One - For those who love stories but lack cash, a new-ish Neil Gaiman short story's up at Fifty-Two Stories :) For those who love stories and don't lack money, there's a new anthology of short stories out, collected by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio.
Two - Matthew Smith's guest post "Confessions of a failed worshipper" is up at Challies.com. He gives a personal account of how he first encountered hymns while in college in Nashville and how he came to write modern acoustic guitar driven music for hymns.
"The hymns also invited me to be honest. Rather than demanding that I leave the hardships of life at the door to lose myself in a “worship experience” (which had never panned out anyway, and upon reflection, seemed more of a Buddhist ideal than a Christian one), they spoke frankly about how weariness, sorrow, and pain are a part of the normal Christian life—not a sign of personal spiritual failure.
Dear refuge of my weary soul, on Thee, when sorrows rise
On Thee, when waves of trouble roll, my fainting hope relies
To Thee I tell each rising grief, for Thou alone canst heal
Thy Word can bring a sweet relief for every pain I feel"
I love when the lyrics point firmly toward God as the fount of all blessings and His Word as the guiding light for life. So much modern worship music focuses on the self and is frighteningly devoid of reference to the Word.
The other thing about a lot of modern worship music - aside from the focus on the 'experience' - is its lyrical emptiness. It sounds good and feels good but the gospel seems to be of penumbral significance when it should be front and centre. In the move toward modernizing the church, I think people were a little too hasty in abandoning hymnals - which I guess also shows the church's woeful lack of reference to scripture in decision making. Ditching traditions that have no foundation in the Word is one thing, but replacing biblically sound lyrics for empty and almost wordless "worship experiences" was a terrible idea.
I'm too old to beat around the bush so if anyone wants to get me birthday presents, Indelible Grace and Matthew Smith CDs would be very very welcome :) ~ahem~ (goodness, writing this out was more embarrassing than I thought it would be).