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    Jayber Crow on Church Hymns and Why We Really Go to Church

    Another gem from Wendell Berry’s novel, Jayber Crow:


    What I liked least about the service itself was the prayers; what I liked far better was the singing. Not all of the hymns could move me. I never liked ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers’ or ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic.’ Jesus’ military career has never compelled my belief. I liked the sound of the people singing together, whatever they sang, but some of the hymns reached into me all the way to the bone: ‘Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,’ ‘Rock of Ages,’ ‘Amazing Grace,’ ‘O God, Our Help in Ages Past.’ I loved the different voices all singing one song, the various tones and qualities, the passing lifts of feeling, rising up and going out forever. Old Man Profet, who was a different man on Sunday, used to draw out the notes at the ends of the verses and refrains so he could listen to himself, and in fact it sounded pretty. And when the congregation would be singing ‘We shall see the King some-day (some-day),’ Sam May, who often protracted Saturday night a little too far into Sunday morning, would sing, “I Shall see the King some-day (Sam May).'”

    “I thought that some of the hymns bespoke the true religion of the place. The people didn’t really want to be saints of self-deprivation and hatred of the world. They knew that the world would sooner or later deprive them of all it had given them, but still they liked it. What they came together for was to acknowledge, just by coming, their losses and failures and sorrows, their need for comfort, their faith always needing to be greater, their wish (in spite of all words and acts to the contrary) to love one another and to forgive and be forgiven, their need for one another’s help and company and divine gifts, their hope (and experience) of love surpassing death, their gratitude. I loved to hear them sing ‘The Unclouded Day’ and ‘Sweet By and By’:

    We shall sing on that beautiful shore

    The melodious songs of the blest…

    And in times of sorrow when they sang ‘Abide With Me,’ I could not raise my head.”


    Jayber Crow’s Path Through the Dark Woods of Error


    I am only about 100 pages into Wendell Berry’s novel, Jayber Crow, but I couldn’t wait until I finished to share this beautiful reflection on a life lived from the barber/priest himself:

    “Now I have had most of the life I am going to have, and I can see what it has been. I can remember those early years when it seemed to me I was cut completely adrift, and at times when, looking back at earlier times, it seemed I had been wandering in the dark woods of error. But now it looks to me as though I was following a path that was laid out for me, unbroken, and maybe even as straight as possible, from one end to the other, and I have this feeling, which never leaves me anymore, that I have been led. I will leave you to judge the truth of that for yourself.”

    “The Ribs and Terrors in the Whale” by Herman Melville

    From Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick”

    The ribs and terrors in the whale,
    Arched over me a dismal gloom,
    While all God’s sun-lit waves rolled by,
    And left me deepening down to doom.

    I saw the opening maw of hell,
    With endless pains and sorrow there;
    Which none but they that feel can tell-
    Oh, I was plunging to despair.

    In black distress, I called my God,
    When I could scarce believe him mine,
    He bowed his ear to my complaints-
    No more the whale did me confine.

    With speed he flew to my relief.
    As on a radiant dolphin borne;
    Awful, yet bright, as lightening shown
    The face of my Deliverer God.

    My song forever shall record
    That terrible, that joyful hour;
    I give the glory to my God,
    His all the mercy and the power.

    Mockingbird at the Movies: Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa

    Charlie Kaufman’s newest film, Anomalisa, is not for everyone. I don’t mean that in an exclusive, some “get” it and others don’t, kind of way. I mean that the the film is a very real (ironic considering it consists entirely of stop-motion animation) depiction of the dislocation and alienation that pervades modern existence, and I […]

    “The Convert” by G.K. Chesterton

    van gogh lazarus

    After one moment when I bowed my head
    And the whole world turned over and came upright,
    And I came out where the old road shone white.
    I walked the ways and heard what all men said,
    Forests of tongues, like autumn leaves unshed,
    Being not unlovable but strange and light;
    Old riddles and new creeds, not in despite
    But softly, as men smile about the dead

    The sages have a hundred maps to give
    That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree,
    They rattle reason out through many a sieve
    That stores the sand and lets the gold go free:
    And all these things are less than dust to me
    Because my name is Lazarus and I live.

    A Poem for Autumn: “Grace” by Wendell Berry

    The woods is shining this morning.
    Red, gold and green, the leaves
    lie on the ground, or fall,
    or hang full of light in the air still.
    Perfect in its rise and in its fall, it takes
    the place it has been coming to forever.
    It has not hastened here, or lagged.
    See how surely it has sought itself,
    its roots passing lordly through the earth.
    See how without confusion it is
    all that it is, and how flawless
    its grace is. Running or walking, the way
    is the same. Be still. Be still.
    “He moves your bones, and the way is clear.”

    Daily Dose of Redemption: Dawes cover The Waterboys

    In my daily (often excessive) perusal of youTube videos yesterday, I stumbled across a video of one of my favorite bands, Dawes, covering “Fisherman’s Blues” by The Waterboys. For those who aren’t familiar with The Waterboys, they are most famous for their 1985 release, This is the Sea, and chances are you’ve heard the most […]

    Iris Dement’s “He Reached Down”

    For anyone who was moved to tears (like me) by Iris Dement’s version of “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” at the end of the Coen Brothers’ 2010 film, True Grit, listen below to her song, “He Reached Down.”

    Get the tissues ready. So beautiful.

    The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry

    From The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry

    When despair for the world grows in me
    and I wake in the night at the least sound
    in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
    I go and lie down where the wood drake
    rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
    I come into the peace of wild things
    who do not tax their lives with forethought
    of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
    And I feel above me the day-blind stars
    waiting with their light. For a time
    I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.