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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
Saturday, February 24 2001

The roots of "soul" music

Some additional thoughts about the past two days' entries, where I proposed that there's something spiritually transcendent about popular love music, or "pop" as we've been calling it.

Others have observed that gospel music is the root of today's pop music, and that connection is the heart of my point. It could probably be claimed that America's first "hit song" was "Amazing Grace," lyrics written by English pastor John Newton some time between 1760 and 1775 (the origin of the music is unknown; some believe it may have been a tune hummed by slaves—Newton was a slave trader before his conversion to Christianity). If it wasn't the first hit song, it has surely been the longest surviving one in general awareness and acceptance. It's probably no mere coincidence that the biggest Protestant revival in history took place in the same generation that "Amazing Grace" appeared—both American and British Methodist and Baptist churches trace their origins and rapid growth to that revival. Imagine the effect if a revival meeting was the biggest—or only—entertainment in town, and its most singable song was "Amazing Grace...."

Other gospel songs or hymns by Newton and by his contemporary, Charles Wesley, his predecessor Martin Luther, and others have a popular appeal, being very easily remembered and speaking to primal human emotions. Luther, whose most famous songs are "Away in a Manger" and "A Mighty Fortress is Our God," allegedly adapted some of his tunes from German drinking songs, again reinforcing the link between spiritual songs and pop music.

There has been a melding of sorts taking place in Protestant and Roman Catholic musical developments in the past three decades. The songsmiths of both spiritual families have been majoring on "praise songs" for the past generation, both freely making use of each other's work. The claim can be defended that it is in modern gospel music that the two have their greatest theological and ecclesiastical common ground.

As always, your feedback is appreciated. And I have to agree with Jim Martin that Roy Rogers was a better singer than Gene Autry, though Autry must have had the biggest "hit" between the two ("Here Comes Santa Claus")?

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Why men are not secretaries...

Husband's note on the refrigerator to his wife: Doctor's office called; said, "Pabst beer is normal."

Sent by Mike Harrison

Being a friend

One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying all of his books. I thought to myself, "Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd."

I had quite a weekend planned with parties and a football game with my friends the next afternoon, so I shrugged my shoulders and went on. As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him. They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him. He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes. My heart went out to him.

So, I jogged over to him and, as he crawled around looking for his glasses, I saw a tear in his eye. As I handed him his glasses, I said, "Those guys are jerks. They really should get lives."

He looked at me and said, "Hey thanks!" There was a big smile on his face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude. I helped him pick up his books, and asked him where he lived. As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I hadn't seen him around before. He said he had gone to private school before now. I would have never hung out with a private school kid before. We talked all the way home, and I carried his books. He turned out to be a pretty cool kid. I asked him if he wanted to play football on Saturday with me and my friends. He said yes. We hung out all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him, and my friends thought the same of him.

Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again. I stopped him and said, "Boy, you're gonna really build serious muscles with this pile of books everyday!" He just laughed and handed me half the books. Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends. When we were seniors, we began to think about college. Kyle decided on St. Francis, and I was going to Pitt. I knew that we would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem. He was going to be a doctor, and I was going for business on a football scholarship.

Kyle was valedictorian of our class. I teased him all the time about being a nerd. He had to prepare a speech for graduation. I was so glad it wasn't me having to get up there to speak. Graduation day, I saw Kyle. He looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He filled out and actually looked good in glasses. He had more dates than I did, and all the girls loved him. Boy, sometimes I was jealous. Today was one of those days.

I could see that he was nervous about his speech, so I smacked him on the back and said, "Hey, big guy, you'll be great!" He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled. "Thanks," he said.

As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began. "Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years. Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach...but mostly your friends. I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them. I am going to tell you a story."

I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told the story of the first day we met. He had planned to kill himself over the weekend. He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldn't have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home. He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile. "Thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable." I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment. I saw his Mom and Dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile. Not until that moment did I realize its depth.

Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture you can change a person's life, for better or for worse. God puts us all in each other's lives to impact one another in some way. Look for God in others.

Sent by Mike Harrison
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