Month: September 2016


O Myghell! by grace of Cryst Iesu
Callid among angelis þe hevenly champioun,
Be a prerogatyf synguler of vertu,
Held a batayll, venquysshed the dragoun,
Be thow our sheld and our proteccyoun
In euery myschef of daungeris infernall,
Dyffende our party, presente our orisoun,
Vp to the lord that gouerneth all.

– John Lydgate

(Image and verse are Public Domain)

One of the classic hymns of an earlier day is “My Faith Looks Up To Thee”. The melody was written by Lowell Mason (1792-1872). Ray Palmer (1808-1887) wrote the lyrics:

My faith looks up to Thee;
Thou Lamb of Calvary;
Savior divine;
Now hear me while I pray;
Take all my guilt away;
O let me from this day be wholly Thine…

Ray Palmer was a Congregationalist minister, who graduated from Yale in 1830. According to Ernest E Ryden, author of Story of our hymns (1930; online here at, Palmer wrote these lyrics shortly after his graduation while working as a tutor at a New York school.  He was reading a German poem, and dashed some stanzas into a notebook  He was contemplating what it would be like to be a penitent sinner standing at the foot of the cross of Jesus.

Later, when Lowell Mason was compiling a hymn collection, he happened across Rev. Palmer on a street in Boston. Palmer had by then established a reputation as a decent poet, so Mason asked him to write something for a new hymnal. Palmer dug out his old notebook and gave him the lyrics.  Mason praised his work. “You may live many years and do many good things, but I think you will be best known to posterity as the author of My Faith Looks Up to Thee.”  Mr. Ryden has called the hymn “the most precious contribution which American genius has yet made to the hymnology of the Christian Church”.

I will tell another story. Nestled into the bucolic setting of the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, near Knoxville, is Johnson University (formerly Johnson Bible College). This small, nondenominational college was founded in 1893 as the School of the Evangelists. It was and is a symbol of frontier faith and zeal, which emanated out of the revivalist fervor of the “Second Great Awakening”. In 1904 the college suffered a major blow when a fire broke out and burned the Main Building to the ground.  Local lore has it that even as their dreams went up in smoke, the faculty and students held hands and sang this hymn together. (They were able to rebuild the following year).

The performance below is by an anonymous group of singers, performing an arrangement by Fred Waring; it is used in accordance with Creative Commons licensing, from the Internet Archive.

Here also is a lovely piano version, uploaded by someone named “HouseOfJoel”, also available in the Creative Commons section of the Internet Archives.

I read a fascinating article on gay marriage from “the inside”. Doug Mainwaring, a gay man who has no quarrel with gay rights, nonetheless has come to see marriage in a new light since his conversion to Christianity.

Marriage, says Mainwaring, is essentially a spiritual and theological concern. It is not primarily a problem of rights or politics or liberty; It is not a peripheral issue that is negotiable. Rather it is at the core of the gospel.

I am now a Christian, and even though I am same-sex attracted—or, more likely, because I am same-sex attracted—I marvel at the extraordinary significance of marriage in God’s eternal plan. Marriage is under siege because it stands at the heart of the Good News of the Gospel.

He elaborated further on this toward the end of the essay:

Marriage represents to humanity a taste of heaven, a blueprint of the eternity that awaits all who belong to Jesus Christ. Complementarity has never been incidental to God’s eternal plan. It is central, revealing the intentions of the heart of God

He marvels at the rapid capitulation of the culture on this issue. He asks, and answers, an interesting question:

Where does this tyranny, this powerful fury, this fierce, unearthly will to enforce such a novel idea come from? Why is same-sex marriage appearing in our nation and, in fact, all around the world so suddenly? Just a few years ago it was a laughable, ludicrous idea. Why is this strange new trajectory gripping the planet, and at such a frenetic pace?

…As a gay man, allow me to make what is perhaps a startling declaration: same-sex marriage is a great coup for the devil, far greater than individual homosexual acts or relationships ever were or ever could be. Same-sex marriage mocks Christ’s relationship with his Bride, the Church. That is the source of the fury being hurled at those who speak out against same-sex marriage.

The entire essay is interesting and highly readable. You may find it all online at The Public Discourse.

Thankfully, Ahmad Rahami, the man behind the New Jersey and New York bombings last week, was inept. No one was killed by the bombings. Thieves stole one of his suitcases, dropping the bomb that was inside and leaving it behind on the sidewalk as they fled with the stolen item. The suspect himself was arrested after being discovered sleeping in the doorway of a bar. In his running firefight with cops, he failed to kill anyone. In the end he was shot in the leg and subdued, rather than being ushered into the afterlife as a martyr. This terrorist wannabe was a loser on just about every measure that ISIS or other jihadist groups might use to evaluate him.

Don’t get me wrong; I am grateful! I will hope and pray that the real God–the God of peace–may become known to Mr. Rahami as he pays his debt to society behind bars.

You can read more of the strange tale of his last hours of freedom at The Telegraph (and elsewhere): “The Strange Story of an Unsuccessful terrorist: How New York bombing suspect Ahmad Rahami was caught”.


So much for the purity of academia. Here is another blemish on their record–another entry in our “reflections of the Fall” series.

The internal sugar industry documents, recently discovered by a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, and published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest that five decades of research into the role of nutrition and heart disease, including many of today’s dietary recommendations, may have been largely shaped by the sugar industry.

“They were able to derail the discussion about sugar for decades,” said Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at U.C.S.F. and an author of the JAMA Internal Medicine paper.

You can read more in today’s New York Times

Ground Zero Cross

Few events have shocked us more than the coordinated attacks that occurred on Sept 11, 2001. Terrorists commandeered four airplanes and slammed them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, and into the Pentagon building in Washington, DC; a fourth crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. In the aftermath of the destruction of the World Trade Center towers, some found solace in a cross made of steel I-beams, an accidental symbol of God’s presence and comfort, that was uncovered in the rubble.

On Sept 13, two days after the towers collapsed, a recovery worker discovered the cross:

He had just helped pull three bodies from the rubble when he saw it there in dawn’s first light, standing in a sea of debris. A heavenly symbol in a hellish setting. A cross.

Exhausted and traumatized by his labors, the man dropped to his knees in tears. “It was a sign,” Frank Silecchia would recall, “a sign that God hadn’t deserted us.” (USA Today)

The “9-11 cross” became a symbol of hope and encouragement for many. Some made pilgrimages to pray before it, and left messages there. Makeshift worship services were held there.

One minister at the site says that when a family of a man who died in the attacks came to the cross shrine and left personal effects there, “It was as if the cross took in the grief and loss. I never felt Jesus more.”
(Cited by Wikipedia; the original article is no longer available).

After a few weeks in its original location, the cross was hoisted up onto a pedestal. A Roman Catholic Priest, Brian Jordan, blessed the makeshift monument and proclaimed, “This is our symbol of hope, our symbol of faith, our symbol of healing.” Jordan had lost a friend on 9-11, and had been struggling to cope with questions of why God had allowed this to happen. Like the worker who discovered it, the cross struck him also as being a message from God.

Today that cross, having survived a challenge from the American Atheists, is on display in the 9-11 Museum. For those of the Christian persuasion, it is part of an answer to the question, “where was God?” He was (and is) right there, with us, in the midst of suffering and death.

I am startled to realize that it has been over a month since I last posted anything on this blog. I have had good intentions of commenting on some major issues that have arisen lately. However, I have found that my time has become consumed by other work, and the preparation for (and enjoyment of) a family vacation. Here are a couple of things.

1. The Olympics: Had I been more on task last month, I would have posted something about the faith statements of Olympians. Many of the greatest athletes in the world are also giants of spirit. They are Olympians of faith. We certainly appreciate them. For all people, whether or not you posses athletic prowess, there’s nothing better than to aspire to be an Olympian of faith. That is something attainable by the smallest, the slowest, the oldest, and the sickest among us.

2. Kayla Mueller: The recent publicity about Kayla Mueller, the aid worker who was kidnapped by ISIS, is another story worth telling. At the end of her life, she found an inner strength through her faith in God that allowed her to withstand unimaginable tortures. Her strength earned the respect of her fellow prisoners as well as her captors. Her faith prior to capture is a topic of some mystery. She once said something to the effect that some people find God in a church, but she found God in adversity, and her own life certainly demonstrates this. Our admiration is added to that of others, as she takes her eternal place among the great martyrs and heroes of the Christian faith.

If I get more time soon I may revisit these stories. For now I commend them to you for further research and reflection.