Fanny Crosby Meets Ricky Skaggs

I’ve been rotating Blessed Assurance: The New Hymns of Fanny Crosby in the car for a few days, hopefully preparing for a review (one of these days!) But, in case it takes me a little while to get around to that review, here’s the crown jewel of the project: Ricky Skaggs’s haunting folk waltz treatment of a lyric called “All is Well.” Note the subtle metaphor in verse one to Crosby’s blindness: “Though the clouds may veil the sky, my steps are led by your sweet light.” Also, the repeated references to HEARING God’s voice.

To be honest, the rest of the album is just okay by comparison with this, although I did like Ernie Haase & Signature Sound’s “I Have Found a Priceless Treasure.” Part of my problem with some of the other tunes is that they’re very tied to a particular worship sound that’s not going to be current forever. But what Skaggs has done with “All is Well” is timeless. It won’t age. This right here is one of the best new (new/old?) songs of the year, if not the past decade. I’d like to think Fanny would appreciate it:

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God’s Not Dead, The Apostle, and Deathbed Conversion Scenes

It’s a classic trope of any story targeted to a Christian audience: the conversion scene. Most commonly, the film saves it for the climax, when the hardened atheist or the back-slidden Christian relents and turns his life over to Christ. Recently, the movie God’s Not Dead took this trope one further and made it a deathbed conversion scene. When the atheist villain is hit by a car, a conveniently on-hand pastor prays with him to accept Christ.  In my review of the film, this scene was one of the things I criticized about it. Sure, it could have been worse, but it still felt forced and rushed. This is a common problem with this type of scene (made worse in this particular case by bad editing).

However, it doesn’t always have to be that way. Through the years, a handful of authors and screenwriters have found ways to craft conversion scenes that are technically well executed, unforced and authentically moving.

Continue reading “God’s Not Dead, The Apostle, and Deathbed Conversion Scenes”

Browse New Fanny Crosby Lyrics Free

I mentioned the other month that various artists were setting some of Fanny Crosby’s unpublished hymns to music and releasing them in a compilation project. Ernie Haase & Signature Sound contributed one of the tracks, and the entire album is available from their site. Not only that, but even if you’re not sure you want to buy the album, you can still go here and read all the lyrics for free, which is the most interesting part for me. It looks like a few of them had little bridges or refrains added in by the recording artists. Looking them over, which are your favorites? Which do you think are possibly second-tier or less than Crosby’s best?

An Interview With Rachel McCutcheon

Rachel McCutcheon is quickly becoming one of my favorite current songwriters. Discovered by writer/producer Wayne Haun, she has been contributing a plethora of well-penned fresh tunes to new releases by some of southern gospel’s best artists. Recently, she graciously agreed to answer some interview questions from me. I hope you enjoy this conversation!

Continue reading “An Interview With Rachel McCutcheon”

The Oregon Shootings and the Moment of Truth

It has come out in the wake of the mass shooting at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College that the murderer specifically targeted Christians in his rampage. According to several different eyewitnesses, he began lining people up and asking them what their religion was. Avowed Christians were shot in the head, while non-Christians or people who didn’t answer were shot in the legs. (Of course, had he done the same thing for Muslims or homosexuals, there would be a national outrage even as we speak, while as it is, the media is collectively ignoring or shrugging off this small detail.)

On Facebook, I saw a woman who had an interesting response when one of her friends expressed admiration for the martyrs who answered “Yes” and wished for herself that she would be able to give the same answer. This woman said that although she was a Christian, she would have refused to answer because an arbitrary test by a gun-wielding lunatic is meaningless, and God knows what’s in her heart. She argued that it was far more important for her to stay alive for the sake of her children, one of whom has Down’s Syndrome.

It’s an interesting question: Is there only one right answer in this sort of situation, or did those martyrs die for nothing? If a test set by a madman would be meaningless for her, was it meaningless for them also? Her implication seemed to be that any one of those people could have refused to answer with a clear conscience.

To be fair, the situation isn’t strictly analogous to the persecution of Christians under the Roman Empire, when the only options were pour out a libation or become kindling for Nero’s garden party. It seems as though this murderer was letting people off the hook if they wouldn’t answer definitely, which is technically not an act of idolatry. That’s where this woman saw her loophole—not proclaiming Christ before men, but not exactly denying him either. Her conscience is satisfied, the gunman passes her over, and her children still have their mother alive. Surely this would be the best choice, the wise choice?

Maybe… but maybe not.

I sense a defensiveness in this woman’s response, and in the fact that she gave it unsolicited. I think she feels, as all of us do, an unspoken challenge in the deaths of these Christians in Oregon, and it makes her uncomfortable. So she begins to rationalize. “I’m a wife and mother. It’s only an arbitrary test. God would know what’s in my heart anyway.” And so forth. I wonder if she would have tried to talk Saint Felicity out of going to the lions, because she had a newborn child. I wonder if she would even have told her “God knows you don’t really mean it when you pour out that libation, so just give them what they want and go back to breast-feeding your baby.”

I’m not saying I would condemn this woman for making her choice. But I wonder. I wonder if this is not a failure to recognize a moment of truth. When the hypothetical becomes reality, when the far-fetched scenario is no longer far-fetched, but a physical gun to your head and a question asked with everything at stake, what should our answer be? I wonder.

Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea’s throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.
We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.

— T. S. Eliot, Little Gidding