Bundle!

•February 16, 2012 • Leave a Comment

We had a fantastic time at the L’Abri Conference this past weekend!  Good conversation, good talks, and we loved having the honor of sharing the Ghostly Songs with this thoughtful crew.

We were surprised when we sold out of the little “Katy and Kenny bundle” we created for the weekend, and made some promises that we would make this bundle available online.

This is easily our best deal, and  a chance to get a really well-rounded taste of what we are up to.  Head to our store to get Ghostly Songs, All Of My Friends AND Kenny’s instrumental hymn CD Foundation and Fortress for $20 + S&H.  Enjoy, friends!

 

 

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Joachim Neander: Hymnwriter, Wild Child, Equestrian.

•February 2, 2012 • Leave a Comment

So, Joachim Neander is better known for Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation.  But we were so taken with Let Me Find Thee, in Ghostly Songs, were on more of a mission to share hymns that the church these days (at least in our corner) doesn’t know so well.

Neander was a wild child.   He went to a church with his friends with the express purpose of mocking it, and found himself moved.   I tried to paraphrase this account, but Catherine Winkworth’s wording is charming:

“But the sermon touched him so deeply that he determined to visit the preacher in private; and from this time he began to draw back from many of the coarser pleasures in which he had formerly indulged. But he was still a passionate lover of the chase, and once followed his game on foot so far that night came on, and he utterly lost his way among rocky and wooded hills, where the climbing was difficult even in daylight. He wandered about for some time, and then suddenly discovered that he was in a most dangerous position, and that one step forward, which he had been on the point of making, would have thrown him over a precipice. A horror came over him that almost deprived him of the power of motion, and in this extremity he prayed earnestly to God for help, vowing an entire devotion of himself to His service in the future. All at once his courage returned; he felt as though a hand were leading him, and following the path thus indicated, he at length reached his home in safety. From this day he kept his vow, and a complete change took place in his mode of life.”

I think I may be typical of my generation/culture when I respond to a dramatic story like this. God stopped his horse, and he vowed to follow God thereafter?  My cynical heart doesn’t know which I find harder to believe.  The vowing part, I think.  I know that God works in mysterious ways. I believe that God would stop his horse.

But the details sound like spiritualizing, to me, on first blush.  Here’s the portion of the story that gets me, and I’ll tell you why. We aren’t given the straight facts and allowed to make our spiritual conclusion.  We are told what was happening in terms of both the physical detail and spiritual detail.  The spiritual component isn’t considered interpretation, it’s consider the actual happening.  So, I hereby repent of my assumptions, and I’m going to take Winkworth and Neander (Winkworth is writing this account, above) at their words and consider that all things stated are fact.

FIRST…

Physical fact:  Neander and his horse stopped before going over a precipice, thus killing Neander.  And the horse.

Spiritual and emotional fact:  A horror came over him that almost deprived him of motion.  In this horror, Neander prayed to God for help.  Neander vows an entire devotion of himself.

THEN…

Physical fact:  The horse turns around, Neander reaches home in safety.

Spiritual and emotional fact:  Neander’s courage returned, and he felt as though a hand were leading him.  He follows the path indicated (passive…by God via the horse, I’m guessing).

AND THEN…

Physical fact:  A complete change took place in his mode of life.

Spiritual and emotional fact:  A complete change took place in his mode of life.

And so, it seemed, it had.  Not “happily ever after” exactly.  It’s hard to get publicly charged with heresy and shamed out of town and have to leave your friends and go live in a cave.  It’s hard to die at 30 of tuberculosis.  But after God stopped Neander’s horse, Neander delved in and teased out his faith and found a hiding place in his Maker.  Still a wild child, really.

Neander wrote this the year before he died, and I believe him:

Earthly treasure, mirth and pleasure

Glorious name, or richest hoard,

Are but weary, void and dreary 

To the heart that longs for God.

Let me find Thee–let me find Thee!

I am ready, mighty Lord.

(You can hear our version of Let Me Find Thee here.)

Let Me Find Thee. Please.

•January 31, 2012 • Leave a Comment

A quick thought on a Ghostly Song during naptime…

We were instantly drawn to Joachim Neander’s hymn Let Me Find Thee.  (Remember, you can go listen online for free.  Have at it.)

Some hymns draw me by sheer poetry, some draw me by a beautiful metaphor that shows me a facet of the gospel in a new light and makes it lovely again. Let Me Find Thee pulled my heart by its sheer, raw honesty and neediness.  I can relate.

Here behold me, as I cast me at Thy throne, O glorious King.

It’s the cry of a desperate child before their sovereign.

Tears fast thronging, childlike longing, Son of Man, to Thee I bring.

Here is what I have as a gift, Your Majesty: desperation.  Wait, let me address you as the Son of Man instead.  If I address you as my King first, sans the reality that you became a human and felt and lived through all of the ashes and brokenness and want and did something about it, I might just be swallowed up.  Son of Man, to you I bring this broken heart.

Let me find Thee- let me find Thee!  Me, a poor and worthless thing.

And there’s the chorus for you.  Let me find Thee, Let me find Thee.  Over and over.  Like a game of hide and seek that sometimes feels mean, sometimes feels playful, depending on who we perceive Him to be at the time.  And it changes throughout the song, throughout the hymn.

One mark of a good hymn, if you ask me: a sturdy wrestling, a heart-stretching working through.  Not necessarily resolution.  And so goes this hymn.  It still ends with

Let me find Thee- Let me find Thee!  

but then

I am ready, mighty Lord. 

No answer, no “I found you!” in the hymn.  But ears open, eyes open, heart open.  What a brave place to be, and I think more and more that this is the place of faith.  “I don’t see your answers right now, I can’t see past my face, but I gather you’re up to something good, and I think your heart is better than mine.

Look upon me, Lord, I pray thee, 

Let Thy Spirit dwell in mine;

Thou hast sought me, Thou hast bought me,

Only Thee to know I pine;

Let me find Thee- let me find  Thee!

Take my heart and grant me Thine.

I’ve hung around this spiritual neighborhood a lot lately, so I’ve been singing this one a good bit.  Anyone have a problem with me using this as a lullaby?  I sing it to my daughter as she falls asleep, along with The Sands of Time Are Sinking and There’s a Hole in My Bucket.    I think she’ll need this one in her arsenal, too. I do.

In the next post, I’ll tell you some about Joachim Neander, the writer of this hymn.  He’s got a story that’s worth telling at the neighborhood pub.

Circles of Friends

•January 14, 2012 • 1 Comment

When you read about Heinrich Albert, composer of God Who Madest Earth and Heaven, you read about his friends.

Albert, the organist at Konigsberg Cathedral, lived in hard times. In Catherine Winkworth’s book Christian Singers of Germany, she chronicles the life and times of those who wove together the hymnody of Germany.  When I explored the entry about Albert, I found this curious little entry about The Konigsberg Circle (Albert and his friends) just prior:

” At Königsberg in those stormy days lived a little knot of friends who by no means escaped their share of trouble, but found solace under it in their religion, their mutual friendship, and the practice of music and poetry.”  Albert’s best friends were this little crew of pastors, professors and poets, all writers of hymns and sacred poetry.  One entry prior describes some of the share of trouble:  war, plague, famine.  Not the little stuff.  There’s not much that’s bigger stuff in terms of human suffering, in both breadth and depth.

So, how did they deal?  They came together, they worshipped God, they sang and wrote new songs and poems.  There’s something amazing to me at the idea that they wrote new songs.  Digging up the old ones seems more manageable, more likely to me, I guess.  Yes, let’s sing of where God has been good.  Let’s remember.  Let’s write about where we have (past tense) seen His goodness, His mercies, His kindnesses.

But writing new ones?  New songs about God’s goodness?  That is something else entirely.  There must have been power in the truth they were telling one another, comfort in it, comfort in their fellowship, strength in banding together.  And God must have indeed been real to them and showing them new mercies in the midst of suffering: you don’t just make that stuff up  when you’re pressed and breaking.

I haven’t been enduring famine or plague, but I did immediately identify when I heard about the Konigsberg Circle.  I, too, have a little knot of friends- poets, musicians, professors- who sing and write about God’s goodness and with whom I share fellowship and find solace in God’s goodness.  I’ve been all wrapped up with and folded in with them over the last fifteen years or so.

This little crew has been a source of solace, strength, sanity and the hands and feet of Jesus to me over and over again.  Our songs, our words, our cups of tea, our tears, our late night talks, our sleepless new parent nights, our well-placed words that we didn’t know would matter, our apologies, our repentance, our just not abandoning one another when it sure seemed easier or less painful- they’ve knit us all together.  I suspect, I know, that this is really unusual, and just doesn’t happen that much.  Sometimes I want to scrap it all.   These people know too much, and I’m way too exposed.  But they’ve still dealt kindly with all of my uselessness,  clumsiness and exhaustion, being the heart of Jesus to me, too.

And this, again, is why I do this project.  Digging back and finding stories like mine points me to a Storyteller who works in certain ways, Whose work has certain fingerprints and a certain aroma. The more I learn about where it’s happened before, the more clues I have about what He’s up to now.  Looking forward to overlapping our circles more, Konigsberg Circle.

Beginning at the beginning: God Who Madest Earth and Heaven

•January 2, 2012 • 4 Comments

So, with a new year, we’ll begin at the beginning!

When Catherine Winkworth made her collections of English translations of German hymns, she made a collection that went along with the Christian calendar, called Lyra Germanica:  The Christian Year.  She carefully selected hymns by their themes to pair along with holidays, moments and seasons of the liturgical Christian year.

She also chose songs to pair with for occasions within the Christian life. Morning hymns, Evening Hymns, Hymns for the Sick and Dying.  How often in the church today do we find CDs of “Songs for the Sick and Dying”? Not particularly marketable, I suppose.  But as we’re all dying, perhaps they are.

We thought, though, that as Catherine considered her song order so well, we would try to do the same, albeit with our eight little selections.  So, we began at the beginning with God Who Madest Earth and Heaven.  It was written by Heinrich Albert, the organist of the Konigsberg Cathedral.  Albert was also part of a group of friends who saw one another through adversity and joy together.  Our friend David Richter often quotes Francis Schaeffer when he talks about “being wrapped up in a bundle of life together” with our friends.  Such were the Konigsberg Circle.  I’ll tell you more about them in the next post:  I love how a good story  or song often springs from another story.

Chattanooga

•October 10, 2011 • Leave a Comment

We had the joy of brainstorming and having lunch with Shaun LaRose when we passed through Chattanooga this past Thursday.  We’re really excited to be planning a joint art show/Ghostly Songs evening at St. Elmo’s Fire Hall on Thursday, November 17 at 7 pm.  Come join us!  We’re hoping this is the first of a series of special happenings with Shaun and his gorgeous artwork.

Who is Catherine Winkworth?

•September 27, 2011 • Leave a Comment

We’re so glad you asked.  Catherine Winkworth translated hundreds of hymns from German to English for the first time, after becoming interested in the idea through her conversations with the German ambassador.  Her work ended up being used in the Anglican church in particular, and abroad in a number of English speaking countries.  We fell for a number of German hymnwriters as we worked on this project, such as Paul Gerhardt and Ernst Moritz Arndt.  As we dug around for possible translations, though, Ms. Winkworth’s so often stood head and shoulders above others in beauty and richness of language.

Most of our research, by the way, ended up being done through the Christian Classics Ethereal Library– a formidable project undertaken by the good folks at Calvin College.  There we found- and you can, too- Catherine’s thoughtful collections of hymn translations from German, especially Lyra Germanica.  You can find The Christian Life, a topical collection.  The Christian Year, wherein hymns are paired with fittings moments in the church calendar.  And if you really start to geek out and dig into the history, you can find Christian Singers of Germany, full of history of German musicians and church history.  This is where we’ve begun.  Join us?