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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
Thursday, February 22 2001

Music soothes the savage beast

One of the fringe benefits of being a writer is that writing is in itself educational (that's no doubt why most college courses require term papers and many exams are done in essay-question form). I've pursued the field of academic theology more seriously for the past 35 years than most people (though I'm hardly a standout in the field), but have never appreciated the connection between song and prayer so much as in the course of this series of Jonal entries. I was surprised to find myself using phrases like "speaks to my spirit" to describe my favorite popular, ostensibly secular, songs. This discovery opens a variety of paths to explore.

A friend asked my brother, Bob, about the source of his love for music in my presence last weekend. He replied that our mother frequently played the piano as an exercise that helped her lighten the burden of the day. Even more frequently, she was singing around the house. Virtually all of her piano playing was of hymns; in her Calvinistic worldview (which she would never have known by those terms), her daily time playing the piano was rehearsal—preparation—for the possibility that she might be pressed into service as the piano player at church at the next service, in the event the normal pianist should be absent. When she did deviate from hymns in her vocal repertoire, it was for the popular love songs of her generation. She loved Jeanette MacDonald's and Nelson Eddy's "Indian Love Call," Irving Berlin's "Always," and others of that vintage, but also liked more contemporary songs like "Tennessee Waltz" and "Mockingbird Hill."

I have no doubt that that was also a formative influence on my own music appreciation and that of our other, now deceased, brothers as well. Tom, 15 years my senior, played guitar (the only one of us to master an instrument) and had a distinctive, mellow tenor vocal style. His favorite influences may have been Jim Reed and, earlier, Eddy Arnold. Gary's death in an auto accident at age 19, when I was 15, has been described elsewhere as having a direct effect on my musical tastes. From at least his sophomore year in high school, he constantly played the radio, especially Johnstown's rock station, WCRO, which introduced me to such songs as "Only You" and "The Great Pretender" by the Platters (1955), "Earth Angel" by the Penguins, "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and the Comets, and Elvis Presley's earliest hits (I remember "Love Me Tender" as the first I heard, though "Heartbreak Hotel" predates it). "Love Me Tender" is in the country-gospel style that Elvis is famous for, and his "Loving You" has always been my favorite Elvis song, followed by "Can't Help Falling in Love With You."

"Pop" music, as Michael Jackson uses the term to describe himself as "king of pop" is, I now realize, a kind of spiritual confessional music. Though the diety confessed and professed in the songs is a human one, often it is couched in an "under God" context (the Platters, "My Prayer," may suffice to illustrate, but there are dozens of others). I can't help thinking that the popularity of the syndicated radio pop music show, "Delilah," which is broadcast nightly in San Jose where I live and in Johnstown, is because it melds pop musical requests with prayer requests and spiritual advice and commiseration.

And that's something else I just learned!

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

A Daughter's Letter From College!

Dear Mom and Dad:

It has been six months since I left for this second year at Stanford. I'm sorry I haven't written more often and I'm very sorry for my unthoughtfulness. I'm sure you have been worried about me. Let me bring you up to date, but before you read on, please sit down, Ok? Don't read any further unless you're sitting down. Ok? Good.

I am getting along pretty well now. The skull fracture and the concussion I got from jumping out of the window of my dormitory when it caught on fire several months ago, are pretty much healed now. I only spent two weeks in the hospital! Mom always said the girls in our family heal fast. In fact, I can almost see normally again and I only get headaches three times a day now.

Fortunately, the fire in the dormitory and my jump were witnessed by a gas station attendant who immediately called 911. He's so sweet. He even visited me in the hospital, and since I had nowhere to live because of the burnt-out dorm, he was kind enough to invite me to share his apartment with him. It's really a basement room, but it's kind of cute. He really is a good person with a kind heart. We have fallen deeply in love and are planning to get married. We haven't set the exact date yet, but I'm sure that it will be before I start to show.

That's right, Mom and Dad, I'm pregnant! I know how much you are looking forward to being grandparents, and I know that you will give that baby the same love, devotion and tender care you gave me when I was growing up. We would get married now but we both failed our premarital blood tests because of some minor infection. He told me about it beforehand, but dumb me, I carelessly caught it anyway. Not to worry though, the doctor said my daily penicillin injections should clear it up by next month.

I know you will welcome him into our family with open arms. He is kind, and although not well educated, he is ambitious—just like you two! Also, he is of a different race and religion than ours, but I know, after all your years of teaching me tolerance, that you won't mind the fact that he is somewhat darker than we are. I'm sure you will love him as I do. His family background is good too! He tells me that his father is an important gun bearer in his native African village. That's an important government position where he comes from.

Well, I guess that's all! Now you know why I wanted you to sit down when you read this letter. Now that I've brought you up to date, I just wanted to let you know there was no dormitory fire, I didn't suffer a concussion or a skull fracture, I wasn't in the hospital, I'm not pregnant, I'm not engaged, I don't have syphilis and there is no boyfriend of another race or religion in my life; however, I did vote for Gov. Bush, and I just wanted you both to see that in its proper perspective.

Your loving daughter, Chelsea

P.S. Stanford is great... I love it, though I miss you both terribly...and Socks, too! P.P.S.: Dad, please give my best to Monica and the others.

Sent by Mike Harrison

Jesus Is In My Heart

"Tomorrow morning," the surgeon began, "I'll open up your heart..."

"You'll find Jesus there," the boy interrupted.

The surgeon looked up, annoyed. "I'll cut your heart open," he continued, "to see how much damage has been done..."

"But when you open up my heart, you'll find Jesus in there."

The surgeon looked to the parents, who sat quietly. "When I see how much damage has been done, I'll sew your heart and chest back up and I'll plan what to do next."

"But you'll find Jesus in my heart. The Bible says He lives there. The hymns all say He lives there. You'll find Him in my heart."

The surgeon had had enough. "I'll tell you what I'll find in your heart. I'll find damaged muscle, low blood supply, and weakened vessels. And I'll find out if I can make you well."

"You'll find Jesus there too. He lives there."

The surgeon left.

The surgeon sat in his office, recording his notes from the surgery, "...damaged aorta, damaged pulmonary vein, widespread muscle degeneration. No hope for transplant, no hope for cure. Therapy: painkillers and bed rest. Prognosis:" —here he paused, "death within one year." He stopped the recorder, but there was more to be said. "Why?" he asked aloud. "Why did You do this? You've put him here; You've put him in this pain; and You've cursed him to an early death. Why?"

The Lord answered and said, "The boy, My lamb, was not meant for your flock for long, for he is a part of My flock, and will forever be. Here, in My flock, he will feel no pain, and will be comforted as you cannot imagine. His parents will one day join him here, and they will know peace, and My flock will continue to grow."

The surgeon's tears were hot, but his anger was hotter. "You created that boy, and You created that heart. He'll be dead in months. Why?"

The Lord answered, "The boy, My lamb, shall return to My flock, for he has done his duty: I did not put My lamb with your flock to lose him, but to retrieve another lost lamb."

The surgeon wept.

The surgeon sat beside the boy's bed; the boy's parents sat across from him. The boy awoke and whispered, "Did you cut open my heart?"

"Yes," said the surgeon.

"What did you find?" asked the boy.

"I found Jesus there," said the surgeon.

Author Unknown

Sent by Trudy Myers
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