Hymn books: what we’ve lost and gained.

blue hymn booksI’ve really enjoyed following some blog discussions about hymnals in recent weeks (which you can find at the end of this post). In the space of around 30 years most church congregations have moved away from using them at all. Those piles of well-thumbed and well-sung collections of hymns have disappeared from church foyers and from the experience of many church-goers. In fact, if you are under the age of twenty you may have no memories at all of singing from a hymn book.

Last night I pulled out my little, moth-eaten, blue hymnal at the dinner table.  My ‘elderly’ teenagers and twenty-year-old were bemused by the little tome. And while not entirely oblivious to the contents, they did find my rendition of the drawn out and repetitive phrase from “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” quite amusing: ‘And Crow… ow.. ow.. own Him! Crown Him! Crown Him! Crown Him and Crown Him Lord of All’. (Who said hymns were easy to sing, and not repetitive?)

Whenever there is a great cultural shift in the way something is done there will naturally be losses, and gains. (The internet itself is one giant case in point. While it allows me the opportunity to write and share with people on the other side of the world it can also distract me from giving good attention to the people under my roof!)

And of course we shouldn’t forget two things: the church has done without hymn books before – when people repeated or memorised the lyrics; and, the collection of hymns we have used in church in the last few hundred years are not actually the ones referred to in the Bible, in Ephesians 5:18-19. Those hymns and spiritual songs have been lost forever.

For me, the move away from hymn books has meant the loss of something tangible, a bound book of songs for the church, which have been agreed on and published for their value in helping us praise God, in spirit and truth. People could own or borrow a hymn book and look up songs and reflect on the lyrics. As a child who loved words, I spent many a Sunday service pouring over the hymn book (especially if the sermon was very long or over my head). I devoured both the poetry and theology they contained. They challenged me to learn new words and concepts about God. I was also fascinated by the names of the hymn writers and the years they lived, and wrote, as well as the number of hymns written by each person. This little blue book was something of a little Blue Box, bigger on the inside, and a portal to the rich history of the church for the past few centuries. (If you understand this Doctor Who reference, you may like to visit my old Blue Box Parables blog, on finding Christ in popular culture.)

While I have been brought up on hymns, (and learned to sing harmony because of them, and probably learned to read music from the hymn book on the piano at home) I am not mourning their loss. I have been part of the movement of change, and spent the last few decades looking for spiritual songs and hymns which will edify and teach us well. Alongside this new body of songs, most churches retain the ‘good old hymns’ in their repertoire, hymns that are biblical and continue to encourage people today. Modern adaptations of hymns also help keep the ones worth singing alive (while those full of obscurities and archaic phrases are happily shelved for good).

The authors of the following posts have explored these losses and gains in much more detail and you can read them at your leisure. But to close, I will quote myself for a change, and refer you back to a post written in the defense of new songs in 2012.

In a nutshell, I argued that new songs say that God is doing something here and now, not just a few hundred years ago: “. . . it also comes down to the concept of “renewing our minds”. By hearing the gospel explained in new and fresh ways, our understanding of God and the gospel of His grace is strengthened and deepened. That has got to be a good thing.” 

You will find that Tim Challies also picks up this point in the third post below (which is his own response to his first post about things we lost when hymn books were set aside). The second and fourth links below are other people’s responses to Challies’ original post.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Please comment below. Blessings!

https://www.challies.com/articles/what-we-lost-when-we-lost-hymnals

https://gregoryktyree.wordpress.com/2017/04/06/what-we-gained-when-we-gave-up-our-hymnals/

https://www.challies.com/articles/what-we-gained-when-we-lost-the-hymnal

https://chrislinzey.com/2017/04/09/hymnals-we-dont-need-no-stinkin-hymnals/

https://sevennotesofgrace.com/2012/07/31/new-songs-say-god-is-doing-something-now/

My top five – most viewed in 2016

thanksWordPress.com users published more than 595 million posts in 2016.  That’s slightly more than I managed to publish, but I do love the way much of my older content continues to be useful and encouraging to people all over the globe. Here are my top 5 most viewed posts this year. If you have only just followed me, you might like to check out why they are still popular. 

5. How to Encourage your music team even when you’re not the leader
How great would it be if every single player and singer and sound technician took up the opportunity to positively influence the way their team functions. Consider the following list, 10 ways team players can be more encouraging members of their music team. . .

4. All of Creation Sing with me now, the veil is torn
Without being zapped or burnt to a crisp we sinful humans can now see the “glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). Mercy Me’s song All of Creation gets quite a mention as well.

3. The Conundrum of Keys, Capos and Congregational Singing
This post contains four rules of thumb that I find work well when selecting singable and playable keys for church singing.

2. The Cross Has Made You Flawless
This post generated quite a lot of discussion – around the song Flawless. See what you think. In Christ we stand before our heavenly Father as perfect, flawless people. We are wrapped up in Christ’s righteousness.

1. Never Alone
This most viewed post shares a congregational song, Never Alone. It has a simple melody (great for church singing) and the lyrics bring such comfort. Christ is with us! We are not alone . . . no matter how alone we may feel.
“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
(NLT Matthew 28:20)

Thanks for reading in 2016! Merry Christmas!

Ros

 

Just get writing!

writingOne thing I love about the blog writing process, and the whole community of world-wide blogging, is that it helps writers develop backbone. Once you share a few posts, and experience the joy of interaction, you learn that it is okay, applauded even, if you are willing to construct and share your opinion, no matter how controversial it may be. Though it is pretty scary to put your ideas up for the scrutiny of an unknown audience, once you see how your thoughts can create a stir, there is a great reward! I suppose it is akin to the ‘butterfly effect’, where a small action or even just a word can create significant ripples in our global village.

The writing process also helps us get over that great concern we humans share for ‘what other people will think’. I see this fear at work in many places in life, in church, in music, in families, and in school. In fact, this fear of condemnation in others’ thinking is a huge burden for teenagers in the education process. I have seen so many students hold back their ideas, their creativity and enthusiasm for the fear of being judged.
“If we’re constantly dependent on the approval of other people we’ll always be afraid of failure. If we’re constantly needing the affirmation and praise of those around us then we’ll never take any creative risks. We’ll never have the guts to stick our necks out and possibly look silly. Because other people might disapprove of us. They might think that our painting or speech or novel or spreadsheet or organizational blog or hand sewn shirt is pretty lame. And that would sting. We would feel bad about ourselves, which would then lead to us eating a complete bag of Oreos in one sitting.”
from Stephen Altrogge: How to overcome the fear of doing creative work

This is largely why I’m encouraging my English students to start up their own blog this year . . . and simply get writing! Some students are really getting into the swing of things, writing several posts a week – and for others, they are a little slower on the uptake. One thing is for sure, if they catch the blogging bug they will quickly develop into very skilled proof-readers, and ultimately very fearless writers. The world certainly needs more writers like this. Write on!

 

Is your Smart phone making you dumb?

driving texting dangerousSmart phone technology has brought many radical social changes in the last decade or so. People are doing things (without a second thought) that were once considered really stupid or anti-social. Who would have thought we humans would try operating a motor vehicle while staring at a three-inch screen? Or walking on a train platform doing the same? Imagine sitting with a group of friends and gazing intently at the palm your hand, offering them no conversation or eye contact! Perhaps you have already observed some of these odd and addictive tendencies in the people around you – and most frighteningly, in yourself!

A columnist in our local paper just confessed to being a phonoholic. “My phone has become the 207th bone in my body. I think I would feel barely upright without it. . . Such a feeling has been named nomophonophobia – the fear of being without your mobile phone.” (J. Fynes-Clinton, Sept 26, 2013)

Smartphones don’t discriminate in taking prisoners! It is not only those selfie-taking tween addicts who are at risk of losing all their ‘smarts’ to their smart phone. In fact, our “selfie-obsessed” Prime Minister posted his latest shaving cut via Instagram just weeks before the election (he lost). So, before we all lose our common sense to our smart phones, let’s ‘hang up’ on excessive smart phone use. Here are 10 things you should know about your awesome smart phone (before you find yourself cast in the sequel of Dumb and Dumber To):

1. Smart phones don’t make you smarter and won’t make you happy.
Yep, they sure are sleek, complex and nifty little gadgets that do cool things. They can connect you to a web of ‘friends’, music, video, games and the latest social news – but they may detract from your wisdom, intelligence and satisfaction level. You can become so reliant on mobile google that you give up thinking or remembering anything! Smart phones may make you look cool, acceptable and impress your friends, but there are more important things in life, which can bring greater and lasting joy.

2. People are better than Smart phones.galaxy-s4-life-companion
Have we forgotten this?  People are unique and complex individuals. They have more potential to surprise, entertain and inspire you than anything you’ll flick by on the small screen. Living, three-dimensional, high resolution people make far better company. No matter what Samsung may tell you, your smart phone is not a ‘life companion’. People are way smarter and worth investing in. Try paying close attention to their faces, eyes and body language – and see what happens. Don’t become so dependent on that small screen that you lose touch with real people and relationships.

3. They make you forget basic good manners and conversation skills.
Smart phones make us think it is acceptable to silently stare at a little screen in the presence of another human being, especially when everyone else is doing it! (Actually, everyone else has to do it so they don’t feel ignored!) We even think it’s fine to do so when someone is actually speaking to us. Hello!?

4. They tempt you to build your self-esteem on how many people like your social media updates.
How easy to become addicted to that sort of affirmation when it is at your fingertips? Do you really need to know that people like your latest meal or cup of coffee? Smart phones encourage us to binge on social media. Turning off those distracting phone notifications may allow you to engage fully with people in the moment.

attention-while-walking5. You look pretty silly when your phone is constantly in hand.
And you’ll looking sillier if you injure yourself while walking and typing. In New Jersey, police began (May 2012) issuing $85 citations for careless walking, and the Utah Transit Authority made distracted walking around trains punishable by a $50 fine. Signage is also being used widely to reduce pedestrian accidents caused by texting. Try putting the thing in your bag or pocket, or in another room. And by the way, smart phones and toilets don’t mix well for many reasons!


6. They tempt us to be a stupid driver who texts or updates Facebook while driving.
How easy would it be to stop the car to attend to that important text message? Facebook also can wait! If you must recharge your phone in the front of the car, shut it in the glove box or put it out of reach so you won’t be easily tempted. (Besides that, it is pretty stupid not to avoid a fine for being on your phone while driving, if you can.)

7. Smart phone technology addiction can actually rewire your brain, to be less smart!
In “The Brain that Changes Itself” (2008) author Norman Doidge says that our dependence on this technology can rewire our brains to the extent that it becomes difficult to concentrate on a complex conversation or listen to a lecture. “Electronic media are so effective at altering the nervous system because that both work in similar ways. . . Both involve the instantaneous transmission of electronic signals to make linkages. Because our nervous system is plastic*, it can take advantage of this compatibility and merge with the electronic media, making a single, larger system. . . Now man is beginning to wear his brain outside his skull, and his nerves outside his skin” (p.311). At the very least, excessive smart phone use discourages us from tackling problems, conversations, a novel or the philosophical writings of great thinkers. Why? Because these things do not involve the instantaneous gratification of electronic media.
(‘Plastic’ means it can change and adapt.)

8. Your eyes can suffer.
Those muscles for distance vision will become weak if you are staring at a small screen constantly, keeping your eyes operating at the same focal length all the time. Researchers have actually recorded an increase in myopia (short-sightedness). Read more here.

9. Sleep can become elusive.electronic-light-sleep
The glow of the smart phone screen prevents our bodies releasing seratonin, which helps us fall and stay asleep. Your brain needs sleep to be smart – so again the smart phone doesn’t make you smart. No smart phones in your bed/bedroom may be a smart policy in your home (and mine). Read more here

10. Excessive self-absorption will not make the world a better place.
The idea of showing a random act of kindness or service to someone else can become so far-removed from our thought patterns if we are no longer observing the people around us. Blinkers are for horses, not for people – people who have the power to impact those around them for good. If you want to see more good, more love, more thoughtfulness in the world, take off those smart phone blinkers and live again!

(Check out this post about a guy who is going to divorce his iphone: http://www.oddcrunch.com/why-you-should-get-a-divorce/0)

You may also enjoy:

Why music makes our brains sing                                         Music – food for the soul & brain
brainsingpiano

Thanks for the blog award!

notes 7I was recently nominated for the Liebster Award by one of my blog followers: http://savurbks.wordpress.com/ (Check out their About to understand their intriguing title!)  I am honored to accept as well as humbled to have been nominated. (The Liebster Award is an award designed to help bloggers enter the blogging community.)  I’ve just reached 10000 views on my blog this weekend and I’m really enjoying sharing with people all over the globe.

Here are the questions I was posed and my answers:liebster
1. If you could meet any author, whom would you like to meet?
Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird
2. What is your favorite childhood book?

My Little Dinosaur – a Little Golden Book!
3. If you could watch a movie adaptation of any book, which book would you choose?
Markus Zusak’s THE MESSENGER. His other most famous book, THE BOOK THIEF, will be released as a film later this year.
4. What is your favorite genre of books?
Historical fiction – though I do read heaps of non-fiction books, in the realms of psychology and relationships.
5. What is the next book on your “must read” list?
Eric Metaxas’ biography on Bonhoeffer.
6. If you could visit any place in the world, where would you go?
The National parks in the USA and Canada would be awesome. But I live so far away! New Zealand might have to do.
7. Who is your role model?
As a Christian I obviously follow Jesus and want to have his ‘mind’ in my living, in my attitude to the things of this world, and to others. But there are plenty of wise older Christian women I attempt to emulate in their attitude to their husbands, children and living in general – probably not one particular person.
8. If you wrote a book, what would the title be?
“In Pitch Silence” (I’ve even described the basic plot to my daughter but just haven’t made a start!)
9. What book has inspired you through use of a Bible verse?
THINK by John Piper – which encourages us to think on God’s word and be changed: “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” (2 Timothy 2:7) (You can find a good review here.)
10. Why or how did you start bogging?
Having a journalism degree and many years working as a high school English/History/Media teacher, I thought it would be fun to start writing and sharing some ideas with people out there – particularly on my two favourite topics, music and God’s grace. That is simply how sevennotesofgrace was born. (But it was tricky to devise the blog title I must say). It is fun to see your words ‘published’ and shared, so they can be an encouragement or challenge to others.

Though extremely hard to choose, I am limited to only ten blog nominees, so here are my choices:

A Journey of faith (http://daughterbydesign.wordpress.com/about/)
An Imperfect Life made perfect by grace (http://sheensteve.wordpress.com/about/)
Sermons and Soda Water (http://sermonsandsodawater.wordpress.com/about/)
Revelling in the Overflowing Grace of God (http://bickleyhouse.wordpress.com/about/)
Proverbs Way  (http://proverbsway.com/about-2/)
Chong’s Worship (http://www.chongsworship.com/about/)
Singing in Babylon (http://singinginbabylon.wordpress.com/about/)
Journey of Joy (http://greatjourneyofjoy.com/about/)
Eternitainment (http://eternitainment.com/about/)
One Passion One Devotion (http://onepassiononedevotion.wordpress.com/about/)

And I will also mention this favourite blog (though her blog is declared ‘award free’ – so I’m not really giving her an award :))
Lessons by Heart (http://lessonsbyheart.wordpress.com/about/)

Here are a few procedures to forward this Award on (if you so desire):
– Link back the blogger that tagged you
– Nominate ten others and answer the questions of the one who tagged you
– Ask ten questions for the bloggers you nominate
– Let your nominees know of their award
(Please let me know when you answer the questions as I would like to check back and read through your answers.)

And here are your questions, my dear nominated blogs!
1. What do you remember about your favourite teacher?
2. What was your favourite childhood book?
3. Which fictional book would you like to live in?
4. What is your favourite bible book – why?
5. What is your favourite Christian band/artist?
6. Where do you do your best thinking?
7. Where in the world would you most like to visit?
8. What is the next book on your to read list?
9. Why/how did you start blogging?
10. What is the most burning question you have – to ask God?

Again, thank-you to http://savurbks.wordpress.com/. Have fun and enjoy the Award!