So Much More, p. 53-62 – Part 1: The Idiot’s Guide to Enabling and Minimizing Abuse

“A&E” refers to Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin, authors of So Much More. I chose the abbreviation to save space and time.

Remember the last post, where I said that A&E came off as clueless about abuse in the church? Well, now I know they’re clueless. I’m also 100% convinced that if they ever encountered an abuser or manipulator in real life, they would be completely taken in by him (and yes, obviously abusers and manipulators can also be female, but So Much More is about fathers so I’ll be using “him”), and either disbelieve his victim(s) or minimize their experiences. They are dangerous to anyone who is being abused, and I would never recommend So Much More or any other material by A&E to an abuse victim.

How can I say this with such confidence? Because in chapter 5, A&E attempt to address “less than perfect” father-daughter situations. Continue reading

Scarlet Letters Christmas “Concert” 2014

Just like last year, I’m not blogging over the holidays. (It was probably the twelve different concerts, services and parties during the month of December that got in my way. I know, I know, I really should just accept this and plan on it.) So just like last year, Scarlet Letters will be having a little music instead. Let’s get started with The Holly and the Ivy, an old English carol exploring the many ways holly has traditionally been seen as symbolic of the life of Christ. This energetic arrangement by June Nixon doesn’t use the most popular tune, but sure is fun and memorable anyway – and besides, you really can’t go wrong with the King’s College Choir! 😀

The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown.

C. Oh the rising of the sun,
The running of the deer,
The playing of the organ,
Sweet singing in the choir,
Sweet singing in the choir.

The holly bears a prickle
As sharp as any thorn,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
On Christmas Day in the morn.

The holly bears a bark
As bitter as any gall,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
For to redeem us all.

The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown.

Continuing with the plant theme, Jesus Christ the Apple Tree is not strictly a carol, but is often performed around Christmas. In fact, my choir performed it at their Lessons and Carols Service this year, though they used the better known arrangement by Elizabeth Poston. Personally, I like this one by Stanford Scriven better. The words were written in the 1780s by New Hampshire Baptist minister Joshua Smith; performance credit goes to the Luther College Nordic Choir out of Decorah, IA.

The tree of life my soul has seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.

His beauty doth all things excel;
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
‘Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

I’m weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest awhile:
Under the shadow I will be
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear has been sticking in my mind this last week of Advent. I think it’s for a number of reasons – senseless murders in New York City only a few days before Christmas, vitriolic political debates, the countless stories of abuse in the church I’ve read and heard in the past year. In my work as an organist, I’ve found that the third verse of It Came is usually omitted from hymnals, and sometimes the other verses are changed to fit the denominational agenda of the hymnal. I think that’s a shame. And so I give you this performance (again by King’s College); it doesn’t include the fourth verse but I’ve included it below. This is for all the folks reading this who have “suffered long” and want to “hear the angels sing” this Christmas.

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold;
“Peace on the earth, good will to men,
From heaven’s all-gracious King” –
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o’er its Babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.

But with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing!

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh, rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing!

For lo! the days are hastening on
By prophet bards foretold,
When, with the ever circling years
Comes round the age of gold;
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

This last carol, written by 16th-century English Jesuit Robert Southwell (his rather exciting backstory can be found here) is a favorite of mine, but you’re probably not familiar with it unless you already know Benjamin Britten. If you don’t, then this number from his famous A Ceremony of Carols is a great place to start! It’s the imagery of this carol that draws me in: Jesus breaking down the gates of hell and defeating death and Satan. It reminds me of a Greek Orthodox church a few minutes from my house, which has a window showing the triumphant Christ pulling Adam and Eve from their graves. Talk about a message of hope for Christmas!

This little Babe, so few days old,
Has come to rifle Satan’s fold;
All hell doth at His presence quake,
Though He Himself for cold do shake,
For in this weak unarmed wise
The gates of hell He will surprise.

With tears He fights and wins the field;
His naked breast stands for a shield;
His battering shot are babish cries,
His arrows looks of weeping eyes;
His martial ensigns cold and need,
And feeble flesh His warrior’s steed.

His camp is pitched in a stall,
His bulwark but a broken wall;
The crib His trench, hay stalks His stakes,
Of shepherds He His muster makes;
And thus, as sure His foe to wound,
The angels’ trumps alarum sound.

My soul, with Christ join thou in fight;
Stick to the tents that He hath pight;
Within His crib is surest ward,
This little Babe will be thy Guard.
If thou wilt foil thy foes with joy,
Then flit not from this heavenly Boy.

Merry Christmas(tide), everybody! 🙂