Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: music

White Christmas (1954)

It’s the unofficial sequel to Holiday Inn that became a Christmas classic.


Bing Crosby first sang Irving Berlin’s ballad about the holiday in the film Holiday Inn. The song, more so than the film, was well received. It was no surprise that the studio wanted to market the song as much as they could, so they began plans for a new film featuring this poplar song.  It took almost a decade before the film became a reality. Fred Astaire, who co-starred with Crosby in Holiday Inn, was slated to join the film as Phil Davis. Astaire turned the role down, and it went to Danny Kaye, perhaps a better choice. Continue reading

Guest Post: Penitential

by Rev. Roger Dowdy

Read Psalm 51.

Lent Ponderings - jasoncstanley.comAll things new! That’s what the psalmist in Psalm 51 is longing for, hoping for, asking for. I know in my life there have been periods and moments when I longed for ‘all things new!’ I imagine you have or will also.

Come, walk with me through Psalm 51 to examine and savor the nature of this great psalm-prayer-hymn, searching for the ‘shape’ of honesty before God.

If you follow Eugene Peterson’s translation of Psalm 51 in The Message[1], you are immediately struck by the directness and openness of the psalmist, the genuineness of the confession and supplication (the ‘ask’), and the repetitive imagery of the cleansing, renewing “washing” (yes, even like freshly clean ‘laundry’!).

Directness With YAHWEH

The psalmist apparently knows Yahweh-God and who in reality God IS : a God of Love and Grace and Mercy in the fullness of all of those dimensions. The one singing and praying this psalm-hymn is fully open with God about the nature of the sin(s) committed and who has been hurt by those sins: ‘You’re the One I’ve violated, and you’ve seen it all, seen the full extent of my evil.’ [vs.4]

Then the confession emerges, begins to pour forth, as the writer-singer-prayer acknowledges the inherent human tendency to sinfulness.

Genuineness of the Supplication

Verse 6 serves as a pivotal point in the hymn-prayer as the psalmist, in all honesty and genuineness. First it reflects what God desires, and second, the psalmist is genuinely clear about what she/he wants and needs: ‘What you’re after is truth from the inside out. Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.’ Much like Bartimaeus in the gospel encounter story in Luke 18:35-43, when Jesus asks Bartimaeus ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ – Bartimaeus answers, ‘I want to see again!’  The psalmist of Psalm 51 knows that deepest desire: ‘Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.’

Cleansing, Renewing “Washing”– All to Music!

The psalmist becomes almost ecstatic in asking God to act in ways the psalmist knows only God can act. God acting in and through the penitent sinner:

‘Soak me, scrub me, tune me, set me dancing, make a fresh start in me, breathe holiness in me, bring me back from exile, put fresh wind in my sails, give me a meaningful job, commute my sentence, unbutton my lips!…..and I will sing anthems to You!’

The psalm-hymn closes with the full realization that what will be required is much more than ‘going through the actions…’ – that re-penitence and true turning is best accomplished we one is most needful, most open or vulnerable: most ‘ready for Love’.

The final two verses shifts from the individual psalmist, to the supplication of the whole congregation!

The penitential 40-day season of Lent is upon us. In preparation, we would do well to mediate on Psalm 51 and what is that we should ‘ask’ God to do for us – and we should ask, like the psalmist, in all directness, genuineness, and fully praising God for all that God is – has done – will do.

May it be so! Amen!

Rev. Roger Dowdy, is an ordained deacon in full connection in the Virginia Annual Conference and director of CROSS-PATHS Ministries, in Richmond, VA. You can reach Roger at Rdowdy-cp@mindspring.com.


[1]Scripture quotations taken from THE MESSAGE- the Bible in Contemporary Language, Eugene Peterson, ©NavPress, 1993-2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Learning to Sing Again

In Suzanne Collins’ book The Hunger Games characters Katniss and Peeta are District 12’s Tributes in the Games. (For those you haven’t read the book (A) you need to and (B) I promise to keep the spoilers to a minimum.)

The rules have changed and now they can work together as a team to win the games.  In one moment sitting in the wilderness of the arena, the two teenagers begin to discuss life back in District 12.

As they recall memories, Katniss remembers her father.  A man whose life and death was by the coal mines.  A man, who when he sang, “even the birds stop to listen.”  Singing not only reminds Katniss  of her father, but also how much she misses having him around.  Singing was something he taught her how to do and something she recalled while in the wilderness of the arena.  Since his death, she has had to grow up and become the leader, supplier, and caretaker of her family.  In in the midst of these added responsibilities, Katniss had stopped singing.  She reflects:

It strikes me that  my own reluctance to sing, my  own dismissal of music might not really be that I think it’s a waste of time.  It might be because it reminds me too much of my father.

A few weeks ago in worship we sang the hymn, “In the Garden.”  I had to stop singing it.  It was one of those moments where if there was a rock for me to crawl under, I would.  But, there was no rock.  It reminded me of Dad.  As his grave side service concluded, the bell tower at the cemetery began to “sing” this hymn.

Music was a central piece to my father’s faith.  He sang in a group at our church called the Gospel 7 since its beginnings.   Still to this day there are certain songs that he sang with this group that when I hear them I pause for a moment because it reminds me of him.

For the longest time I would avoid those songs because the memories were so painful.  For example I couldn’t hear “Go, Rest High on that Mountain,” a song originally recorded by Vince Gill that Dad sang in church often, without missing him to the point of being in physical pain. But now, I add songs like “Go, Rest High on that Mountain” to my iPod so that when the music shuffles through to that song and others like it, I remember.

I remember his powerful witness through song.  I remember riding in his old Chevy truck listening to cassette tapes of the songs he was learning to sing.  I remember sitting in wooden pews listening to him sing during church.  And now, instead of bringing pain, the memories bring me comfort and peace.

In a way, with these songs and memories, Dad is always with me.

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