Thoughts about the journey through life.
It is Well with My Soul
Music by Philip Bliss
Tune: Ville du Havre
YouTube recording: http://youtu.be/tPR-vSCRNlE
1)When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
(Refrain:) It is well (it is well), with my soul (with my soul),
It is well, it is well with my soul.
2) Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
3) My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
4) For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pain shall be mine,
for in death as in life Thou wilt whisper
Thy peace to my soul.
5) And Lord haste the day, when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
After the great fire of 1871, in my beloved home of Chicago, which destroyed nearly everything I owned, I spent my days helping those whose loses were even greater. I worked with my dear friend D.L. Moody to do whatever we could to help our neighbors. Out of this, I began to feel His calling to know Him ever more and to pursue a different path for my life.
A couple of years after the Great Fire, my beloved wife, Anna and our four young daughters set sail to Europe for an extended vacation and to visit Mr. Moody as he preached throughout England. At the last minute I was detained on business and would have to follow them later. While in New York, booking them on their passage, I felt a need to change their cabins from mid-ship to the bow. I am not sure why I did this, I just felt it had to be done.
Oh what tragedy! My heart is broken into pieces! Why, oh God, did you take my children from me?
Just days after leaving my arms, my precious children passed into His arms as the Ville du Havre sank to the ocean’s bottom, rammed mid-ships by another vessel. Only my beloved Anna survived.
After receiving Anna’s telegram which read: “Saved alone. What shall I do?” I set out immediately to bring my beloved and heartbroken Anna home. One day, during the crossing, the captain calls me to the bridge. He shows me on his chart where we are and tells me it is here that Annie, Margret Lee, Elizabeth, and my infant Tanetta went home to be with Jesus.
Upon returning to my cabin I pour out my anguish and my continued dependence upon my Savior. Despite my utterly broken heart, I know that peace, which flows through my life, comes from the blood of Christ which was shed for me. No matter the hardships or trials which Satan may throw my way, I can rest in the comfort of my Savior.
Andrew Remillard from the perspective of Horatio Spafford
(A few years later Horatio, Anna, and their two young daughter born after the tragedy, Bertha, and Grace move to Jerusalem. They established the American Colony and dedicated the remainder of their lives to the care of the poor and needy without regard to faith or status. Horatio died of malaria in 1888 and was buried at the Mount Zion Cemetery in Jerusalem. Anna continued their labors in Jerusalem until her death in 1923. Their daughter Bertha also lived her entire life in Jerusalem.)
by John Newton (1725–1807)
Tune: New Britain
YouTube recording: http://youtu.be/Tq1qMwpvzZM
1 Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
2 ’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!
3 Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
4 The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
5 Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
6 The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.
7 When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.
As we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ we celebrate the most powerful message of all time in the cross as it represents one thing above all else: God’s totally underserved gift of grace. From the exile from Eden, where God provided the skins Adam and Eve were to wear; through the exile in Egypt and the arrival in the Promised Land, through the Law and Temple Sacrifices, all the way to the final sacrifice upon the cross, blood was required for our redemption. The consequences of sin are real, yet, in Grace a means for our redemption has been provided. On the Day of Resurrection God says once again: “I got this.” It is not of our doing, lest anyone should boast, but totally undeserving of redemption, we are redeemed by the grace of the Almighty. And how amazing that grace is to a wretch like me!
Through great sin we learn of greater salvation. John Newton (1725–1807) knew the power of grace first hand. He spent his youth from his pre-teen years until about 30 years old on the sea, primarily in the slave trade. He made many trips between Africa and the Americas picking up and selling Africans into slavery, taking African wives (even while married back home), and living a fully self absorbed life. He was a rebellious man toward both human authority and God’s authority. At one time his rebelliousness caused his own enslavement on the island of Sierra Leone. Sailors are known throughout history for their profane language, Newton was known as the most profane of all. He often would create new profanities, never before heard, and hurl them at the captain of his ship, much to the amusement of the crew and non-amusement of his captain. One time he was nearly starved and beaten to death for his indiscretions. He was a man who lived his life in open defiance of all authority and especially God’s authority. However, his recklessness often placed him near death, as these experiences piled up he began to wonder whether he could possibly be worthy of God’s mercy.
After one particularly harrowing sea voyage Newton had a conversion experience of sorts and decided to dedicate his life to God. However, the conversion process for him was very slow and only in stages was his life reclaimed for God.
At the age of 25 he married his childhood sweetheart Mary “Polly” Catlett. By 30, he suffered some sort of collapse and never returned to the sea. He gained work at a customs house and began to give himself the education he never received as a youth; teaching himself Latin, Greek, and Theology. He and Polly were very active in the local church and it was eventually suggested to him to apply for a clerical education. He was initially rejected because of his lack of education and his association with evangelicals and Methodists. These were small sects who operated independent of the official Church of England. He was eventually accepted and after his education took a position in Olney, a small town of about 2500 most illiterate farmers.
Amazing Grace was probably written about 1772, about 8 years into his new role as priest in the Anglican Church. It was not for another 8 years, in 1780 that he began to privately express regrets about his participation in the slave trade and not until 1785 that he began to actively speak against slavery which he did ardently for the rest of his life. This change in attitude is pretty reflective of the general thinking within in English Society as well. It was not until the late 18th century before the abolitionists movement began to take hold. Yet, throughout his life you can see the fearful working out of his salvation. Each of his near death experiences and humiliations brought him closer to knowing the Grace which was already present. Even after coming to an understanding and acceptance of God’s underserved and unfailing grace, Newton still had to grow in his understanding of what this grace demanded of him.
Newton never hid from his past and would use his own experiences to explain the Gospel to his congregation. The directness of this hymn and the first person language have made it one of the greatest Christian songs of all time. The language is very simple with very few even multi-syllabic words. The tune, source is unknown, is a simple pentatonic song. It has only 5 different pitches which is also common to all nursery songs. Out of such simplicity, God’s message has been declared to millions for nearly 250 years.
In the quiet, dusty corners of the social media world there is a site called: “You must be from Bad Axe, Michigan…” with around 1700 members. Most members are old Bad Axe natives who like to keep up with what is happening in their old hometown. Every once in a while someone will share a photograph, memory, or comment; that is until the recent passing of Mr. Ervin Ignash. The site erupted with activity after that, it seems everybody had a fond memory of Mr. Ignash’s tenure at the Bad Axe schools, his service and dedication had spanned generations and touched thousands of lives with his fairness and equanimity. This prompted an even a more intense and detailed conversation about others in the community who had shaped and impacted the lives of so many from our fair town.
What proceeded was a very long thread (still growing) listing dozens, if not hundreds of local business men and women, doctors, lawyers, and pastors who had worked and yes thrived in Bad Axe for decades. We reminisced about the days of the “drawings”, candy stores, 5 & 10 stores, cruising town (that didn’t take long), the Fair, and so on. What follows is something I shared with the group and I hope you might enjoy it as well.
“After Ted Rapson’s and other’s recent walks down memory lane, (felt so good it hurt), I came to a realization which I think has been slowly growing on me since my parents moved back to Bad Axe to retire about 8 years ago; Bad Axe really was a great place to grow up. My family moved to town in 1970 and I moved out in 1980 and couldn’t have been happier; off to the big city and the world beyond! I settled in another oddly named town: Downers Grove, IL, just outside of Chicago, (well, farther outside than Bad Axe is from the lake) I have 60,000 neighbors in Downers Grove and another 1,000,000 just in the county, about the size of Huron County. I can drive for 2 hours and still be stuck in the Chicago area.
I leave at every opportunity I can. I take poorly paying work way out in the country, hours away, just to breath the air and listen to the quiet.
I could never earn a living in my chosen field in a town such as Bad Axe, but I have found my heart and soul never left after all. My children have lived longer in Downers Grove than I did in Bad Axe, but they have no special attachment to this town. How could they? It is no different than any of the other 100 suburbs around here. When your high school is larger than Bad Axe’s entire population, you can go 4 years and make few friends. But when you go to school with the same kids for years… everybody will at least know your name not to mention your brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, and parents.
If you walk into a store here, you are one of 10,000 customers for the week and you almost never see the same employee twice, let alone learn anything about them. I try to patronize the small retailers here, but every year there are fewer.
I know Bad Axe has changed a lot since I left and will never be the same town many of us grew up in back… you know… then (however many decades you wish to admit to). But I think we had a sense of community and family which is impossible except in the small towns of the USA.
If I am destined to live the rest of my days away and only visiting on occasion, I am very thankful for the few years, many experiences, and life influencing people I met in that little town up in the Thumb.”
We never fully appreciate what we have until we have it no more; whether family, friends, prosperity, or a true home town. It took me over 30 years to learn that lesson. Thank-you Bad Axe for being, well, Bad Axe.
Sentimentally and respectfully
Play it Again, an Amateur Against the Impossible by Alan Rusbridger
Browsing through the new book collection at my local library I came across this book, at first I thought: “not another ‘how I came back to lessons as an adult’ book!” However, the “against the impossible” part of the title intrigued me a bit so I thought I would at least give a start. After the first bite my appetite became insatiable.
For those, like me, who have no idea who Alan Rusbridger is, let me give a quick biography of him. He, like most of us had piano lessons throughout his childhood, often he was less than a great student, sliding by on his wits more than his effort. He even took of the clarinet in his early teens. He advanced well but always short of his potential. He ultimately goes into journalism where he does excel and is quite successful reaching the editor’s desk of a major English newspaper by his 40’s. He has continued to play throughout his college years and adult years, though as his responsibilities increase he has less time for his past time. For a couple of years leading up to the events of this book he has attended a sort of summer camp for amateur pianists for a week. During the camp about two years ago one of the students plays the 1st Chopin Ballade and Alan gets bitten. He wonders “Could I possibly do that too?” He rashly commits himself to playing for the group the following summer and sets out to begin learning this work on about 20 minutes of practice a day!!?? (And this from someone who readily admits he never “practices”, he just plays around.) Through over 350 pages Rusbidger chronicles the personal discovery of what it means to commit oneself to the mastery of a great work of art.
During this period of his life, while sitting at the editors desk of The Guardian, he must deal with several major issues and stories, any one of which could have commanded all of his attention. There were three primary stories which compete with Chopin, 1) the need of traditional newspapers to find new business models to survive in the internet age 2) The Guardian was one the primary outlets for Julian Assange and Wikileaks 3) the Murdock news organizations engaged in massive illegal wire tapping of celebrities, politicians, and even crime victims, The Guardian broke the story.
Throughout the year leading up the next summer music camp Rusbidger shares the same struggles we all face in finding a balance between our work and our art. Unlike the rest of us, he has the opportunity to interview several internationally know pianists who share their thoughts about his adventure including, Emanuel Ax, Murray Perahia, and Alfred Brendel. In the end he finds that life has conspired against him, and though he has made remarkable progress by the next summer’s music camp, he is far from ready for a real “performance”. He reset the goal and plays on a couple different occasions in December of last year 1 1/2 years after starting to work on his project against the impossible.
He admits his performance is far from what one would expect from a professional pianist, but he and his audience found it a profoundly musical experience nonetheless. And here I think is the most important point of his writing. It is a celebration of the amateur’s music making. We often overlook the importance of music making in the living room as we get caught up in the celebrity of the concert hall or recording studio. Which is really more important to the art, Andras Schiff recording all of Bach’s Partitas or Mrs. Jones, down the street, learning her first Prelude and Fugue?
Earlier this year, just before Easter, I effectively lost the use of my left hand due to arthritis. I had surgery to restore some functionality and while the surgery went fine, the infection which followed was devastating. When I was admitted to the hospital I feared that anything which hurt this much could not stay attached to my body. But through the grace of modern medicine, the skill and patience of my doctors and nurses, the love of my wife Diane, and the many prayers from my fellow Christians I survived and have been able to return to my seat behind the keyboard.
Throughout this episode I had the time to reflect on a number of questions. Before I knew for sure that my hand would work well enough to play again I considered why was it so important for me to play again?
In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus tells the parable of the master who gives his three servants various amounts of talents to manage in his absence. I had always assumed that my “talent” had been the ability to play and share my skill with others. For me to play is an act of worship. All of the many hours of preparation leading up to the first notes of the Prelude are an act of sacrifice and worship. Every day of the week I would rise and plan my day around the my preparation for each Sunday. And now I feared that this would soon end.
God and I had already faced the greatest test when my son Kurt died and I knew he was always faithful. So as I laid in the hospital and then spent weeks in occupational therapy I came to realize that my ability and opportunity to worship God extends to everything I do, not just my piano playing. How I treat my neighbor and how I encourage my brothers and sisters every day is an act of worship. The patience you show a restless child is an act of worship and the patience you show the careless driver is also an act of worship. The daily practice of life provides opportunities to worship our God. We don’t do this to “feel good” or for any other purpose. Worship is an expression than God is altogether worthy of worship and is deserving of our faithful worship for no other reason.
So Sunday morning as we gather together to worship corporately, when you first hear the piano or the band begin to play please join us for we are here to worship, we are here to bow down, and we are here to say that you’re our God.
This old Yiddish proverb has rung especially loudly in my life of late. If you would have asked me a year ago if I would ever open another piano store I would have stared at you mutely for a minute and simply said: “NO!” I also didn’t plan on losing the use of my left hand and having to endure three surgeries, nearly two weeks of hospitalization, and weeks of infusion antibiotics.
As I talked over my plans to reopen my store, my wise brother-in-law, Richard Southworth, shared this Yiddish proverb with me. It struck me as also quite a summary of my life. As the inveterate goal setter and planner, I am used to most of my plans and goals coming to naught. I always keep getting tripped up by the unexpected and the mundane of life.
A number of circumstances came together to make it almost inevitable that we would reopen our store so rather than sticking to a plan which was not working we decided to go ahead and reopen.
The new showroom is located at 2749 Curtiss St. in Downers Grove, IL; just a few blocks west of our previous location. It is open by appointment only for now.
The more I thought about what Rich said to me I realized that this laughter of God is not in the context of mockery. When the three travelers told Abraham that he and Sarah would have a son, Abraham laughed out of joy and Sarah laughed in derision. However, when Isaac, (whose name means laughter), was born all the laughter came from joy.
It is easy to become discouraged when things don’t go our way and our plans are thwarted. I am sure that the lack of offspring was a source of great pain and frustration for Abraham and Sari for decades. For their entire lifetimes they watched as those around them had children, gave their children away in marriage, and bounced their grandchildren on their knees. This vital marker of a complete life, which they surely wanted as much as their next breath, had eluded them into their old age.
Yet, God brought laughter and joy to this yearning of theirs after waiting until they were very old, and out of this laughter came the salvation of the world.
When I was asked last year how I felt about closing the 8000 sq ft shop, I answered that I had mixed emotions: joy and happiness. And now that my plans have once more met with holy laughter, I must meet this new opportunity with the mixed emotions of joy and happiness.
If you know anybody who needs a good used piano give me a call… I have a few.
2749 Curtiss St, Downers Grove, IL
One of the most devastating things a fellow student said to me early in my freshman year of college was: “Everybody has to start some place.” The Op. 2 #1 was my first Beethoven Sonata I ever played. It seemed though that everybody else had already learned this work and I was pretty late to the game. We all go to college as a big fish from small ponds, but coming from a town of 3000 I think I felt this even more acutely. And to hear from one of my classmates that she considered me a minnow it just added to my feelings of inadequacy.
Whether it was real or imagined, I felt my classmate’s estimation of my abilities was shared by my teachers as well. At this point I had a choice to make; I could accept what others said was my lot in life or I could set out to make a liar of them. I chose the latter.
Success always requires a significant price, I decided early in my freshman year to pay the price demanded. I believed if I worked harder than anybody else I could make up for any deficiencies I might possess. If two hours of practice was expected I did four or more. I would be there when the music building opened in the morning and would work until I was kicked out at night.
The effort certainly paid off in the end and has continued to pay dividends my entire life. While my playing still has significant weaknesses, the Beethoven Sonatas is no longer one of them.
Self image is just that. The image we have of ourselves. The best part of this image is that it is very malleable. By making a decision to do the work required for success, regardless if we achieve that ultimate outcome, we will know that we were worthy of the effort. Even in failure we learn because our focus is not on other’s opinions, but rather on accomplishing great things.
With each step in this process we grow in stature in our own eyes because we know we are making the effort. The image we hold of our self is based only upon our own choices and efforts, not someone else. All efforts to build “self esteem” are doomed to failure because they are based upon someone else telling us we are great and deserving regardless of our efforts. In our hearts we know this is a lie.
Our self image or self esteem comes from knowing we were in the arena, fighting the good fight. And even if we come out bloodied and beaten we know the value of our efforts and the honor is ours for just being in the arena. This is something no one can give us or take away from us because it has been wholly earned by us alone.
Recently I was visiting with a fellow traveler in the piano world. He is one of the few people I have met in my life who has traveled a nearly parallel road as mine. He is a piano tuner and rebuilder, teacher, and has a similar education as my own. What a treat! In the course of our conversation I shared with him my experience as a church musician. His reaction showed me some of the unique advantages I had gained from my time behind the keyboards.
A little over 11 years ago I took a job at the New Life Lutheran Church of Bolingbrook as their organist. Now I had a semester’s worth of organ lessons in college and had “played” the organ for a couple of years at another church but I was and am no organist. But, as someone always willing to do something new and challenging I jumped in.
As time went on I quickly learned the liturgy and ran through the limited amount of music for both the piano and organ I had for the preludes and postludes. After repeating myself a few times I began to get bored with the whole process. I knew I wasn’t giving or getting everything out of the opportunity. So I decided to use the opportunity of needing a steady supply of new piano music to create a need and motivation for me to greatly expand my repertory. Rather than doing a scatter shot approach to learning new music, I decided to play through more systematically the repertory of the piano.
I started very simply with the Clementi Sonatinas and much of Anna Magdalena Bach book. I moved on to other literature of Chopin, Mednter, Debussy, Beethoven, and Bach. A funny thing happens when you set out to learn 5 – 10 minutes of new music every week; after few years, you have really learned a lot of music.
I am not sharing this to brag, but to encourage those of you with a similar opportunity and need to take full advantage of the discipline such a situation can place you under. I have become a big advocate of learning complete cycles of music. I cannot begin to explain everything I learned about music, Beethoven, the sonata, or myself after playing the complete cycle of Beethoven’s sonatas or Bach’s 48. Even if the cycle is as small as Bach’s 2 Part Inventions, learning and playing them all will give you a unique perspective quite different from knowing only a few.
“It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly…who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at best, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
– Theodore Roosevelt, 1910
We have all heard about how “social media” is going to change the way we do business and organize our lives. While this may be true I have had the unfortunate experience recently of seeing personally how this new media can be very destructive to one’s business and reputations.
I have always found it tacky and unseemly to solicit referrals and complimentary letters. I figured I would let my work stand or fall on its own merits. After being in business for 25 years and growing pretty steadily even through some very difficult years in our industry, I assumed I was correct in my practice. Then along came these new social media. As any of you who have been practicing your art and business for any length of time have learned you cannot please everybody all of the time and there are some who are impossible to please no matter what you do or say. In the past, we could just let these people go their way and be glad they were out of our lives. Not anymore.
Now these people have a large public forum in which they can veritably scream their displeasure and not be bothered with truth or fairness. And folks, you are defenseless against such an attack. They can say anything they want and give you a low rating with unsubstantiated accusations. This becomes a permanent record of your business for the whole world to see.
As we all know complainers are much more vocal than those who complement, so in the normal flow of life they will leave a much larger mark. In these new forums, if those who would compliment your business don’t bother to do so, all you are left with are the complainers. And it doesn’t take many to make you look very bad.
So, here I am now asking you, if you have ever done business with ANR Piano, and whether you were 100% satisfied or not, would you mind sharing your thoughts? After seeing how much damage a few negative, unbalanced comments can make, I have made it a point to spread as much good rating as possible, especially among the small businesses which would be hurt the most by these professional complainers.
Even if you have some honest complaints, I would love to hear about it. I know as ANR Piano has grown rapidly over the past several years we have not always been able to live up to our standards of customer service. We have often become over whelmed just trying to manage our growth and too often things slip through the cracks.
I think the take-away from my experience with these impossible-to-please folks is that regardless of the challenging people we encounter in our journey we need to stay focused on our goals and continue to serve our fellow humans as best we can. We cannot worry about those disturbed souls who would prefer we were all as miserable as they. None of us are perfect, nor do we always provide perfect service, but our humanity and occasional failings do not diminish all of the good we otherwise do.
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