Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed or At the Cross?


Do you prefer “Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed?” or “At the Cross,” which is the same song with a much happier chorus added to Isaac Watts’ s stark original:

Alas, and did my saviour bleed

And did my sovereign die?

Did he devote that sacred head

For such a worm as I?

Was it for crimes that I had done 

He groaned upon that tree?

Amazing pity, grace unknown, and love beyond degree.

Saying or singing those verses out loud really makes you stop and examine yourself.

Am I living up to this great love that was and is being shown to me? Am I sharing that “love beyond degree” with others, regardless of whether I think they deserve it?

This questioning and turmoil isn’t necessarily fun, and it isn’t the stuff of a properly cheerful church social.

And so a later writer, Ralph Hudson, added a refrain that ties everything up in a neat triuphalist bow, so you can smile and move on, putting all those sharp introspective edges right out of your mind.

At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light

And the burden of my heart rolled away

It was there by faith I received my sight

And now I am happy all the day

There is a time and a place for triumph: Easter, less than 2 weeks ago, was a perfect time to celebrate.

We’re celebrating Jesus’ resurrection victory over the darkness without and within us, the powers and principalities, the adversary, the corrupting power structures of this world and beyond.

Our triumph doesn’t come from candy coating everything that reminds us of that darkness, everything that pushes us to question just how much we’re still wallowing in it. 

If you’re really “happy all the day” in this world, you’re probably not paying attention. 

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What Does Satisfy? Part 1: SpiritĀ 


In honor of Easter, this Sunday, I’ll talk about God, religion, and spirit first.

No, religion does not magically make everything in life perfect and sunshiney. 

With all the suffering the world,  the only way to be perfectly sunshiney is to either be entirely ignorant and sheltered or to have such an “us vs. them” mentality that you lose all empathy for people who aren’t like you. 

Granted, there are ways to be happier,  to do all you can and trust God and other people to do the rest. I’m working on both sides of that:  really doing my best,  and really putting aside unhelpful worrying. 

Religion isn’t a magic feel good tonic (or it shouldn’t be), but connecting with a church that more closely matches my values  (and doesn’t promote things I actively think are wrong) really has helped. 

I even sang a solo in the worship service this past (Palm) Sunday, and I honestly didn’t know how much I’d missed that (The song is “Christmas had its Cradle, Easter has its Cross,” one of my all time favorites).

And spending quiet time disconnected from phones, tv and internet, focusing on and connecting with God, is also wonderful, when I keep my focus enough to actually do it. Whether this takes the form of self composed prayer, praying existing prayers (the Jesus prayer is my favorite), or simple wordless meditation,  it is always good. 

So, in a nutshell, 

Coherence and integrity between my spiritual values and my spiritual community

Reconnecting with and sharing spiritual songs that mean a lot to me (making a joyful noise unto the Lord)

Spending time away from the fragmenting distractions of the daily material world, focusing on God

Have all helped a lot. 

Happy Passover and Happy Easter.