Saturday, July 24, 2010

We Give Thanks to Thee for Thy Great Glory

I've started going through parts of the Anglican liturgy (the Cranmerian parts, mostly) with two of my daughters. We were doing the Gloria in Excelsis the other day and came to my favorite line: "We give thanks to thee for thy great glory..." There have been plenty of songs and, I'm sure, many sermons on this line. We praise God and thank God for who He is, not only for what He has done for us.

As I was trying to explain what is so important about this particular line, I was inspired to make a point I have never made before: We catch a small glimpse of this notion of praising God for who He is when we have a sense of thankfulness for someone we know, just for that person's being, for that person's existence. Sometimes we have this sense about a person in the past whose works we have read. It's hard to communicate this to children, especially children who have been loved and sheltered, but there is so much evil in the world, so many people who are not what they seem, who fail us and let us down, so much bad faith, that to find and know a man of integrity and greatness, to be able to admire someone, brings a sense of enormous relief. The mind and the heart rest in the sense that here at last is someone truly good.

If, in mere mortal human beings, sinners like ourselves, we can find greatness, if we can feel gratitude for their character and for our opportunity to know them or even just to know of them and to be refreshed by the knowing, how much more is this true of God Himself, the source of all goodness?

And so the mind moves upward from the creature to the Creator, and we say with the church throughout the ages, "We give thanks to Thee for Thy great glory."

"Shall We Gather At the River" with Irish whistle

Here's a really nice rendition of "Shall We Gather At the River" with accordion, penny whistle, and acoustic guitar. Has a folk sound. Buddy Greene singing, Jeff Taylor on accordion and penny whistle.

Buddy Greene is the harmonica player for many Gaither homecomings, and here he is bringing the house down at Carnegie Hall (!) with his harmonica:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

New manuscript discovery (satire)

Those of you who have been following the outrageous treatment of Christian missionaries in Dearborn, MI, through my coverage at W4 or at the blog of Acts 17 ministries may or may not be aware that the Acts 17 guys and their friends have had a fair bit of their time wasted--on blogs, on Facebook, etc.--answering Christian "friends" who accuse them of being "too confrontational," etc., and hence getting themselves in trouble. (Never mind the rule of law, the freedom of religion, the mandate to proclaim the gospel, and all that. We're busy proving how hard we can be on fellow Christians who have the audacity to run afoul of the sharia police.)

Anyway, I cannot reveal here how the following came into my possession. I will only say, for the record, that I did not write it. I wouldn't want to take credit for something that isn't my own.

Don't forget to note the acronym at the end...


[The following document, written in Koine Greek on a surprisingly intact sheet of fine vellum, was recently found in a drawer in the British Museum, where it had lain uncatalogued for an unknown time. Scholarly opinion is divided, but some experts believe that it may have been a document that was considered and then rejected for inclusion in the fourteenth chapter of Acts. It is translated here for the first time.]

Dear Brother Paul,

We were grieved to hear of the commotion caused when you and Barnabas were here last month. Though we are, of course, grateful that you suffered no bodily harm, we feel it our duty to point out that what you were doing was in every way calculated to inflame strong passions and to incite violence. Because we love you as brethren, we feel it necessary to “show unto you a more excellent way,” lest your actions should cause a breach in the excellent relations we enjoy with the Jewish community here and in our sister cities to the south, Lystra and Derbe.

First, it is reported that you and Barnabas entered a synagogue. You of all people must understand that this placed you in a sensitive position. It is one thing to speak on a public street – sensitively, of course – but it is quite another to go forcing one’s way into the very house of worship of our Jewish friends. Ask yourselves: what would Jesus do? Would he have caused trouble in the Temple itself?

Second, it is reported that when you and Barnabas had entered the synagogue, you began openly preaching the gospel. Brethren, this is out of character with the behavior of our blessed Lord and Saviour, who, as the prophet Isaiah foretold, “opened not his mouth” – a moving description that we have taken as our motto for the Ministerial Society.

Third, it is reported that you engaged in this activity for an extended period of time, speaking boldly and with confidence. We entreat you: was there any need for this? Was there not a time and a place for sharing your convictions that would have been more compatible with the excellent advice you yourself have been known to give from time to time, that “all things might be done decently and in order”?

Under the circumstances, it is no wonder that the civil authorities and a sizeable portion of the religious population joined forces to prevent your actions. Without seeming to condone any violence you might have suffered, we feel compelled to point out that we in the Ministerial Society have never been the focus of such actions from either the civil or the religious direction. Indeed, several of the leading Rabbis here in Iconium have assured us that they have not the least problem with the manner in which we conduct ourselves.

This manner of conduct we earnestly commend to you. There is no need for you to suffer for your faith, whether out of misplaced piety or a juvenile desire for public attention. Our God, who is able to make the rocks cry out His praises, neither requires nor is glorified by brash attempts to proclaim His word in unseasonable circumstances. It is better – safer, and, we think, wiser – to remember the words of the preacher, that there is “a time for silence.”


M. W. T. Rollos, secretary

Worship, Iconium! Ministerial Peace Society

“... ουκ ανοιγει το στομα αυτου”

Sunday, July 11, 2010

New phonics material

A couple of years ago I put up on the Internet a first set of phonics lessons for beginning readers, along with some instructions for starting to teach your child to read. Here is my post on that, which I see is almost exactly two years old.

I now have a huge amount of additional phonics material available here. It begins with quite easy lessons, and most of the first one hundred pages or so are hand written. (Some of these were small pages from a tablet, so it isn't quite as impressive as it sounds. Still, I'm impressed looking back at how much was hand written. Don't know quite why I didn't start typing sooner.)

The lessons get quite advanced as they go on, teaching complex phonics concepts like words ending in -tial, hard and soft c and g, and many more. There are, unfortunately, no supplementary materials such as instructions or even a table of contents. It's just the lessons themselves. You have to browse for what you need. One suggestion for browsing would be using the underlying OCR layer to search for a word that has the phonics idea you need to drill, though this won't work on the handwritten portions.

The lessons are obviously written for my own children and sometimes refer to specific family situations and so forth. Parents who want to use the material might have to skip some of that or adapt it, unless you just want to use it as drill as you would with any material that uses unfamiliar names and situations.

I'm proudest of the stories in this big document. With a very few exceptions (toward the end) these stories were written by me (occasionally adapted from other things I have read), and nearly every story drills or reviews a phonics concept. Sometimes this leads to stiltedness in the prose, but looking back from the distance of a decade, I'm surprised at my own energy and ingenuity.

Here, for example (from pp. 122-123 of 327 total), is a fairy tale that drills single and double consonants before suffixes (for example, filling, filed, stopping, hoping). With apologies to lots of other stories, including the stories of Pandora, Psyche, Cinderella, the fairy tale version of "Beauty and the Beast" (not the movie), and probably others I'm not thinking of. I think I called the girl "Marie" because my reader at that time was having trouble distinguishing "Marie" and "Maria." (I also notice now that for most of these I wasn't observing the requirement to start a new paragraph for every new speaker in a dialogue.)

Once upon a time there was a lovely little girl named Marie who lived with her wicked stepmother. Her father and mother had died, and Marie's stepmother made her work hard all day, filling buckets of water and scrubbing the floors. If she did not do the work fast enough, she was whipped and put in a dark room in chains. Marie was very unhappy, but she kept hoping that she would be free some day.

One day, while she was sitting in a small room, wiping tears from her eyes, a little mouse came in carrying a file which he had stolen from the kitchen. He began sawing away at her bonds. Finally he had filed them loose, and Marie was free. The mouse led her quietly out of the house and into the woods. Suddenly, when Marie looked, the mouse was gone. At first she was frightened, but then she saw a robin looking at her very brightly. "Can you help me?" she asked the robin. It said nothing, but it pointed the way with its wing and then flew in front of her.

At last, she arrived at a golden house in the middle of the wood. Marie went up to the door and rang the bell, but no one she could see carne to the door. The door opened, and invisible hands led her inside. They took her into a room with a long table, filled with all sorts of food, and helped her to sit down. Marie began to get the feeling that she was not alone. The room appeared empty, but soon, someone spoke. "You cannot see me, but I am the master of this house. I am a prince, and I am under a spell. Your wicked stepmother is a witch who has also enchanted me, so that I am invisible. Only if you will go on a long journey can I be freed." "What must I do?" said Marie. "You must take this golden box, without saying a word to anyone, and without opening it, and carry it through the woods to the good fairy of the lake."

Marie picked up the box and carried it away. But the task was hard. The wood was scary; it was full of matted thorns, and bats which hated people and flew at her. Once she met an old woman who tried to talk to her, and once a man who looked kind asked her where she was going, but she remembered what the prince had said and refused to say a word. sometimes she found herself scraping away clinging vines in order to make her way. Sometimes she stopped and rested, but she never gave up. And sometimes she wished she knew what was in the box, but she never opened it.

And at last, the wood was behind her and a beautiful lake was in front of her. And there, beside the lake, was a lovely woman who could only be the good fairy of the lake. Taking the box from Marie, the fairy said, "My child, you have fulfilled the task which was laid on you. Now I shall open the box, and both you and the prince will be free forever." The fairy opened the box, and a sweet smell filled the air. Suddenly, the prince was standing beside Marie, now visible. He kissed her and said, "Your wicked stepmother, the witch, is dead, because you were faithful. Now you shall be my queen."

And they lived happily ever after.

I hope there are some parents out there who will find the material useful, despite the need for browsing. I've been wanting for a long time to get it preserved electronically. The problem was that much of it was hand written and, beyond that, the old floppy disks containing all the typed lessons have been misplaced. My heartfelt thanks to Jason Thueme for the scanning job and to Tim McGrew for help with the scanning, for the use of his fancy scanner, and for the underlying OCR layer.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Welcome "Ruminations" readers

At the urging of a friend I've recently installed Statcounter, a free software that allows me to find out how many people are viewing Extra Thoughts and where they are coming from. In this way I have learned something I hadn't noticed before--namely, that the Israeli historian Yaacov Lozowick has a link to Extra Thoughts from his blog, Ruminations. And people do come to Extra Thoughts by way of that link. I am extremely pleased to learn this.

Those of you who come to Extra Thoughts by that route may find yourselves a bit surprised or even disoriented. Here is a link from a blog by an Israeli historian to the personal blog of a devout, Protestant Christian who, nowadays, seems to be blogging American gospel music videos in more than half of her posts. Well, stranger things have happened in the blogosphere. Nor should this be very surprising to the politically astute, who have long known that evangelical Christians in America are Israel's best friends--sometimes even more vocal in Israel's defense than Israel's own leaders. Please do look around, and especially, please see the Israel label, the Holocaust label, and the Buchanan label. (There is some overlap among the posts under these labels.)

If you are an Arab or Muslim reader of Yaacov's blog, please understand that I am much less nice than he is, as well as a good deal farther to the right. I treat Extra Thoughts more or less as a personal space, and I don't lose a wink of sleep over deleting comments from Israel-haters, leftist trolls, and the like.

Just now my main thought about Israel is a feeling of bafflement that Netanyahu would consider it something gained to have "direct talks" between Israel and the "Palestinians." As far as I'm concerned, something gained would be cutting off all talks, since they are obviously worse than pointless from Israel's perspective and can do only harm to Israel and no good. (Lawrence Auster calls the Middle East "peace process" the Dance of the Undead, and boy, is he right.) Which, if you are new to Extra Thoughts, probably tells you (along with the scare quotes around "Palestinians") all you need to know about my perspective on Israel.

Bonus: I just learned today of this incredible outrage. The rule of law in England is taking a real beating. A judge (who, despite his blandly British name, apparently was born in Jaffa) led a jury by his summing up to aquit seven thugs who did 180,000 pounds in damage to a factory on the purely political grounds that they were motivated by opposition to Israel. (Evidently they believed that the company in question sold arms to Israel.) The judge sympathizes with their political motives and brought the supposed plight of the Gazans into his summing up to lead the jury to aquit them, despite the fact that the evidence of their actual destructive actions is beyond all question. This isn't the first time that political motivation has been used to acquit thugs in England. The previous time a jury found that a group of thugs had "lawful excuse" to damage a power station because it was allegedly contributing to global warming. But in the anti-Israel case, the judge appears to have been more directly involved; in the "green" case, the cause of the jury's acquittal was apparently sheer propaganda from defense attornies. (HT on this story, VFR.)

How long, I wonder, before this kind of rank court anarchy comes to the United States?

Saturday, July 03, 2010

God Bless America

A happy July 4 to all my readers. America needs God's blessing now, more than ever, with those at her helm who are out to destroy her. Herewith, an America medley:

Friday, July 02, 2010

Ernie Haase Signature Sound

Continuing to blog a bit here about the concert in Shipshewana from (now) two weeks ago. (The beatings will continue until morale improves. Which is to say that I'm going to keep on blogging about Gospel music even if none of my readers are interested in it, though I'm not entirely sure why.)

It would probably be an understatement to say that Ernie Haase is one of the most powerful gospel music tenors of the past fifty years, but I'll just stop with that generalization. He has a truly wonderful voice--able to hit high notes, but also mature and strong--and is, in my opinion, justly beloved by his fans. "Oh What a Savior" is considered to be a song that Ernie "owns," and for good reason.

At the concert two weeks ago, Ernie had a kind of quietness about him. He came out at the very beginning of the concert in jeans and a casual shirt (about which he made a humorous comment) and led the audience in prayer, which somehow I hadn't expected. He did not sing "Oh, What a Savior" nor, as far as I can remember, any "big ballads" that showcased his amazing voice. There was plenty of high energy from the group as a whole, including songs like "Swingin' On the Golden Gate" (not actually one of my favorites), but Ernie himself, by himself, was low-key. He made some comments, always with self-deprecating humor, that made it seem that he was tired and feeling his age. (He's only forty-five.)

Ernie clearly loves children, though he and his wife (Lisa, daughter of gospel music great George Younce) have no children of their own. In a classy break from our tell-all celebrity culture, Ernie doesn't talk about this, though indirect evidence indicates that it is a sadness to them. Toward the end of the concert he sang a song that I'd never heard before, which he said he originally wrote as a lullaby for his nieces and nephews. If you have children, don't be ashamed if it makes you a bit misty-eyed.

After the concert, Ernie was very kind in meeting his fans. Eldest Daughter asked him to sign an old Cathedrals CD (from the group he used to sing with) that was cut in the year she was born. When she told him that (that it was recorded in the year she was born), he said, "Oh, don't do that to me!" smiled, and signed it.

EHSS is on a vacation now for a few weeks. May they come back refreshed to bless more people with their lives and music.