3-MINUTE VESPERS, NO. 2: ‘HE KEEPS ME SINGING’

BESIDES THE FACT that I misuse the term “incidental” and “incidentals” throughout this video, I’m happy with it. My piano playing is improving — I hit only one wrong note — and I’m learning how to use the video editor more efficiently.

Something I should explain further from the video is that I’d play this song for my late mom when I wanted to see if she was awake, as she often listened with her eyes closed (in last week’s video, you heard a possible reason why she couldn’t bear to watch me play).

If I didn’t play a particular embellishment that she liked in a particular place in the song, she’d hum the flourish as she would have played it herself. Maybe she thought she was teaching me to play it. Anyway, sometimes I purposely didn’t play the frill until my last time through the song, just to see if she was alert enough to hum her part, and she always did, though sometimes I had to hesitate at that spot before moving on.

Here’s the link to L.B. Bridgers’s “He Keeps Me  Singing.”

3-MINUTE VESPERS, NO. 1: ‘TRUST AND OBEY’

AS THE SERIES TITLE INDICATES, these videos—and their explanations—will be brief. The series itself, however, may take me a long time to complete, depending on how good I become at piano tuning and service.

I’m not worried about how well (or not) I play, because I’m not the star of this show; rather, it’s my late mother’s 1964 Kohler & Campbell console piano. This isn’t the first piano that I learned to play, but it’s the one I’ve played the longest and the one I grew to love after Mom quit forcing me to take piano lessons.

In later episodes, I’ll talk about the Kohler & Campbell brand—which was local, by the way—and about this specific piano’s history in my family. Also, I’ll feature a different hymn or sacred song in each episode to help measure my progress repairing the instrument. I’m not sure, though, how I’ll play a song if I take something apart and can’t get it back together right away. It’ll be a challenge.

Here’s a link to the first episode, “Trust and Obey” (click on the song title). Happy Mother’s Day weekend.

EVENSONG AFTERWORD

So, why have I spent the past seven months of weekdays writing about the Book of Psalms and posting my own poems about them? I mean, I’ve probably lost some of my 100 “friends” over it. Nope, no one unfriended me, but I’ll bet I’ve been put to sleep — that is, “snoozed” — by a few.

I got the idea to study the Psalms last summer, really, after songwriter Paul Simon released his latest album, “Seven Psalms.” Though we’d once shared an elevator ride with him in Manhattan, I knew him only for his big hits. But his new songs are special, a sort of sacred “elevator” music.

Also, over the past few years, I’ve been working on a novel all my own about two brothers who get along with each other like Cain and Abel, or like Jacob and Esau — you know, a pair of Old Testament sibs who love each other until it hurts. Part One is finished. Now I’m writing Part Two.

Both of these brothers are ministers — men of the cloth — except one is wealthy and prefers to wear a fancy suit with his red baseball cap, while the other is as poor as Job’s turkey and wears whatever he finds that fits. The poor fellow also focuses on praise rather than on condemnation.

That is where studying the Psalms came in — what I’d always thought were songs of praise, not hate-filled paeans to paranoia and genocidal violence. While a select few of the psalms are true works of art, David — the acclaimed author, but a barenaked liar — could not have written them.

There was one last thing that I wanted to do — to work out my own thoughts and feelings about the God to Whom I’ve always prayed, though I’ve always felt like a red-headed stepchild of God. Not even the ancient Hebrews would utter His name. They turned YHWH into a four-letter word.

I have come to believe that Yeshua ben Yosef — or, rather, the lowly Jesus — was exactly right about God or Heaven. It — whatever It’s called — is within every one of us, although It is buried so deeply that we have to dig through layers of lies, greed and pride to find our own good news.

Like the universe around us, our worlds of truth are evolving and will continue to do so ‘til all the spinning stops. Within this spiral galaxy we call home, the views never change, even though the cosmos allows us to drift farther from its center until time or chance makes us stand our ground.

EVENSONG 150

This is the very last psalm in the Book of Psalms. Like the four before it, this psalm begins and ends with, “Praise the Lord!”

Twelve of the poem’s 13 lines begin with the word “Praise.” The odd line is, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”

After responding to all 150 psalms — one each weekday since September 1, 2023 — I’m all out of breath, but I kept my word.

Tomorrow, on Good Friday, I’ll explain for the first time who prompted this project, why I saw it to its end, and what I got from it.

EVENSONG 149

These last few psalms — this one is next to last, by the way — are, in literary terms, a hot mess.

This psalmist says, “Sing to the Lord a new song,” and talks about singing and dancing with joy.

But then he changes horses midstream before going on about “vengeance” and “punishments.”

Why go there? “To bind [other nations’] kings with chains, / And their nobles with fetters of iron.”

Well, why? “To execute on them the written judgment — / This honor have all [YHWH’s] saints.”

I guess saints only care about abiding by the rule of law if it involves a king other than their own.

EVENSONG 148

The identical first and last lines of this psalm — “Praise the Lord!” — sum it up well enough. The paean calls on all people great and small — from kings to “maidens” — to sing YHWH’s praises.

But I might add that this psalmist also gives souls to all of creation — sun, moon, stars, nature’s four elements, all plants and animals on land and at sea. That sounds much like animism to me.

And so, if a rock, a tree, or a cloud can love something greater than itself, does that mean that it — or that he, or she, or they — can be loved back? I do hope so, for we are all part of what I call the iSoul.

EVENSONG 147

This is a psalm that makes absolutely no sense to me. It praises YHWH up one side and down the other, but in contradictory terms, making Him out to be a jealous god who is more of a bully.

“[The Lord] does not delight in the strength of the horse; / He takes no pleasure in the legs of a man. / The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, / In those who hope in His mercy.” What?

I mean, why wouldn’t a proud Creator love Secretariat? (Did YAH adore Man o’ War?) And why isn’t He proud of Roger Bannister or Hicham El Guerrouj? (What if they had Betty Grable legs?)

Earlier in the song, the royal psalmist had written, “[YHWH] counts the number of the stars; / He calls them all by name. / Great is our Lord, / and mighty in power; / His understanding is infinite.”

Then, “The Lord lifts up the humble; / He casts the wicked down to the ground.” But isn’t that the story of Big Red or the lone wolf miler — losing the toss of a coin, trailing until the very last turn?

EVENSONG 146

This is another psalm that covers the same ground, using recognizable lines from earlier psalms or familiar material from other parts of the Old Testament. But at this point, I won’t worry about it.

Still, “Do not put your trust in princes, / Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. / His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; / In that very day his plans perish.” It sounds quite familiar, huh?

But that isn’t anywhere else in the Hebrew Bible — or is it? Well, in Isaiah and Ecclesiastes, I’m guessing, also in the Gospels for sure, at least the one that refers to Yeshua ben Yosef as “son of man.”

And then there’s this verse: “The Lord watches over the strangers; / He relieves the fatherless and widow; / But the way of the wicked He turns upside down.” Weren’t those Yeshua’s words?

Actually, the reason I noticed those passages, in particular, was because they made me wonder if folks who read the Bible literally these days still believe what those verses say. Well, do they?

EVENSONG 145

This psalm reminds me of that maddening call and response I hear all the time in church: “God is good … all the time. / And all the time … God is good.” It is maddening because it is not true.

This psalm is 21 verses of how mighty, glorious, splendid, majestic, wondrous, awesome, great, good, righteous, gracious, compassionate, patient, merciful and powerful YHWH seemed to be.

Back to the call and response, the bit I question is the “all the time” part. As I’ve said before, the cosmos is both good and bad all the time — what’s good for me may be bad for you. That’s true.

So, while YHWH might have been all those adjectives to the Old Hebrews including kings David and Solomon, He was just the opposite to any innocents who died at the hands of His Israelites.

EVENSONG 144

Well, here we go again. Just when I begin to think David might have an ounce of humanity in him after all, his next psalm goes off the deep end — or maybe it’s just the psalmist he chose.

Violence, xenophobia, paranoia — this psalm has it all, as if David hasn’t covered that ground umpteen times before. In fact, the psalmist plagiarizes umpteen other psalms to write this one.

The best lines here — also copied from other psalms — are the Q & A: “Lord, what is man, that You take knowledge of him?”; then, “Man is like a breath; / His days are like a passing shadow.”

The psalmist closes by listing the many things that would make him happy — healthy sons and daughters (stacked like “pillars”), full barns and fields, no break-ins, and no rioting in the streets.

“Happy are the people who are in such a state,” the psalmist says, surely not referring to Florida or Texas. “Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!” There again, that’s treading a fine line.