bluegrass rules!

There is a quality to good bluegrass music that just isn’t available in other music. The players are amazingly talented, as the tunes are often quite quick with intricate picking lines. The sounds of the bass and mandolin as they fill in the sounds where a drum kit would go, the riffing of the guitar, dobro, banjo, mandolin make a sweet, sweet music to my ears. To me, that high and lonesome sound of bluegrass connects the earthly to the heavenly. The lyrics often cover deep tragedies (although often deserved by the subject of the song), cries to Jesus, and a little revelry.

Some good examples include “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” (Richard John Thompson):
“…Said James to Red Molly / Here’s a ring for your right hand / But I’ll tell you in earnest / I’m a dangerous man / I’ve fought with the law since I was seventeen / I robbed many a man to get my Vincent machine / Now I’m 21 years, I might make 22 / And I don’t mind dying / But for the love of you / And if fate should break my stride / Then I’ll give you my Vincent to ride / Come down, come down Red Molly / Called Seargent McCrae / For they’ve taken young James Adie for armed robbery / Shotgun blast hit his chest / Left nothin’ inside / Come down Red Molly to his dying bedside…” (check this one out on the Del McCoury Band album Del and the Boys)

“Mother’s Only Sleeping”:(Bill Monroe)
“Mother’s not dead / She’s only a-sleepin’ / Just patiently waiting / For Jesus to come / The birds will be singing / While Mother lies sleeping / They will sing o’er her / As the grave sinks away” (You can check this out on Ricky Skaggs album History of the Future.)

I aspire to be a genuine picker myself – I have played guitar 16 years now, but only in the last couple have I tried playing bluegrass. I don’t think I can officially say I qualify as a bluegrass picker until I play with some other bluegrass folk – playing alone hardly counts.

Bluegrass has kept me into my guitar as I have grown ever so weary of the old guitar worship music I’ve played for so many years. I played the old music first because I liked it, but then more and more simply because people wanted to hear it, even if I didn’t want so much to play. I have pretty much stopped playing those songs in the last year or two. I had gotten to a point where they seemed manipulative of emotions, in some ways, a strange ‘erotic’ form of church music. There are times when hearing “Shine, Jesus, Shine” made me want to scream. (As Amy pointed out to me one time, somewhat jokingly, “Isn’t the altar guild supposed to do the shining?”) Hymns and chanting really suit me much better for worship.

Ironically, a friend from my old church, who is the drummer in the choir, called last night and invited me to come and play at a New Years Eve party at my old church… after I had written the above. It was a nice thought, but I have almost zero desire to play some of those songs now.

Anyway, I’ve found myself wondering what Orthodox Bluegrass would be like. The very thought brings a smile to my face.

Happy Nativity Eve!

the burden is lighter

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. –Galatians 5:1

I know it has been awhile since I have blogged. Honestly, I’ve been exhaling. More than I thought I would. I have been so worked up for the last few years over the tension in the church we have left and the tension of desiring to become Orthodox that I hadn’t realized just how bound up inside all of that had become. I’m sleeping better. I’m not clinching my teeth half of the time. I’m actually looking forward to what our Bishop (Metropolitan Isaias) has to say.

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. . . now, I am looking forward to having a church I can obey (or trust enough to try to obey despite my sinfulness) and to which I can submit myself. I want to immerse myself and bathe in the teachings, to work out my salvation with fear and trembling. And I need the Church to show me the way. I can’t do it by myself.

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My Nativity reading has been The Ladder of Divine Ascent by Saint John Climacus, and it has been offering insight into what sort of person should be our spiritual father. I pray I may find one who conforms to Saint John’s suggestions, among them:

Let us judge the nature of our passions and of our obedience and let us choose our spiritual father accordingly. If you are prone to lust, do not select as your trainer a wonderworker who is ready for everyone with a welcome meal, but rather an ascetic who will hear of no consolation with food. If you are haughty, then let him be stern and unyielding, and not meek and kindly. Let us not seek those who have the gift of foreknowledge and foresight, but rather those who are unquestionably humble and whose character and place of residence correspond to our maladies…
–Step 4.120

It is nice to feel so peaceful . . . Saint John has more to say on freedom from anger:

The beginning of freedom from anger is silence of the lips when the heart is agitated; the middle is silence of the thoughts when there is a mere disturbance of the soul; and the end is an imperturbable calm under the breath of unclean winds.
–Step 8.4

Now, I don’t think I’m at that imperturbable calm — I think it will take a long time, as other things do come up now and again to flare up my temper. And I’m not sure I’m fully free from my anger at the old church — but, I do feel so much better. Please don’t think the leaving had anything to do with how I wanted to feel. It had most everything to do with the discovery of the truths of Orthodoxy, and despite the great peace, it is still strange and a little difficult to adjust to, but I don’t think it will remain so for long. Last week at liturgy I just couldn’t believe how cool it was, although I so long to know more about how it is put together and how it works.

There is time. καιρός time.


William likes to kiss stuff. He’s always kissing me, the cat, his bears, his dad…pretty much, if he loves it, he’ll kiss it. Today he kissed the ornaments on the tree at school, and last week, I kid you not, he kissed a package of mushrooms. He loves mushrooms.

I think he’s going to fit right in with the Orthodox.