Sunday, February 22, 2009


William Cowper was a poet and a hymn writer who lived a desperate life, oft challenged by despair. In fact, so deep was his darkness that he attempted suicide many times. While a patient in a mental hospital, he was in the care of a compassionate soul who lead him to Christ.

It is said that even after his conversion, Cowper suffered greatly. Yet he clung to the one who saves and wrote many poems and hymns in testament to his Savior. Surely it must have occurred to Cowper that though he was a new creature in Christ, his life was, from time, to time, still a troubled one. Perhaps that what he pondered when he wrote this hymn:

God Moves in a Mysterious Way

1 God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.
2 Deep in unfathomable mines of never-failing skill
He treasures up his bright designs, and works His sovereign will.
3 Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break in blessings on your head.
4 Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.
5 His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding ev'ry hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flow'r.
6 Blind unbelief is sure to err, and scan His work in vain.
God is his own interpreter, and He will make it plain.

This hymn was sung today at the church I visited. As we sang verse four, I literally laughed out loud. Not a guffaw laugh, but an epiphanous giggle. I have long judged the Lord by my feeble sense of reality. I've given him what for and railed at him because of my own circumstance. Perhaps it is the life-long issue with which I wrestle, and by which I grow into sweeter communion with the God who is mysterious, yet faithful. For though I struggle and strive with him and his purposes, he mercifully tends to me by his infinite grace.

Sola Deo Gloria!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Dad and Dylan

It is no small wonder I am given to music. I grew up listening to my Dad sing a lot. He is not a trained or professional singer but he could have been. He loved then, and loves still, a good song. I mentioned Dad's penchant for song in this, the first post of this blog, May 22nd, 2008. Here's the relevant excerpt:

I remember my dad holding his hymnal out and lowering it a bit so I could see and sing along; my dad's deep baritone voice fully engaging the melody. Every so often, dad would start singing the harmony, and off I'd go, on the same trail, sometimes making the note, sometimes not, but seldom, if ever, staying on the melody. He'd gaze over his glasses, quizzical that I'd not harmonized. I wanted to sing with him, to go with him on that wild adventure of hymn singing!

Even though my dad's devotion to hymn singing is a big part of his repertoire, he is fond of popular tunes too. Cole Porter, Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, all the greats. Vocalists like Frank Sinatra and Perry Como are two of his favorites. Being a rowdy "Deke"in college, he is prone to start wailing what I call bar tunes or drinking songs every now and again. Songs like Columbus Stockade Blues, for instance.

Originating in the 1920's the song immortalizes a Columbus Georgia jail that housed petty criminals of every stripe-drunks, thieves, and other 'ne'er do wells'.

If you listen close you can hear the plaintive lament of the narrator reverberating off brick walls of the jail :

Way way down, in Columbus Georgia,
Lord done turned his back on me,
Way way down in Columbus Stockade,
wanna be back in Tennessee..

Go and and leave me if you wish to,
never let me change your mind,
if in your heart, you love another,
leave me little darlin' I don't mind
leave me little darlin' I don't mind.

Imagine what delight I had to find that Bob Dylan has affinity for this particular tune too! In reading the first installment of Dylan's memoir, Chronicles, Columbus Stockade Blues is mentioned as a song he favored and sang early in his folk career.

But to really hear this song, you ought to hear my daddy sing it.

His a capella rendition is so blue it'll make you want to weep. Dylan is a poet and a king of story, but he could learn a thing or two from Dad.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Wallace Mercer R.I.P.

I noticed the other day a fellow blogger described my blog penned under the name Wallace Mercer as pseudonymical serenity. That alone gives me pause for what I'm about to do. Many of you already know me by my real name. Humor me while I entertain the fantasy that the word 'many' could mean there are thousands of readers out there. Whether I have a few or many readers, I've reached a decision to begin prattling on under the name given me by my earthly father and mother: Karen Ann Fentress.

In taking this action, I put to rest this fine name, Wallace Mercer; One taken so I could speak under a cloak. It is with a profound sense of gratitude that I release this veil. His name, conjured some five years ago by me, is actually a very real person. Wallace Mercer was, according to Wikkipedia, the chairman of the Scottish football club, the Hearts of Edinburgh from 1981-1994. He is best remembered for the controversial merger he attempted of the two rival teams in Edinburgh, the Hearts and Hibs. One need not be an expert in football or business to know that pushing for a joinder of enemies, whether for simple financial gain, or for the purpose of eternal good can make for some nasty conflict. That was the case for the real Wallace Mercer. His death in 2006 was was just prior to a match between the Hearts and Hibs. Some fans, still angered by his audacious attempt to merge the clubs, shouted disrespectfully during a moment of silence held in Mercer's honor. Presumably, it was both teams' fans that yelled during the silence. It usually comes down to that.

I do not know this real man. I know nothing about his virtue or lack thereof. Because I think this story has meaning, I won't pretend the real Wallace Mercer was someone to esteem. What I do know, is the name I chose for my veil is one I'm glad to have used. I chose Wallace because of Wallace Stevens, the complicated insurance executive/lawyer turned poet. I chose Mercer because it hints at the word mercy-a quality of God's I scarcely apprehend, yet for which I am exceedingly grateful.

Wallace Stevens is not a poet I read with regularity, but I fancy myself as like him, a bit. I do practice law. I tend to be a bit verbose, as poets can be. And Mercer, or mercy. I hesitate to even speak on the topic. Mercy and grace are words that, from time to time, are used interchangeably. The distinction is not readily apparent. The words of Rolfe Barnard clarify the difference for me:

Mercy is God's favour that holds back from us what we deserve.

Grace is God's favour that gives us what we do not deserve.-Rolfe Barnard

Perhaps it can be said that mercy is the greatest of the qualities of God. I've said it before here, on this blog, because of God's just wrath, you and I deserve death, the punishment for sin is simple and clear. But Jesus took our place. In him alone can we experience the true grace of the Father. I said I hesitate to even speak of mercy- in doing so, it seems to me, mercy is me centered-concentrates on what I can receive of him. But the more I think on it, the more God avails himself to me, mercy is his and his alone, and he, in his infinite goodness, chooses to give it.

Wallace Mercer, the real man, dared attempt the unthinkable. He was, if only in my imagination, a sort of radical to believe two warring factions might be one. I think it a tad hopeful that in my old pseudonym there's more to cherish than I originally intended. As the old, new me, Karen, may I write with hope of reconcilation in mind as a testament to the real Wallace Mercer. Not recklessly or with impure heart, but ever aware of the cost my dear savior paid for my falleness; May I sit one day in heaven over a tall pint of beer with the real Wallace Mercer, but always give thanks to God for his dear mercy in making us both. Rest in Peace, Wallace.

Soli Deo Gloria

FINE & NICE Warning: Opining ahead

In the last post, When words lie, would it make a difference to you if you later found out the speaker (attorney) was not talking to a client, but to her own son? Does it sound more or less egregious? Or is it what it is, an untruth? I wonder that. Of course this really happened, but I do not know whether the woman (whom I do know to be a practicing attorney) was chatting to a client or to her child.

The gravity of what she said shook me.

I do not care for the word fine to describe much, except hair, weather, the coat of an animal or human outerwear, a fountain pen, things of that nature... To describe the outcome of marital fracture, as fine, no matter how amicable, is simply lacking and perhaps a wrong-headed choice.
Well, you might say, she was only trying to be nice. Maybe so. Fact is, this attorney is one I would hire- she is professional, courteous, smart.

Nice is, as fine is, a word that ought be limited to describing weather, fountain pens, and jump shots-you get my drift.... I am of the less than humble opinion that describing a person or their conduct as nice is short of what one really intends-less than accurate. Nice and fine are words that can be over-used, with abandon, and with little thought for their impact upon hearing.

Of course, of course (off course is more like it) I digress. The original intent of this post was to ask you what you thought about the scenario changing in the last post-if the listener were not the client, but instead the attorney's child, would that change the impact of what she said...?

I do not think it makes a difference, in the end. Words matter, because the hearts and souls of speakers and listeners matter. Words are what we have to spend on one another to share truth by kindness. The words it's all going to be fine, no matter what the it's is, convey a certainty the speaker cannot know and move past the present grief with a there, there placation of disrespect.
I warned you this was an opinion piece. I hope it was fine. What's your opinion? I would like to hear from more of you. If you choose to reply or comment, dare to be respectful and kind, not nice. ( insert smiley face here ).