Across the Dark Sea

Across the dark sea the multitudes came,
Demanding that Jesus some miracle show,
And new signs to see, or more bread to claim,
Asked, “when did you get here, and why did you go?”

But answered he then, “See, I am the bread.
I came down from heaven the world to make free.
Who so eat of me shall wake from the dead,
And I’ll live in them just as they live in me.”

“You’re Joseph’s son, though, and Jesus your name.”
Their ire arose in a grumbling heat.
“Just what do you mean, ‘from heaven I came?’
And how can you give us your body to eat?”

“My flesh is true food, my blood is true drink,”
The multitudes then heard their Savior to say.
“His teaching is hard,” in heart some did think,
And so from their life and salvation turned ’way.

“Will you leave as well?” he turns now to urge.
Let love in our answer proclaim, “This we know:
Eternal life wells in all of your words.
O Christ, Son of God, to whom then shall we go?”


A New (to me) Hymn Blog

Ran across this today: David’s Hymn Blog

David Hamrick was one of the music professors at Lipscomb while I was there.  He’s currently working his way through the Praise for the Lord hymnal, providing analysis of the text and music of each hymn.  He also has a lot of Restoration Movement history mixed in, especially with regards to our hymnody.

Here’s a good sample post: “Concerning hymns”by Jessie Brown Pounds

Advent Book, 2011 Edition

I’ve updated the Advent song book from last year.  The most notable change is the addition of Daniel Henderson’s “Hymn for a Household” to the tune of Old Hundredth.

You can download it here: The Lord is Near – 2011 Edition

This is the text of the introduction:

The past decades have seen increased interest among non-liturgical Christians in traditional forms of Christian faith and practice.  Ancient customs that were once viewed with skepticism as dead rituals, or with outright hostility as poisonous “traditions of men,” are reappearing in a new light, as powerful aids to spiritual growth and steadying defenses against the onslaught of a secular anti-culture.

This is particularly true for the ancient custom of Advent.  While the surrounding world prepares for a singular Christmas Day with relentless advertising, shopping and sales, the observance of Advent reminds Christians to watch with prayer, alms-giving, and fasting for the imminent arrival of their Lord.  Among the orgies of consumer avarice and gluttony personified in a secular Santa Claus, Christians are once again remembering the real Saint Nicholas and his generosity to the poor.  Finally, the observance of Advent reminds us that Christmas Day is not the end, but the beginning of the Christmas season.

To many, fasting and repentance during “the most wonderful time of the year” will appear out-of-sync, even “Scrooge-like.”  Yet the Apostle Paul, distilling the gospel to a mere sentence, declared, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (I Cor. 2:2, ESV) Within this verse is contained the seeds for both Christmas and Easter, for the special observances of the incarnation as well as the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord.  Both call us to repentance and watchfulness, and both benefit from a time of careful and serious introspection.

This booklet of songs and prayers was compiled to aid families and small groups in observing the important season of Advent.  The songs may be used however desired, but the suggested use for families is one per day for a weekly cycle.  (This 2011 edition adds Lord Christ, Beneath Thy Starry Dome, a song well suited for family use.)  The collects from the BCP may be used each night of the designated week, particularly when lighting candles on an Advent wreath.  The other prayers may be used as desired.  There are twenty-eight Advent scripture readings, enough for one per day on any year.  They need not be read in the order they are listed.  There are thirteen Christmas scriptures, one for Christmas eve and each of the twelve days of Christmas thereafter.  These are partially ordered to give a sense of the chronology of the biblical story.

It is my hope that you will find this a helpful resource in “redeeming the time” from the continual assaults of a society that would gladly wish us to forget our Lord among the bustle of a busy holiday season.  May God bless you and your family this Advent.

At Even When the Sun Was Set

At even when the sun was set,
The sick, O Lord, around Thee lay;
O in what divers pains they met!
O with what joy they went away!

Once more ’tis eventide, and we
Oppressed with various ills draw near;
What if Thy form we cannot see?
We know and feel that Thou art here.

O Savior Christ, our woes dispel;
For some are sick, and some are sad,
And some have never loved Thee well
And some have lost the love they had;

And some have found the world is vain,
Yet from the world they break not free;
And some have friends who give them pain,
Yet have not sought a friend in Thee;

And none, O Lord, have perfect rest,
For none are wholly free from sin;
And they who fain would serve Thee best
Are conscious most of wrong within.

O Savior Christ, Thou too art Man;
Thou hast been troubled, tempted, tried;
Thy kind but searching glance can scan
The very wounds that shame would hide.

Thy touch has still its ancient power;
No word from Thee can fruitless fall;
Hear in this solemn evening hour,
And in Thy mercy heal us all.

Henry Twells


A prayer for healing.  We sing it to ‘Jesus, thou Joy of Loving Hearts’ (Maryton).

Unreal Tournament

The game is a blast. You race around, snatch up incredible weapons, and annihilate anyone who gets in your way. You need quick reflexes combined with careful precision to do well. The twitch of your index finger combined with the satisfaction of blowing your brother-in-law’s virtual guts out soon becomes addictive. One more frag. One more frag and I’ll take the lead. We have many happy memories together, at home during Christmas-time, lights on the tree and egg-nog in our bellies, sitting at our laptops while we snipe, explode, electrocute, and detonate one another. Mutual virtual decimation makes for great family camaraderie.

And yet.

You know what I worry about? Call me neurotic if you will, but I wonder about the virtual life of my community. At any moment, there are broadcasts of wretched trials of adolescent mothers, accounts of children sexting because their sophomoric national leaders must twitter their groins, adolescents using video-controllers fashioned as pistol grips and slaughtering hundreds of virtual antagonists.

You know what I hope is not is not the case? What if the words of our Lord applied to these virtual displays: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart (Matthew 5.28).

I think most would agree that Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 about lustful looking and adultery apply just as much whether the receiver of such looks is real or virtual. What struck me about the above quote, from here, is that the same may go for virtual acts of murder.

But is there a line? Is Angry Birds right up there with Call of Duty? Is there a difference between killing virtual human beings and killing virtual evil-monster-aliens? Or virtual round green pigs?

I don’t have a clear answer to those questions, and I actually gave up violent video games like Unreal Tournament quite a while ago. I began to recognize disorder inside my own spiritual house after playing them. The quote above helped put a little meat and bone on what was little more than a feeling, so I thought I would share it. The comment box is below, and any insights are welcome.

Recommended Reading

Some cousins recently gave us a copy of Andrew Peterson’s On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness. Andrew Peterson is a songwriter, author, and father of three living here in Nashville. Our cousins gave us a copy of one of his CDs, as well. Although I usually can’t stomach contemporary Christian music, we’ve enjoyed listening to the album together. That said, what I really want to talk about in this post is the book.

This is a story about a small family with old secrets living in big a world that is both beautiful and terrifying. My wife and I had a hard time figuring out the appropriate age range for this novel, but we decided that the age of the main characters, early adolescence, is about right. It has much of what you’d expect in a fantasy novel — wonders, monsters, thrills, and adventure — but it doesn’t rely too heavily on these elements. There are at least a few gratifying nods to Wendell Berry, (!) and although his book certainly proceeds from the spirit of Lewis and Tolkein, Peterson is his own author. He is at times hilariously goofy (whatever you do, don’t skip the footnotes), and others powerfully poignant. He knows the aching of the human heart for Eden, for home, and this heartache gently nudges the reader throughout the story.

My wife and I are scrambling to get a hold of the next few books in this five-part series, and not just to find out how it ends. This is definitely one we will read to our children.