“Gentle As Silence”

This week’s quote is actually a praise song which I do not know.  I ran across the words this week while doing some research on “silence” for my Sunday sermon.  From what I can tell, this song/hymn is quite popular in Australia and New Zealand, but I have been unable to find any information about the author/copyright, although it is listed as being in this hymnal.  If anyone has more information on this song, please let me know.  In any case, the words seemed especially appropriate for my meditations this week.

Gentle As Silence

Oh, the Love of my Lord is the essence,
Of all that I love here on earth,
All the beauty I see He has given to me,
And His giving is gentle as silence.

Every day, every hour, every moment,
Have been blessed by the strength of His love,
At the turn of each tide, He is there at my side,
And His touch is as gentle as silence.

There’ve been times when I’ve turned from His presence,
And I’ve walked other paths, other ways,
But I’ve called on His Name in the dark of my shame,
And His mercy was gentle as silence.

He has poured out His spirit upon me
and has turned all my world upside down
And his peace like a balm soothes my soul with it’s calm
And His healing is gentle as silence.

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The Death of Robert Altman

Robert AltmanThe film world, and in particular, American cinema, has lost a giant.  Robert Altman died yesterday at the age of 81, leaving behind a huge, and mostly wonderful, body of work.  Like many self-proclaimed movie buffs, I enjoyed Altman’s films and looked forward to their releases.  My favorite Altman films include:  Short Cuts, Nashville, M*A*S*H, and Cookie’s Fortune.  Others will offer more knowledgeable and relevant tributes to Altman’s life, but I just want to say that I am saddened that the world has lost this film-making great.  I offer my prayers for him and his family and friends.

To see some of those more knowledgeable and relevant tributes, you can go here, here, here, here or here.

The Death of Jack Palance and “The One Thing”

As reported in TV Squad Jack Palance has died at the age of 87. Joel Keller of the Squad writes:

Jack Palance is one of those actors who has been around for so long and has been seen in so many varied projects, that when he dies, every type of entertainment publication feels compelled to run his obituary. Palance died today of natural causes in his California home. He was 87. Palance is probably best known for his long career playing tough-guy roles in movies like Shane and City Slickers (for which he won an Oscar and did those one-handed pushups at the ceremony). But TV fans will likely remember him as the host of the show Ripley’s Believe It or Not, which ran from 1982-1986 on ABC. God, was it creepy when he ended one of those segments about someone with two noses or some other equally freaky subject by slowly saying in his calm, low tone, “Believe it… (inhale) or not.” Gave the teenaged me the willies. But I tuned in each and every week. Gonna miss the guy.

As for me, when I lived in Tamaqua, PA, I was often told of how people would run into Palance on the streets of Hazleton, PA (about 10 miles north of Tamaqua, and supposedly his hometown). Every story spoke of how down-to-earth and friendly Palance was. I never met the man myself, but I will always think of him in connection with his role as Curly in City Slickers. In particular, I remember the conversation he had with Mitch, played by Billy Crystal, as they rode through the western countryside.

Mitch and two of his New York buddies have come to northern New Mexico to work through their mutual mid-life crises by driving cattle up to Colorado. But Curly can only shake his head at their angst. “You city folk! You spend 50 weeks a year getting knots in your rope,” Curly uncomprehendingly observes. “Then you think two weeks up here will straighten it out.” The horses pause beneath them. “Do you know what the secret of life is?” Curly asks Mitch.

“No, what?” Mitch asks eagerly.

“This,” Curly answers holding up one gloved index finger.

“Your finger?” Mitch asks, thrown off a little.

“One thing,” Curly answers. “It is just one thing. You stick to this and anything else don’t mean beans.”

“That’s great,” Mitch enthuses, “but what’s the one thing?”

“That is what you got to figure out,” Curly cryptically responds before
riding away.

It’s a memorable scene, and not just because it’s good filmmaking. One person has called this conversation “an ink-blot of cowboy spirituality. Curly is the Zen master of the old west. You read anything you want into it.” But this still leaves us asking, “So what is the one thing?” Is it low carbs in your diet? Is it a blockbuster Eagles or 76er or Phillies trade? Is it getting your kids into the best schools?

Just to demonstrate something that some of you already know – that my mind operates in weird ways – this scene from City Slickers reminds me of something a friend once shared with me from the 19th century Danish theologian Soren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard begins his book Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing with a prayer.

“Father in heaven!
What is a man without Thee!
What is all that he knows, vast accumulation though it be,
but a chipped fragment if he does not know Thee!
What is all his striving, could it even encompass a world,
but a half-finished work, if he does not know Thee:
Thee the One, who art one thing and who art all!
So may Thou give to the intellect, wisdom to comprehend that one thing;
to the heart, sincerity to receive this understanding;
to the will, purity that wills only one thing.
In prosperity may Thou grant perseverance to will one thing;
amid distractions, collectedness to will one thing;
in suffering, patience to will one thing.
give to the young man the resolution to will one thing.
And as the day wanes,
give to the old man a renewed remembrance of his first resolution,
that the first might be like the last, the last like the first,
in possession of a life that has willed only one thing.”

I don’t know if Palance possessed “a life that willed only one thing,” but I do know that one scene in City Slickers has helped me over the years to focus on what that idea might mean for me in my life. For that, I am grateful, and I wish Mr. Palance “God Speed,” and I pray that he might find rest in the arms and love of God.