Daily Riches: Music–The Best Therapy (William Cowper, Teresa of Avila, William and Randy Peterson)

“William Cowper, whose poems appear in most collections of great English literature, was beset with emotional problems throughout his life. His mother died when he was six, at school he was teased and ridiculed, and his father prevented him from marrying the girl he loved. Forced to study law, he panicked when he learned he would have his bar exam before the House of Lords–and tried to commit suicide. After a year in an insane asylum, he was released into the care of a Christian couple. It seemed that hymnwriting was the best therapy Cowper could get. But mental illness continued to plague the poet, and he frequently lapsed into deep depression. You can almost see his self-portrait [below] in the ‘fearful saints’ who need to take ‘fresh courage’ in the future blessings of God. Intellectually he knew the truth of these lines, but emotionally he was still trying to grasp it.” William and Randy Peterson

“God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

“Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

“Judge not the Lord by feeble sense.
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

“His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

“Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own Interpreter,
And He will make it plain.”

William Cowper

“Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away. God never changes.
Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.”
— St. Teresa of Avila, from her bookmark

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken.”
Psalm 62:5-6

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Both Cowper and Teresa are “talking to themselves”–like the psalmist. Do you talk to yourself? What do you say?
  • “Intellectually [Cowper] knew the truth of these lines, but emotionally he was still trying to grasp it.” Isn’t that often our experience as well? And what would you say was the truth of those lines?
  • The story refuses a typical happy ending. Cowper still suffered. He still struggled. Is there space in your view of the life of faith for that? …for people like that? …for yourself, when you’re like that?

Abba, thank you for the therapy of music.

For More: The One Year Book of Hymns, edited by Brown and Norton

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Thanks for reading/sharing my blog! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: Gargoyles and God’s Therapy (Malcolm Muggeridge)

“Newcomers to the Christian faith, the Journalist finds, are considered, by the nature of the case, to have lost their sense of humour: How funny he used to be! and now, alas, how solemn! how portentous! What an unconscionable bore he has become! This assumption that a sense of humour and a Christian faith are incompatible is totally mistaken. In point of fact, the writers of the great classics of humour – Rebelais, Cervantes, Swift, Gogol – have all been deeply religious. …The true function of humour is to express in terms of the grotesque the immense disparity between human aspiration and human performance. Mysticism expresses the same disparity in terms of the sublime. Hence the close connection between clowns and mystics; hence, too, the juxtaposition on the great medieval cathedrals of steeples reaching up into the Cloud of Unknowing, and gargoyles grinning malevolently down at our dear earth and all it’s foolishness. Laughter and mystical ecstacy, that is to say, both derive from an awareness, in the one case hilarious, in the other ecstatic, of how wide is the chasm between Time and Eternity, between us and our Creator. Let us then, while, as we should, revering the steeples, remember the gargoyles, also, in their way, purveyors of God’s Word, and be thankful that, when the Gates of Heaven swing open, as they do from time to time, mixed with the celestial music there is the unmistakable sound of celestial laughter. … How wonderful it is, this marrying of the ribaldry of gargoyles with the sublimity of steeples, this seeing of a saint in every clown and a clown in every saint, and the Fall of Man as being, at once, the measure and fatality of all our afflictions and the old banana-skin joke on a cosmic scale. …Laughter, indeed, is God’s therapy; He planted the steeples and the gargoyles, gave us clowns as well as saints, in order that we might understand that at the heart of our mortal existence there lies a mystery, at once unutterably beautiful and hilariously funny.” Malcolm Muggeridge

“What are mere mortals … that you should care for them?” Psalm 8:4

 Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Have you noticed the “immense disparity” between your aspirations and performance? Have you noticed it in everyone else too?
  • Can you laugh with the gargoyles at this situation – “unutterably beautiful and hilariously funny?”
  • Imagine “how wide is the chasm” between you and your Creator. Now imagine that Creator being undeterred by that chasm in his love for you.

Abba, thank you for the gargoyles.

For More: Conversion by Malcolm Muggeridge

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. I hope you’ll follow and share it. –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)