“. . . the beginning of a deliverance from a blind, unfeeling heart. . . “

Harbor Seets. Bet you can't eat just one!

Harbor Sweets. Bet you can’t eat just one!

Everyone knows what it is to crave chocolate. Or caviar. Or potato chips. Or—a more apt comparison, I think—a beer. You probably don’t know what it’s like to have to (yes, you must, you cannot refuse the impulse) count the number of people in a room. And sometimes count the people as many times as the number of people in the room.

All of those are lovely compulsions. Chocolate is the best. But none of them comes close to how it feels to be sitting in front of the computer, strong French roast coffee made in a French press sitting within reach on the desk. Flash drive open on the computer with the essays that need grading. And all you can do is write this.

I was seeing a therapist a couple of years ago who knew a lot about treating obsessive-compulsive disorders. He was pretty old (about my age) and not the most attentive listener. Part of the effectiveness of talk therapy is knowing for sure the therapist is listening, focused in on you, not distracted by filling out the insurance forms that will pay him to let you sit there—while you’re sitting in his office. He suggested I read a book which is still on my Nook (on my iPad of course) which I started to read but never finished. It’s called Getting Control: Overcoming Your Obsessions and Compulsions, by Lee Baer, Ph.D. Just in case you need to get control. Don’t bother.

Speaking of chocolate. When I moved to Massachusetts in 1978, I became music director at Grace Church (Episcopal) in Salem. Our staff met weekly with the staff of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Marblehead. The organist there was Janet Fisk. She worked also in a chocolate factory. It was Harbor Sweets, then still owned by its founder, Ben Strohecker. I mention that only because their factory was in Salem, and I learned where it was immediately and would go there periodically to satisfy my chocolate compulsion. I wish all of my compulsions were that easy to satisfy.

I missed the Dallas Chocolate Conference and Festival a couple of weeks ago. Good thing.

The chocolate factory in Salem was Harbor Sweets. You can read about it and place your Christmas Order here. I don’t ever mean for this blog to advertise anything other than my own uninspired and/or wacko thinking (take your pick). However, Ben Strohecker, founder of Harbor Sweets, has done so much good with his money (a banquet on the floor of the old Boston Garden basketball arena to raise money for AIDS research long before it was fashionable, for example) that I have no qualms about telling you Texans about Harbor Sweets. Besides, if you can find a better chocolate anywhere, I’d like to know about it.

Work out your own salvation, dammit!

Work out your own salvation, dammit!

So I’ve almost worked out the compulsion to write before I jump into those ungraded student papers and bore myself to death for the rest of the day—that’s not true. I love the work and do it painstakingly and with volubility (as you can imagine), and that’s the problem: it takes so much mental and physical energy that I can hardly imagine doing it before I begin. Working out my compulsion for the day is tantamount to working out my salvation, in the honored tradition of John Wesley, whose theological understanding begins with the idea that you must

. . . work out your own salvation. The original word rendered, work out, implies the doing a thing thoroughly. Your own; for you yourselves must do this, or it will be left undone forever. Your own salvation: Salvation begins with . . . the first wish to please God, the first dawn of light concerning his will, and the first slight transient conviction of having sinned against him. All these imply some tendency toward life; some degree of salvation; the beginning of a deliverance from a blind, unfeeling heart, quite insensible of God and the things of God (John Wesley, “The Sermons of John Wesley – Sermon 85.” Wesley Center Online ).

If you want to obscure an idea, find out what a Methodist preacher says about it. I learned about the Wesley “work out your salvation” from Erik Routley (an out-of-the-ordinary Methodist preacher) in a seminar at the University of Iowa. His most famous hymntune, by the way, is on Youtube, with a lie that ought to get it taken down. It is obviously not a Catholic traditional hymn! Those Catholics will claim anything for their own! And it’s sung really badly in this posting.

Almost too sweet to be a preacher.

Almost too sweet to be a preacher.

So I have now worked out my hypergraphia salvation. I know this “implies doing [the] thing thoroughly. [My] own; for [I myself] must do this, or it will be left undone forever.”

There, aren’t you glad you stumbled upon my little compulsion for the day?

The words most people know that go with Routley’s tune:

1. What does the Lord require
for praise and offering?
What sacrifice desire,
or tribute bid you bring?
Do justly; love mercy;
walk humbly with your God.

2. Rulers of earth, give ear!
Should you not justice show?
Will God your pleading hear,
while crime and cruelty grow?
Do justly; love mercy;
walk humbly with your God.
3. Still down the ages ring
the prophet’s stern commands.
To merchant, worker, king
he brings God’s high demands.
Do justly; love mercy;
walk humbly with your God.

4. How shall my soul fulfill
God’s law so hard and high?
Let Christ endue our will
with grace to fortify.
Then justly, in mercy
we’ll humbly walk with God.
—— Albert F. Bayly (1949)

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