Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Songs in the Night

I had mentioned in my previous post about the music rumbling through my head.  Music that has hung around in my memory banks for well over thirty years!  No, it's not Rock and Roll.  It's something different. . . very different.

Let's "set the table" so to speak and provide some background to the topic.  When I became a follower of Jesus Christ in the turbulent 1970's, I became attached to a local church in Oceanside; First Baptist Church of Oceanside, to be exact.  Shortly after I was baptized and joined the church there, the leadership called James E. Boersma to become the Minister of Music.  I didn't know what that was at the time.  I was about to find out. . . 

He moved to Oceanside from Hollywood, where I learned he was well entrenched in a house there he had owned for decades.  So this was a big move and change for him.  The church members helped him move, as I recall.  Lots of stuff. . . and a grand piano to go with all the furniture.  Was that ever impressive the first time I saw it in his new house, the former model home and sales office for a housing tract - College Terrace - just outside of Mira Costa College in Oceanside.  He even purchased the asphalted adjacent lot next to the house to park his orangish sun faded 1970 Oldsmobile 98 sedan in.  The house's garage was the model home's sales room, and he kept it carpeted and intact the way the real estate company had it, locating his grand piano dead center in the middle of that garage room.  This suited him perfectly for playing his grand piano and "working," as he called it.  Playing music all the time was more like it, though.  "How could playing such a beautiful piano all day long be considered work?" I thought to myself then.   

In due time, I found out.  Pastor Boersma, or "Brother" Boersma to some in the church, arranged, composed, edited, conducted and played music.  He was the consummate musician. . . but not any secular variety musician.  A sacred music musician.  What was Sacred Music?  We church youth who attended the first vocal youth choir and handbell choir - five octaves at that - soon found out.  Sacred Music was music that was devoted to God and His purposes in one's life.  But nothing dull and boring, necessarily. 

Some of the compositions we sang, played and enjoyed while worshiping God with Pastor Boersma - in practice session or in performance - were There's a New Song In My Heart (Since the Savior Set Me Free) - often used as a Call to Worship number to start the worship services on Sundays, I'm So Happy and Here's the Reason Why (Jesus Washed My Sins All Away), and When the Saints Come Marching In.  The youth handbell choir often played as a Call to Worship Love Divine (All Loves Excellingand This is the Day That the Lord Has Made (Let Us Rejoice and Be Glad In It).  I found out through experience that Pastor Boersma was a fan of Ralph Carmichael, and later as an adult found out he was well known by him.  So we had lots of Ralph Carmichael compositions to sing in choir.  Anything by Singspiration was also the standing order of the day.  Bill Gaither compositions - new at that time - and other well liked songs by fellow Sacred Music composers he knew from that period rounded out the overwhelming majority of the musical selections performed, besides hymns, of course.  Fairly lively stuff for a Baptist church to have performed in it during the 1970's from what I later as an adult figured out.   

The adult choir would always close with Think on These Things from the well known passage from Paul's letter to the Philippians.  "Whatsoever things are good. . . whatsoever things are true. . . whatsoever things are holy. . . Think on these things.  And the peace of God shall be with you. . . the peace. . . of God. . . shall be with you. . . .  Wow. . . Just wow. . . that closing always sent shivers up my spine back then.  Now too, if I could find out where to hear a copy of it.  Very, very comforting words for folks living through the turbulent 1970's. . . a decade where a good number of Evangelical Christians thought the Rapture could take place at any time and, to quote the words from yet another song from the period, I wish we'd all been ready. 

In the course of my time as a youth handbell choir member, I learned several hymns that I never would have known or heard the lyrics if it weren't for Pastor Boersma's practices.  Sun of My Soul.  Day is Dying in the West.  It is Well with My Soul (a more mainstream hymn).  Beautiful restful Sacred Music.  What a gift it was to go as a youth handbell choir to Oceana in Oceanside - a Senior Adult planned community - and play these very numbers to an appreciative, but limited audience of seniors.  I knew they enjoyed the music.  I enjoyed playing it for them.

Last but not least were the cantatas.  Easter Song.  Independence Day patriotic and Sacred Hymns to mark the day - including a very memorable July 4th, 1976 Bicentennial performance.  And of course the "Living Christmas Tree" open air Christmas Hymn and Carol free concert held each year at Plaza Camino Real in Carlsbad.  All with vocal choir(s), handbells - adult and youth ensembles - and orchestra, which Senior Pastor Harvey M. Lifsey would continually mispronounce as "orchester". 

I'll never forget one Sunday morning on July 4, 1976 when I had to get my Bass bell ringing position playing in sync with the right bell at the right time.  If you know anything about handbell choirs, the bass position is the one that deals with the heaviest, most easily to be clumsy and make a "clang!" with kind of bells.  It fell to me.  I was slow on the uptake that final rehearsal that Sunday morning, but I finally got it right.  Pastor Boersma was very concerned his "star" Bass handbell player wasn't going to "get it right" but God was in control, and worked through me to get it on key and in tempo.  Now that was work. . . all praise to God.

* * * * *

All that said. . . who was James E. Boersma?  There used to be a whole page devoted to him on the 'Net some years ago, but I can't find it now.  Here's what some of his contemporaries said about him:

It was through Dr. Coleman Phillips, Pastor of the Cathedral of the Valley FourSquare Church in Escondido, that I was priviliged to meet such great men of the faith including Dr. Jack Hayford, James Boersma, one of the great arrangers who also introduced me to the Ralph Carmichael organization, and of course Dr. Roy Hicks who became a good friend and mentor.    --Larrie Dee

I have known James Boersma, music editor for the Rodeheaver Company, longer than almost anybody in this business.  Jimmy and I go back a long way -- clear back to teenage days, and I'm not telling how far back that is!  Jimmy Boersma can do just about anything that has to be done in music.  He composes, he arranges, he conducts, he edits.  Jimmy is one of the most talented men in this field, and a real Christian gentleman.  --Rudy Atwood (Go to Page 117 for the source citation)

From those who knew him well. . . even better than I.  Well said!  A great man of the faith.  One who can do just about anything that has to be done in music.  A real Christian gentleman.  Indeed!  I quite agree.

It doesn't say it from the limited research I've done just now, but Pastor Boersma actually wrote Sacred Music and led worshippers in song at Angelus Temple, historically famous as the 20th Century church where Aimee Semple McPherson was Pastor before scandal broke in her life and she was tainted with its effects.  He was her contemporary and knew her very well.  I remember how he would sometimes have our bell choir begin practice by saying "Let's pray for (famous name actor or performer) that they come to know the Lord soon!"  He actually knew such folk through his life and ministry in Hollywood.  But he never made a big deal of it.  Humble about it to the end. 

Pastor Boersma was also fond of saying "Smile!  It takes more muscles to make a frown than to make a smile.  Do you want your muscles to work harder or easier?  So let's do it!  Let's see everyone smile!"  . . . as he demonstrated a winning Christ loving smile on his lips, baring his smaller sized teeth which were in pretty good "ivory white" condition for someone of his older age.

Here's to you, dear Pastor Boersma. . . with fond memories and thanksgiving to God for all you exemplified to me and those in the music ministry at the church at that time. . . I look heavenward at the Lord and you with, yes, a smile.  Your work and ministry still gives me Songs in the Night!  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Thank You for Being a Friend

In a moment or two of spare time - such as that is for me at this station in life - I began to remember where I started out my walk with God, and how that all came about.  In large part this was prompted by a church membership application (my wife and I are joining the church we attend. . . Praise God!).  The simple question on the application is "When and how did you receive Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord?"  I remember.  I remember all so very well. 

But I don't often have the opportunity to share those memories with those I know and love.  We get older, graduate from school, move away, find a job, and before you know it. . . you lose touch. 

This is the "magic" of Facebook: it reconnects you to those you remember - even those who have since married and now use their husband's name (who you might not even know at all) and allows you to "friend" them.  Reconnect with them and their lives.  Even after several decades of nonconnection and apparent silence.  Amazing technology at your keyboard's fingertips.  

I still have hanging in my house an old black and white photograph of my youth group performing as a handbell choir (five octaves) and vocal choir in our church's "Living Christmas Tree" program which was offered to the public free of charge at the regional shopping mall in the area, Plaza Camino Real in Carlsbad, California.  Always memories when I look at that photo, now framed in a simple wooden glass enclosed item which I found out after the fact may have ruined the photo.  The photograph is slightly too large for the frame!  I was told years ago I would have trouble getting it out of the frame, and to just simply leave it in.  I've done so.  

One of those friends from long ago was a tall blonde girl who was rather friendly and energetic, and was always good for a laugh.  I thought she was interested at the time in a certain blonde left handed bell choir member romantically, but I was wrong.  She married "out of the choir," but definitely inside that local church.  Solid catch from what I remember.  Solid family relations in that family, too.  Ones I never had in the way they did.  I secretly envied them back then.  What a neat family!  The dad oftentimes sang tenor solos before the sermon back in those days.  What a beautiful voice God gave him.  I enjoyed those solos very much, and still have a lot of music from that period rumbling around in my head.   

I found her (updated married) name on Facebook easily enough, and, upon being certain it was indeed her, pressed the "friend" button.  Not something I do everyday, especially to people I've not been in the company of for decades.  Worth a try.  "Up to you, God. . . " 

What do you know. . . in short order, she "friended" me back by accepting my friend request!  Wow. . . life, kids, grandkids, husband, boating. . . just wow.  That was very nice!  Nice to hear happy endings.  And the best part is from what I read, they all are still walking with God and keeping to that Pilgrim Way as I am doing as well. 

"OK," I say to myself.  "Let's see who she knows that I know" (or remember).  Wow upon wow. . . "Hey, there's that really zealous on fire guy with the funny wire glasses" (as I remembered him).  "Wonder if he remembers me?"

Sure enough. . . he did!  Pure wow!  And do I ever love what he said about the Internet and Facebook in particular: "Let's Redeem this thing called Facebook!"  Amen!  You got it, my friend.  Good to hear about your loved one making it through their medical situation and you staying steadfast with the Lord God.  Keep on sticking with Him. . . He is ever faithful and true. 

Bonus round: looking around again on his friend list, I came across the very one who invited me to church (not with her. . . not a date. . . just a friendly invite to be with others like herself).  This was immediately after I received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  Wow!  Pure unadulterated Joy at this. . . and Wow!  And hey. . . you haven't aged a bit.  You look as I remembered you.  The older photos of you back when we were in high school or shortly afterwards add a nice touch.  Don't lose 'em, you hear?  (wide grin)

OK, let's try this thing again.  I typed in a name one night.  Next morning, I was friended back!  He moved with his wife to Oregon. . . never would have known them to be there.  They look and sound great from what I see and read.  Amazing. . . and wow!

My heart is filled with gratitude at your kindnesses, folks.  Thank you for remembering. . . thank you for caring. . . thank you for praying for me when I was nothing much to be pleased about and a real "work in progress". . . and thank you for being a friend despite the disconnections over the decades in our lives.  You are loved. . . but most of all by God for your kindness and willingness to identify yourself with Him first, and myself second.  Thank you for being such upright, faithful, Godly friends. 

Now let's walk this Pilgrim trail together.  Not exactly as in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. . . but you get the picture.  Let's go!   

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Freud's Last Session

 And now, a (live) theatre alert. . .

If you are in the Los Angeles, California area or will be in the near future. . . and have the opportunity, you might wish to take an unbelieving friend - and yourself - to see a new off-Broadway play coming to LA.  Intriguingly titled "Freud's Last Session," the play pits the famed 20th Century psychoanalyst against another famous 20th Century figure, Athiest turned Christian author and professor C. S. Lewis of Oxford.  The imaginary debate, set in the early World War II period, is both witty and profound.  It's also downright winsome, according to Eric Metaxas, Breakpoint radio commentator and noted author in his own right. 

The link to the Breakpoint commentary on this subject is here:
This sounds like a splendid opportunity to invite your intellectually oriented and/or skeptical friends to come hear an evenhanded discussion about the meaning of life.  I'd encourage that.  Should I find anyone who meets the intellectually oriented criteria - like many of my workplace sites' faculty colleagues - I will likewise do what I can to invite them to come and view this new smash hit play. 

More information on worldwide locations for this play is here:

And here, via their press release:

Nothing with definite dates for Los Angeles or other world cities at the moment from what I see, but it's always good to have that "heads up" on knowing about this play beforehand. 

Hat tip: Eric Metaxas/Breakpoint

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

You Number My Wanderings

From Psalm 56 in the New King James Version:

8 You number my wanderings;
Put my tears into Your bottle;
Are they not in Your book?
9 When I cry out to You,
Then my enemies will turn back;
This I know, because God is for me.
10 In God (I will praise His word),
In the Lord (I will praise His word),
11 In God I have put my trust;
I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?

A little background on the "wandering pilgrim" meme I have used to describe myself to others down through the years: credit Entertainment industry arranger/producer Brett Perry, who I met a couple of decades ago at First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood (California) with that description.  At the time, he was working with and collaborating with Twila Paris, the Christian singer and lyricist.  Her song Wandering Pilgrim is one that Brett helped produce for her, among others during that period.  Brett remarked to me once "David, this song describes you very well.  I guess it's meant for you too!"  (Humble bow)

How interesting it was to find in today's "Reading the Bible in a year" passage in my Bible reading plan for the day the above verses.  Never did see the word "wandering" there before.  Not all English translations say it that way, of course.  But New King Jimmy does.  Interesting. . . 

God numbers my wanderings.  "He knows my every thought," is a lyric from another song I love, "He Knows My Name."  He is that knowledgeable, concerned, and caring.  He knows our story even better than we do!  Makes one shiver at the thought when you get down to it. 

God also sees your tears as precious. . . precious enough to value them enough to bottle them.  We bottle Coca-Cola, hot sauce, and all kinds of other things. . . but tears?  Amazing that the Lord values even our tears in that kind of personal way.  Takes one's breath away when you think about it reflectively enough, doesn't it?

David (the writer of the Psalm here, not I who is named after him) in this instance was captured by the Philistines and imprisoned.  Notice what he says in response: God is for me, I will praise His word, and the immortal words of verse 11.  "In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me? 

Lots of implications and personal applications there in that verse.  In these days of increasing tribulation, be ye glad. . . and remember this:  they can kill the body, but they can't take your soul.  Not if it's Jesus' that he bought with the price he paid at the Cross.  You are set free in the Spirit through what Jesus provided for us.  Rejoice, my friends,rejoice!


Monday, June 4, 2012

Does Anyone in the Media Ever Read the Bible?

Today's guest post is by Eric Metaxas.  You'll note from my last post that I am quickly becoming a fan of his and his work, whose site is here:  This op-ed is one which I easily could have written. . . it's that good!  But he did it, and the necessary research that provides the screws that tighten up the irony inherent here.  Kudos to Eric for all that. 

Here's the link, courtesy

I'll be spending today preparing for my role as precinct Inspector for the Registrar of Voters and  prepping our neighborhood polling place for the election Tuesday.  I've read one account where statewide in California the election turnout may well be light.  Hope you take the time to vote Tuesday June 5th. 

You'll note this post is in a larger Font size and a different Font than past posts.  I'll eventually get around to changing the previous posts to this Font scheme.  Thanks for the feedback from those who gave it.  I appreciate your input to my work here. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Few Words About Being Real

I came across (hat tip to Jonathan Macy on Chris Johnson's Facebook page) an incredible video of a gentleman who I have never heard of - at least I think I haven't as yet - giving a very compelling, winsome, humorous, engaging talk at the National Prayer Breakfast held last February 2.  The speaker is Eric Metaxas.  The President and First Lady were present, as were 4,000 others at the Washington Hilton that day.  Lots to digest and learn from here.  Enjoy!

Have You Ever Seen This Happen?

A couple of situations to chew on:


Normally, the general practice (and the California Vehicle Code) is to pull over and stop when an ambulance approaches you.  If yhou can't pull over and stop, then stop where you are in the lane of traffic you happen to be in.  All this is for the benefit of the ambulance driver and the patient they are carrying, or are enroute to carry. . . to save precious time in the event of a life threatening medical situation. 

The other day, I was returning home from running errands when I witnessed the following: not only were drivers not pulling over or stopping on my side of a three lane each direction city street - a busy suburban street heavily used within eyesight of a hospital at that - they were not pulling over or stopping on the heavier traveled opposite direction of the street!  Granted, that side of the street at that midday hour was full of cars, and it would have been difficult to pull over.  The ambulance driver gamely stayed in the heavier traveled lanes going his direction, and kept airing his siren, though at a low pitch as though he was resigned to not see the situation get any better for him to move more efficiently. 

My wife has spent her working career in the nursing field, and has been a Registered Nurse for years.  I reported what I saw to her.  She said that was crazy that drivers wouldn't pull over and show any courtesy or consideration.  I quite agreed.  I've frankly never seen this kind of thing happen anywhere before, at least in the United States.  So I called the Sheriff's Department about it. 

The deputy I spoke with told me that there was nothing he could do about it.  "When we see it and we are out there, we do ticket drivers like that," he remarked.  "Thanks," I sighed as I hung up the phone. 

This situation is sooooooo lamentable.  Have we as a society - as a culture - lost respect and compassion for those in trouble and in need of emergency medical assistance?  Is it really all about what's in front of one's nose that counts?  Selfishness?  I know, the deputy I spoke with said that if it were their loved ones - the driver's own family or friends - in the ambulance, they would behave differently and pull over.  But how about the rest of the drivers remaining?


I was calling around to several doctor's offices lately.  I'll recount my experience with one younger doctor and her staffer at the phone here. 

Me: "Hello, I'm calling about seeing a doctor."

Receptionist: "You need to see her now?  She doesn't take patients now, and not even today.  She's booked up. . . booked until (two weeks later).  You'll have to make an appointment, or see urgent care somewhere else."

Me: "I don't need to see a doctor now.  I don't even need to see a doctor soon.  I just got out of the hospital!  I'm just inquiring about if your office takes my medical insurance."

Receptionist: "Everyone else has to see the doctor right now.  You don't?  You're sure about that?"

Me: "Yes, I'm sure.  I'm just calling around to see about seeing another doctor."


Galatians 5 (from The Message) has some good words on these matters:

19-21It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.
This isn't the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God's kingdom.
22-23But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.