Edhird's Blog

Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit


2 Comments

G.K. Chesterton and St. Francis

By Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

The late G.K. Chesterton is one of the most significant writers in the past hundred years.[1]  His ‘friendly enemy’ George Bernard Shaw called him a colossal genius.[2] Chesterton wrote many biographies, including those of Robert Louis Stevenson, William Chaucer, St Benedict and St Francis of Assisi.  Chesterton’s biography on St Francis told us as much about Chesterton as about St. Francis. They had remarkable things in common.  Both Chesterton and Francis had a grateful appreciation of the gift of God’s creation.  Rather than exploit nature, they both cared for it as faithful stewards.  Who can forget the classic 1972 movie ‘Brother Sun Sister Moon’, with its message of peace so loved by the hippies of San Francisco (Spanish for Saint Francis)?[3]  As Chesterton noted, “St Francis was so fiery and even fidgety that the church officials, before he appeared quite suddenly, thought he was a madman.”[4] To renounce his wealthy father’s materialism did not make any initial sense to most people in his home town of Assisi.  Both Francis and Chesterton were radically spontaneously generous to the poor and hurting.  Everything they did for others was out of gratitude for Jesus’ sacrificial love on the cross.

There was a playful laughter with both Francis and Chesterton that won the hearts of millions.   Both used humorous drama to awaken the world from its cynical slumber.[5]  Chesterton was called the Angelic Jester.[6]  There is in both Chesterton and Francis an endearing childlikeness and innocence that draws people to Christ.  Joseph Pearce, a Chesterton biographer, noted that “…the paradox of innocent wisdom was a fertile ground for Chesterton’s imagination.”[7]  The famous Oxford atheist CS Lewis came to faith after reading Chesterton’s book The Everlasting Man.   It has been said that Chesterton, as one of the deepest thinkers who ever existed, made up for being deep by being witty.[8]  Both Chesterton and Francis not only made you think but also made you laugh.[9] In a very Franciscan way, Chesterton taught that the secret of life lies in laughter and humility.[10]  Only grateful people are humble enough to laugh at themselves.

Both Chesterton and Francis were romantic troubadours of hope calling people away from fashionable despair and cynicism.[11] As self-described jugglers and jesters of God, they passionately romanced our hearts.[12]  At the heart of this romance was the key idea of taking things with gratitude and not taking things for granted.[13]  Without gratitude, said Chesterton, all we are left with is the emptiness of ‘bread and circuses’.[14] Gratitude to God enables us, with Francis and Chesterton, to enjoy the gifts that are all around us.  Chesterton commented about the joy of seeing a dandelion after temporary blindness, and how true pessimists can’t even notice the sunset.[15]

My prayer for those reading this article is that we like Chesterton and Francis will notice the dandelions and sunsets with new gratitude.

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-an article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News and the Light Magazine

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 

[1] Joseph Pearce, Wisdom and Innocence: A Life of GK Chesterton“, (Hodder & Stoughton, London, UK, 1996), vii ‘…one of the giants of 20th Century literature’

[2]  “Orthodoxologist”, Time, 11 October 1943, (Accessed August 4, 2016); Pearce, vii “His wit was a match for that of Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, and a host of others.”

[3]  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0069824/  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rG5jVcYA1aM

[4] G.K. Chesterton, Thomas Aquinas (Catholic Book Club, London, UK, 1933), 14-15

[5] J. D. Douglas (24 May 1974). “G.K. Chesterton, the Eccentric Prince of Paradox”. Christianity Today. (accessed August 4th 2016)

[6] Fr John O’Connor, Father Brown on Chesterton (Frederick Muller Ltd, London, 1937), 157.

[7] Pearce, 92.

[8] Maisie Ward, Return to Chesterton (London, 1952), 526.

[9] Dale Ahlquist, “Who is this Guy and Why Haven’t I Heard of Him?”, The American Chesterton Society, 2014, http://www.chesterton.org/who-is-this-guy (Chesteron) “doesn’t merely astonish you. He doesn’t just perform the wonder of making you think. He goes beyond that. He makes you laugh.”

[10] G.K. Chesterton, Heretics (Wilder Publication, London, UK, 1909), 131.

[11] Pearce, 161 “…cynicism pollutes and destroys wisdom as much as it pollutes and destroys innocence.”

[12] The Times Literary Supplement, October 3rd 1933, “As the nineteenth century clutched at the Franciscan romance, precisely because it had neglected romance…”; Pearce, 297; Chesterton, Francis of Assisi, 74-77. “The jongleur (of God) was properly a joculator or jester; sometimes he was what we should call a juggler.”

[13] G.K. Chesterton, Autobiography, (Hutchinson, London, UK, 1936) 330.

[14] G.K’s Weekly, December 13th 1934. “The vulgar school of panem et circenses only gives people circuses; it does not even tell them how to enjoy circuses.”

[15] Ward, 10.; Pearce, 70.


9 Comments

My Fair Lady

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

Recently I decided to watch one of the great classics ‘My Fair Lady’.  As I entered into the world of 19th century England, I found myself alternately laughing and weeping.  ‘My Fair Lady’ refreshed my soul.

There are so many great lessons to be learnt from the historic classics, including the loverliest motion picture of them all!  ‘My Fair Lady’ in some ways feels like a movie written for the 21st century, because it so accurately names the angst of contemporary gender confusion and role ambiguity.  There is a fascinating dichotomy between the two songs: ‘Why can’t a woman be more like a man?’ and ‘Just you wait, ‘Enry ‘Iggins, just you wait…’  ‘My Fair Lady’ accurately names the ‘flight from woman’ so vividly described by Leanne Payne in her classic book ‘Crisis in Masculinity’.

More than ever, like Liza’s father Alfred Doolittle, many men are afraid to commit to a lasting relationship.  Marriage has become the new four-letter word.

“The gentle sex was made for man to marry but, with a little bit o’ luck, With a little bit o’ luck, You can have it all and not get hooked!”

‘My Fair Lady’ (1964) was honored with twelve Academy Award nominations and eight wins, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Rex Harrison), Best Director (Cukor’s only Best Director award in his career), Best Color Cinematography (in widescreen 70 mm), Best Color Art Direction/Set Decoration, Best Sound, Best Score (Andre Previn), and Best Color Costume Design (Cecil Beaton).

My Fair Lady was director George Cukor’s film musical adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s 1912 play Pygmalion with 2,717 performances on Broadway from 1956 to 1962. ‘My Fair Lady’ became the longest-running production in Broadway history, outdistancing the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical play, Oklahoma!, which had held that record up to then.

Roger Herbert the film critic noted that Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe struggled with turning George Bernard Shaw’s PYGMALION into a musical off and on from 1952.  Prior to that, Rodgers and Hammerstein had worked on it for a year before giving up, defeated.  In 1954, Lerner hit upon the idea of setting to music the things that in Shaw’s play happened off stage between acts.

It is hard to think of a movie that has had so many memorable songs, including: “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “Oh, Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” “The Street Where You Live,” “I’m Getting Married in the Morning,” and “With a Little Bit of Luck.”  The ‘proof of the pudding’ is that for the last two weeks I keep spontaneously breaking into song or whistling hits from ‘My Fair Lady’.

George Bernard Shaw chose the original play’s name ‘Pygmalion’.  Pygmalion was a king of Cyprus and a great sculptor. He, like Henry Higgins, was a confirmed bachelor and lived exclusively for his art.  But one day he fell in love with the statue of a beautiful woman he had made and he prayed that the statue would come alive.  His prayer was heard.  When Pygmalion embraced the statue, it came alive and he married the woman, Galatea, he had himself created.

The show was for a while called LIZA and then LADY LIZA.  Fritz Loewe wanted to call it FANFAROON, an obscure English term for someone who blows his own fanfare.  MY FAIR LADY was picked as the title everyone detested the least!

‘My Fair Lady’ reminded me that many women don’t feel good about being women.  They certainly don’t feel like ‘My Fair Lady’.  Many of them secretly feel like Eliza Doolittle the ‘guttersnipe’ flower girl.  ‘My Fair Lady’ reminds us that God wants to affirm women in their femininity, their beauty, intelligence and worth.

Henri Higgins said to Liza, “Remember that you are a human being with a soul and the divine gift of articulate speech, that your native language is the language of Shakespeare and Milton and The Bible.”.  So too Jesus Christ says to each of us: “Remember that you are a human being with a soul”.  Jesus the bridegroom calls all of us spiritually (both men and women!) to be his bride, his beautiful princess beautifully dressed for her husband, washed clean of any stains and wrinkles (Ephesians 5:26, Revelation 21:2).  Just as Liza was received by the King of Transylvania as a princess, so Jesus the King wants to call us ‘My Fair Lady’.  No matter what moral or spiritual gutter that you may fallen into in your life, your truest identity in King Jesus is as ‘My Fair Lady’.

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-previously published in the North Shore News

-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 


2 Comments

Embracing Handel’s Messiah

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hirdhandel picture

Beethoven once said: “Handel was the greatest composer that ever lived.  I would uncover my head, and kneel before his tomb.”  King George III called Handel “the Shakespeare of Music.”  George Bernard Shaw commented that “Handel is not a mere composer in England: he is an institution.  What is more, he is a sacred institution.”

In North America and England, at the very least, Handel’s Messiah has become the most popular and performed and recorded and listened to choral work.  Many people stereotype Handel’s Messiah as Christmas music, but in earlier years, Messiah performances were more likely to occur at Easter.  For Handel, the Messiah was an Easter event that told not merely of birth but also of death and resurrection.

 

George Frideric Handel was born in Halle, Germany within a month of Johanne Sebastian Bach (1685).  Handel’s father was a barber-surgeon who hated music and wanted his son to become a successful lawyer.  His aunt Anna gave Handel a spinet harpsichord that they hid in Handel’s attic, wrapping each string with thin strips of cloth, so that Handel could play undetected.

 

handel picture 2When George was eight or nine, the Duke of Weissenfels heard him play the postlude to a church service and he summoned the boy’s father and told him he ought to encourage such talent.  His only teacher was Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow, a most learned and imaginative musician and teacher, who instilled in his young pupil a lifelong intellectual curiosity.  At age 11, Handel entered a musical contest at the Berlin court of the Elector with the famous composer Buononcini, and won.

 

When Handel moved to England in 1712, it was a beehive of musical activity with Italian opera ruling the day.  Within the next 30 year period in England, Handel wrote about 40 operas and 26 oratorios.  Handel did not play to easy audiences.  If opera attenders felt bored in Handel’s day, they would often start loud conversations, and walk around freely.  It was also a custom for them to play cards, and eat snacks right during the opera.

 

As Smith/Carlson put it, Handel “…was an inviting target for critics and for satire.  He was a foreigner, and an individual no one could help noticing.  He had large hands, large feet, a large appetite, and he wore a huge white wig with curls rippling over his shoulders.  He spoke English rather loudly in a colourful blending of Italian, German, and French.  He was temperamental, he loved freedom, and he hated restrictions which placed limits on his art…”

 

 Charles Burney, who later sang and played under him, told how Handel once raged at him when he made a mistake, “a circumstance very terrific to a young musician.”  But when Handel found that his mistake was caused by a copying error, he apologized generously (“I pec your parton – I am a very odd tog”, he said in Germanic English).

 

Handel also struggled with his weight, a problem about which critics mercilessly teased him.  His London years were up and down, and unbelievably down at times.  As Romain Rolland has tried to explain it: “He was surrounded by a crowd of bulldogs with terrible fangs, by unmusical men of letters who were likewise able to bite, by jealous colleagues, arrogant virtuosos, cannibalistic theatrical companies, fashionable cliques, feminine plots, and nationalistic leagues…Twice he was bankrupt, and once he was stricken by apoplexy amid the ruin of his company.  But he always found his feet again; he never gave in.”

 

Jesus on Cross picture The situation was so bleak in 1741 that just before he wrote the Messiah, he had seriously considered going back to Germany.  But instead of giving up, he turned more strongly to God.  Handel composed the Messiah in 24 days without once leaving his house.  During this time, his servant brought him food, and when he returned, the meal was often left uneaten.  While writing the “Hallelujah Chorus”, his servant discovered him with tears in his eyes.  He exclaimed, “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself!!”  As Newman Flower observes, “Considering the immensity of the work, and the short time involved in putting it to paper, it will remain, perhaps forever, the greatest feat in the whole history of musical composition.”

 

At a Messiah performance in 1759, honouring his seventy-fourth birthday, Handel responded to enthusiastic applause with these words: “Not from me – but from Heaven- comes all.”  In his last years he worshipped twice every day at St. George’s Church, Hanover Square, near his home.

 

The Messiah was first performed in Dublin in 1742, and immediately won huge popular success.  In order to have room enough for the people,  a request was sent afar and wide, asking, “The favour of the Ladies not to come with hoops this day to the Music Hall in Fishamble Street.  The Gentlemen are desired to come without their swords.”  This is how the Dublin Newspaper reported the event: “…The best Judges allowed it to be the most finished work of Musick.  Words are wanting to express the exquisite Delight it afforded to the admiring crowded Audience.  The Sublime, the Grand, and the Tender, adapted to the most elevated, majestic, and moving Words, conspired to transport and charm the ravished Heart and Ear…”  Handel could have made a financial killing from the Messiah, but instead he designated that all the proceeds would go to charities.

 

In contrast to the Irish, the English did not initially like the Messiah.  This oratorio, after all, had no story.  The soloists had too little to do, and the chorus too much.  It was different, and the audience wasn’t ready for it.  Jennens who wrote the script didn’t like it either.  He commented: “Handel’s Messiah has disappointed me, being set in great haste, though he said he would be a year about it, and make it the best of all his Compositions.  I shall put no more Sacred Works into his hands, thus to be abused.”

 

Twenty-five years later, Handel’s Messiah was so popular with the English that they almost rioted, while waiting to hear it at Westminster Abbey.  People screamed, as they feared being trampled.  Others fainted.  Some threatened to break down the church doors.

 

Handel’s use of biblical words in a theatre was revolutionary, and those who opposed Handel went to great extremes to keep his oratorios from being successful.  For example, certain self-righteous women gave large teas or sponsored other theatrical performances on the days when Handel’s concerts were to take place in order to rob him of an audience.  As well, his enemies hired boys to tear down the advertisements about Handel’s Messiah.  One opponent wrote to a newspaper asking “if the Playhouse is a fit Temple…or a Company of Players fit Ministers of God’s Word.”  This person saw the Messiah as “prostituting sacred things to the perverse humour of a Set of obstinate people.”

 

In contrast, the famous preacher John Wesley liked Handel’s Messiah.  He wrote: “In many parts, especially several of the choruses, it exceeded my expectation.”  One clergy William Hanbury in 1759 said that you could hardly find an eye without tears in the whole audience.

 

The King was so deeply stirred with the exultant music, that when the first Hallelujah rang through the hall, he rose to his feet and remained standing until the last note of the chorus echoed through the house.  From this began the custom of standing for the Hallelujah chorus.  When a nobleman praised Handel as to how entertaining the Messiah was, Handel replied, “My Lord, I should be sorry if I only entertained them; I wished to make them better.”

 

What is it about the Messiah that makes it so popular?  Many scholars point to the spaciousness in Handel’s music, the dramatic silences, and the stirring contrast.  Sadie commented that the music of Handel’s, is a blend of different styles: English church music (especially the choruses), the German Passion-music tradition, the Italian melodic style.  In fact, three of the choruses are arranged from Italian love-duets which Handel had written thirty years before.  Handel’s genius was in bringing new and dramatic twists to the familiar and mundane.

 

In 1759 the almost blind Handel conducted a series of 10 concerts.  After performing the Messiah, he told some friends that he had one desire –to die on Good Friday.  “I want to die on Good Friday,” he said, “in the hope of rejoining the good God, my sweet Lord and Saviour, on the day of His resurrection.”

 

On Good Friday, he bid good-bye to his friends and dies the very next day on Holy Saturday, April 14th, 1759.  Handel was fittingly buried in Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey.  A close friend of Handel’s, James Smyth, said: “Handel died as he lived –as a good Christian, with a true sense of his duty to God and man, and in perfect charity with all the world…”

 

My prayer is that the words and music of Handel’s Messiah may help us experience the intimacy of Handel’s relationship with His Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.

 

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-author of the award-winning book Battle for the Soul of Canada

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca