranmer translated this collect from Latin with virtually no change. It sounds like a rather Augustinian collect. We cannot do any good thing without God. All our righteousness is as filthy rags.

I don't fully understand that. No matter how hard I try, I have trouble believing that the goodness--real goodness--of unbelievers is as filthy rags in the eyes of God. I would prefer to think that even they are, at some level and in some sense, receiving the help of God's grace. Which does not mean that they, we, or anyone can in any measure earn his favor by being good.

But at a practical level, this is a good collect for all occasions, the sort of prayer one can pray on any given day and find applicable. One needn't bother with Augustinian theology. We know ourselves. We know the weakness of our mortal nature. We know how we start out the day and can scarcely get through an hour without some sin--even if it is a mere matter, and not so "mere" either, of tone of voice. We start out full of the milk of human kindness and good resolutions, and then someone does something that throws our plans out of whack, someone else's tone of voice doesn't seem right, we notice that little thing that has always been so darned irritating, and there we are, back in the soup.

One cannot make hard and fast predictions in the spiritual life, but perhaps starting the day with this collect would be helpful.

Breath of Life Quartet--Found on-line [Updated--Lost again]

Update: Bummer. Big-time bummer. Alerted by reader Doug Downing, I checked today and discovered that the music has all disappeared. The site appears to be there, but not only do embeds not work, when you try to download, you get an offer to sell you the domain name. Very bad sign. Looks like the music itself is gone and only the playlist left. We have the tracks, downloaded in June, but I feel bad for readers.

Below is the original post as it appeared three months ago.


This is a truly great find. Back in the 1970's and (I think) into the 1980's there was a black group called the Breath of Life Quartet. They seem to have disappeared from the scene without a trace, unless you count a follow-up group that (of course) calls itself "BLQ" a trace. I'd rather not. The original Breath of Life Quartet had an ethereal sound that was absolutely amazing. I've now learned that the album I listened to over and over again on cassette tape in the church van (Pastor Aycock weaving back and forth to the public danger, for which God saw to it that he never received a ticket), was called Spirituals.

Ever since I've had Internet access to speak of, I've been periodically searching for these recordings on-line. Not knowing the name of the album was a real problem, and I never could find it, not even on e-bay. (It doesn't help that there is a woodwind group also called the Breath of Life Quartet.) I have what sounds like a copy of a copy of Spirituals on a cassette tape, labeled simply "Black Quartet" in handwriting. I kept listening to that, copied it again before it broke, and played it for my kids many times.

But a few weeks back, when I was once more lamenting the difficulty of finding the music on the Internet, Eldest Daughter went to work on her own. By the simple expedient of dropping the word "quartet" from her search, she found the entire album on-line for free embedding and download. Within minutes. Kids are amazing on computers.

Suppose that you think my Gospel music craze is more than a bit strange. No problem. Forget that. This is not a Southern Gospel sound. These are black spirituals sung in an indescribably pure style. No emotional vocal display. No blast-your-ears excitement. They are really very beautiful. Below are three of them, but all the rest are available at the link, even though it comes up with a particular one. Just look at the box on the right that says "Album related Spirituals" for the other tracks. And if you like them, download them now and burn 'em to a CD. It would be a real shame if they disappeared again from mortal ken.

Breath of Life Quartet

Breath of Life - Ezekiel Saw De Wheel

Found at abmp3 search engine

Breath of Life - No More Sorrow

Found at abmp3 search engine

Breath of Life - King Jesus

Found at abmp3 search engine

Leaving long-faced religion behind

An old friend, C. B., from whom I haven't heard in a while, used to tell me that the Catholic view is that it's an obligation to get drunk at weddings.

Obviously, I'm not going to agree with him there. But there's a Protestant version of that, which is that we should, in the words of a Stephen Curtis Chapman song, "Leave long-faced religion behind."

Scripture says, "Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord." It seems to me that in the Christian life there is definitely a place for fun, even specifically Christian fun, and that this carries over to Christian music as well. Not everything has to be deeply nourishing. Some things can just be an encouraging way to start the day.

With which introduction, here is "Every Day, Every Hour" by the Cathedrals. The video features a very young Ernie Haase. As George Younce says in a different video of a different young singer, "I've got socks older than that." I like the studio version better, because it has a higher sound quality and is easier to hear the guitar and the jazzy piano, but the Youtube version is lots of fun, too:

Friday, June 04, 2010

What's wrong with paleoconservatism

Wow. Well, in keeping with my use of this personal blog as a sort of safety valve for all manner of things I can't sound off about elsewhere, herewith an endorsement of the following summary of the problem with paleoconservatism:

Their lack of any larger idea of the good is perfectly expressed in the way the paleocons typically express their positive belief. Over and over, you hear them say something like this: "I believe in hearth, home, and kindred." This is their affirmation of the particular and the local as distinct from the universal and the massified. But the problem is, it's not enough. "Hearth and kindred" boils down to one's family, neighbors, and locality. It has no reference to a political order, no reference to a cultural order, no reference to transcendent moral order, no reference to philosophical truth, no reference to a nation.
The rest is here.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Kudos to VFR on Israel

I am grateful for the coverage at Auster's View from the Right of issues related to Israel, most recently, of course, the pro-Hamas flotilla incident. Auster is the only high-profile conservative blogger I know who is not simply a predictable mainstream conservative (he's interestingly quirky and trad-conservative) but who is staunchly and loudly pro-Israel. And being loud is good in this area, I would add. I can't think of the last time--maybe there hasn't been a time--when Auster said something about Israel that I disagreed with, right up to and including his repeated comments that in reality Israel is far too liberal and near-suicidal, doesn't present its own case forcefully enough, makes foolish concessions to its enemies, etc.

It depresses me when I give myself time to think about it to realize how many people who identify themselves as conservative are anti-Israel and even accept the ridiculous nonsense about the "peace activists" in the "aid flotilla." Here, too, Auster calls a spade a grub hoe and discusses directly the disgusting coverage at TAC and Alternative Right. For some reason I find this refreshing and a kind of relief, perhaps because it's the kind of thing that I wish I had the time, emotional energy, and courage to do myself.

Not being a Bob Dylan fan, I had never before read the words to "Neighborhood Bully" before seeing them the other day at VFR. They really are astonishing.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Christendom Review Volume 2, Issue 1

The latest issue of the on-line journal The Christendom Review is here. Editor Bill Luse has an introduction on the subject of gratitude which is a small work of art in itself. (I just now got a chance to read it.) The emphasis here upon gratitude is spot-on. I find that with every year that goes by I really cannot be grateful enough for all that there is to be grateful for. This is just literally true. There aren't enough hours in the day or enough energy even to think of all the things for which I should be grateful. Says Bill,

I read somewhere to let the evil of the day be sufficient unto itself. The nihilist is right when he opines that we’ll all be carted to the cemetery forthwith, but I also suspect that, like the rest of us, he is grateful for having seen the light in the interim. I’ll try to remember to say a few thank-yous before the first shovelful of dirt comes down. But I’ve a reputation as a procrastinator, for which my wife often rewards me with an observation no less timely for being well-worn: “Better late than never.”

I've just begun to go through the issue and am looking forward to the visual art, the poetry, and the fiction (one short story by Bill himself, which he doesn't mention in his introduction).

And while we are talking about gratitude, let's remember to be grateful to Rick Barnett, Bill Luse, and Todd McKimmey for producing the journal.