Archive for June, 2008



My first born for a song

There are many things I love about church on the traditional model (whatever that means) as opposed to a more modern church service (again whatever that means…) like some of the liturgy, the reverence and respect given to our humble position before GOD, the mind numbing lifelessness of the congregation that reassures me I’m there for JESUS CHRIST and not my own entertainment – well maybe the last one is an unexpected side effect as opposed to something you might actually want.

But I will never quite get over the ability of a congregation to murder a perfectly good song. I’ve been doing music in the church for over 10 years. I have played in all variety of churches, all variety of songs with all varieties of quality.

Let me make plain that how we do the music is the least point of church (well not the least, probably what color the cushions in the pews are is less important but I’m just making a point) – we have so many more important things to do, like loving one another, learning what it means to love and follow JESUS, understanding what the Bible teaches, choosing the colour of the cushions in the pews etc… errr…¬† Maybe the music and the nature of the service can sit somewhat comfortably under these issues of priority.

But there comes a limit, that when you can ruin/massacre/throttle such a tune as In CHRIST alone then that’s something special. Tunes and melodies and (dare I mention it) the rhythm of a song and their effect on the emotions are not unimportant. Talented people have written these songs so that points of theological interest with significant implications are highlighted by certain chord movements (maybe the same is even true for Father Abraham though that may be pushing it…). To neglect these as mere artistic indulgence (and in some way putting your soul in danger of hell) is a big mistake and robs the song of much of its impact. Maybe we should just come out of the closet and declare ourselves reformed presbyterians and abandon the music altogether. Though maybe even the melody of unaccompanied music may be too much for us.

Even the fact we can’t have a good laugh about it all (and ourselves of course) cause we’re such repressed Presbyterians annoys me, in the same way we’ve lost the ability to applaud anything that happens in church.

We are so scared of making an idol of what the hand may make or the ear may hear or what the eye may see that we need to sit for a while at the feet of Galatians 4:15

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Novocaine for the soul

For various reasons, mostly not having the internet yet in the new house, [NB I now have the internet, hence the post] I haven’t been writing much of late. Well in reality I’ve been writing lots just not online and not of the the most positive or cheery nature.

A couple of book recommendations:

– Rise and fall of modern medicine:
First recommended by on of my dear old ICU bosses in NZ. Covers 12 of the major medical discoveries that have genuinely transformed how medicine is done.

They almost all happened between 1930 and 1970. This may surprise you. One of the few things in medicine that continues to amaze me is how in the dark we are about almost everything that happens. We still can’t even cure the common cold. We can see that some of the drugs we give appear to make people better¬† though often we haven’t a clue why (we have plausible theories that often sound good but that’s different), and we certainly have a very limited idea of what actually causes many of the diseases we see.

We are flying somewhat blind. I hope this does not scare you. We certainly do the best we can, the best on the information we have, just that the information we have mightn’t be great. I’d still trust a pilot flying blind more than joe bloggs flying blind.

The other thing that struck me was how completely random and fortuitous all the great discoveries have been. For example we have been so lucky to be provided (never mind how it was even discovered) with a fungus that just happens to be lethal to many of the common bacteria that uses to kill so many in infancy and old age. It also happens to be almost entirely non-toxic to humans. And the funny thing is we haven’t a notion why this fungus happens to make this most fortuitous of discoveries. There is not the slightest evolutionary advantage for a fungus to produce an antibiotic, and indeed of the countless species of microorganisms only a tiny fraction happen to produce such useful chemicals. I find this distinctly odd. But comfortingly grateful none the less.

Back to TW in NZ. He was 67 when I worked with him. He started anesthetizing his first patients with drops of ether on gauze (though are you keeping up with Lost) and his only monitoring was watching the chest rise and fall and his finger on the superficial temporal artery. TW has seen a few things. Often I got the impression that the only drugs worth giving (at least to the ICU patients) were morphine, antibiotics and oxygen (though I have my suspicions about the oxy). The longer I do the job the less I disagree.

Things the grandchildren should know:
Read in just over a day listening to my collection of Eels on shuffle. I find Mark everett a truly fascinating individual, between this book, his songs and the recent TV documentary about his father. Above all else there is honesty and comprehension of “the inevitable pain of being alive” (as David Bazan puts it). He also appears to have grasped something of the sweetness of life in “how I was thinking about how everyone is dying but maybe it’s time to live”.

Plus he has a cool beard, cool dog and smokes cigars. What more can I say. He makes nice tunes too if that helps.


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