Old songs

When I was still a churchgoer the kind of music I most liked to sing was called “praise” music.  It was considerably more modern than the old hymns of my parents and grandparents generations.  When I hear it now, it reminds me of the pop music on programmed FM stations you can find anywhere in the country.  Usually the words were put on an overhead projector so it was easy to sing along.  Most praise songs are essentially love songs to Jesus.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  They say much the same thing…. I love Jesus, Jesus is my everything, I am nothing without Jesus.  There was something meditative about singing the same lyrics over and over again, in spite of their sappiness.

I really didn’t enjoy trying to sing from the hymnals; the phrasing was difficult and the melodies were not always easy to predict, especially with some of the more obscure hymns.  And they just didn’t rouse the emotions the way the praise songs did, because I had to concentrate so much to understand what the darn songs were talking about.

Over the past several years I have been immersing myself in early American music, primarily old-time music out of Appalachia.  And in the process I have come across some amazing songs that were written from the heart, with words reflecting the troubles of the times.   They move me on an emotional level because of the beauty and hardship and hopefulness that the songs represent.

The one I have fallen in love with most recently is called Ecstasy.  It was written by John Leland in 1793.  Crooked Still, a string band of brilliant young musicians, performs a modern version of the old Sacred Harp Hymn.   I’m no longer a Christian, but my history as a Christian will always stay with me.  I can still hear a song about Jesus and it can bring me to tears.  It makes me think of the lives of my grandparents and my ancestors before them.


Oh when shall I see Jesus and reign with Him above

and from the flowing fountain drink everlasting love
oh had  I wings I would fly away and be at rest
and I’d praise God in His bright abode

Whene’er you meet with troubles and trials on your way
cast all your cares on Jesus and don’t forget to pray

oh had I wings I would fly away and be at rest
and I’d praise God in His bright abode

Gird on the gospel armor of faith and hope and love
and when the combat’s ended He’ll carry you above

Oh had I wings I would fly away and be at rest
and I’d praise God in His bright abode

oh, do not be discouraged for Jesus is your friend
and if you lack for knowledge He’ll not refuse to lend

oh had I wings I would fly away and be at rest
and I’d praise God in His bright abode

A name that fits…

So I’ve spent a while trying to come up with the perfect name for a blog.  What I’ve discovered is that a lot of the good names are already taken, a result, I believe, of the fact that I’m always about a decade behind the game when it comes to technology.  But I think Lofty Minded works for me.  Imagining that I have something to say that others can relate to or care about seems a little lofty.  And all along the way I’m going to try to be mindful of what I say, and how I say it.  One of my very best friends has set a good example of mindfulness.  She thinks before she talks and as a result I trust that she will keep my secrets, give good advice and never respond in a way that will cause her to have regrets later on.

Right off the bat I want to say thanks to my cousin Bob for encouraging me to get my writing out there.   In a strange turn of events involving facebook I connected with him and know him better now than I ever did in the real world.  Maybe it’s because we have several state lines between us that I’ve trusted him to read some of my writing.  He’s always been kind, even when we’ve disagreed politically and more importantly, when I made him suffer through my not-so-good poetry phase.

What’s this blog going to be about you ask?  Well, sorry to let you down, but I don’t know yet.  After giving it some thought though I decided to start it anyhow.  One thing I’ve learned about myself that if I think too much about doing something, I tend not to do it.  I don’t want to rule any topic out at this point, although I’m going to shy away from politics for now.   What’s been on my mind lately is church, so that’s where I’m going to start.

I haven’t been a churchgoer for many years, and I don’t plan on going back.  But recently I’ve been missing aspects of it.  I miss the social network that comes with church attendance.  When my daughter was born 14 years ago the Methodist ladies made sure I didn’t have to cook a meal for two weeks.   That’s the sort of thing I miss.  And the music.  I don’t have many opportunities to sing (besides in the car or the shower) any more, and I do love the magic that happens when a roomful of people raise their voices together.    Most of my family of origin still adheres to the denomination I grew up in, the Assemblies of God Church, so by not attending or believing in its doctrine anymore, I feel a little like an outsider, which is a drag.

When it comes down to it, there’s still more about church that I don’t miss, so I won’t be changing my Sunday morning routine any time soon.    I’m just finally able to recognize that I have a few empty spots in my life since I stopped going.