Saturday, 28 December 2013

Caught in the act

I heard a strange noise this evening, coming from the hall closet where I keep two litter boxes for my two cats.

As I walked into the hallway from bedroom, Penne emerged from the closet. Lord knows what she had been up to.

In a very quiet voice I said "What were you doing there Penne? I don't think that you were up to anything good".

She slunk away from me and walked to her bed, tail between her legs.

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A woman who lives down the road has one of those "little white dogs" which never stops yapping.  The woman often takes her yappy dog for a ride in a baby-buggy/push-chair.  When the dog (named Coquette) sounds off, her owner yells "Oh shut up Coquette, be quiet will you".

In the same vein a man in our neighbouring community uses his electric wheelchair when he takes his Airedale named "Scout" out for walks.

Scout is energetic and rambunctious. He wants to chase squirrels. He has taken a great dislike to Penne and barks at her from a distance of 50 feet.

Scout's owner, a very nice WW II veteran, has an extremely loud voice.  We hear him from far away yelling "bad dog, bad dog, bad dog", or "no, no, no" with increased volume on each "no".

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I do not believe that yelling at our pets serves any useful purpose. How are they to understand that a loud noise means "naughty"?

And slapping or hitting pets is more than useless. *

It is relatively simple to train pets so that they know when they have "crossed the bounds".

In the case of my cats, a click of my thumb and middle finger does the trick. And when I make a "tut tut tut tut" sound with my tongue clicking against my palate they know that they are being summonsed for a little TLC.

Penne responds to two things.

First, a quite reproachful tone.

Second, when and if Penne gets too excited and rambunctious in her greetings when I return to our home after an absence I simply stand still and fold my arms.  That's enough to encourage Penne to lie down on her bed and be at peace. 

And whether the "discipline"  be the gentle voice or the folded arms, I am always careful to be quick in tickling her ears or scratching her back, thus reassuring her that she is loved.

* No child and no animal should ever be slapped or hit.

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Holy Scripture in Proverbs 15:1 states that "a soft answer turns away wrath".

I add that "a soft voice encourages good behavior"


Friday, 27 December 2013

Some silliness and other matters

 Daisy is a cat who lives six houses away from me with her doting "parents" Bert and Polly.  Daisy likes dogs.  When any dog passes by Daisy rushes out to go nose to nose, and then rolls on to her back.
 
Daisy and Penne
 
Daisy


===============================================================
 
 
I am not sure what to say about this sign at our local Walgreens.
 
 
 
 
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
 
A chair that I used at my desk collapsed under the weight of its own responsibility. Perhaps I could have repaired the split wood -  if I'd had some good wood glue, a strong clamp, and some skill.

Those things being absent I bought a handsome new chair at a local thrift shop for the princely sum of $8.




 
==============================================
 

 Betty M is a fabulous octogenarian former Marine (as was her late husband),  Betty is adored by all we old queens.
My pal Ben and I each gave her dark chocolate for Christmas.  We know all about her sweet tooth.

Betty responded with gifts for Ben and me.  She insisted that we should open them at the same time  and in the same place.  That we did, and laughed our silly heads off at her "gag" gifts of flashing bow-ties.  (Betty also gave me a bottle of  80 proof "Old Grand-Day Whiskey" (Bourbon) out of  Frankfort-Clermont KY.  Since I don't touch a drop I'll take this Bourbon to a New Year's Day party in my locality).

Ben
 

jmp
 

Penne got in on the act

Thursday, 26 December 2013

My sermon for Christmas Day 2013


Sermon for Christmas Day 2013

The Revd. J. Michael Povey at St. Boniface, Sarasota FL

 

What are your favourite hymns?   I’ll wager that they are the ones you learned as a child.

 

What are your favourite Christmas carols?  “Hark, the herald angels sing?”, “Joy to the World?”, “O come all ye faithful?”, and “Silent Night”, especially “Silent Night”. You’ve been singing them for fifty, sixty or seventy years, and your Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without them.

 

That’s partly because three of them have endings which we can belt out without a hymnal and with abandon. “O come let us adore him”, andHark the herald angels sing”, and “and heaven and nature sing”.  (I sang these ending lines from the pulpit )

 

Mind you, one of the repeats in “Joy to the World” is odd: In verse three we sing “Far as the curse is found” three times. (I sang from the pulpit again ) and then said “these are such strange words to be belting out at Christmas!”  That’s why we’ll omit that verse today.

 

Many priests and church musicians have learned that life is scarcely worth living should they omit a tried and true favourite at Christmas.

 

In one parish I got into great trouble by moving “Silent Night” to the pre-service carol sing, instead of after communion. If I had denied the Virgin Birth the congregation would have said “ho –hum”, but messing with Silent Night was a serious and dangerous error.

 

It’s all very well I suppose, but it is a bit limiting.  There are great and glorious carols and Christmas hymns which we never get to sing because we do not know them. 

 

We do not know them because we never sing them.

 

I worry a bit because most of our favourites take us to the end of the story of Christ, and ignore the beginning.  Jesus is “the new born King”, he is “Christ the Lord” whom we are to adore, and we sing “let earth receive her King”.

 

Even those songs which focus on Jesus as a baby can get it wrong. We sing “but little Lord Jesus no crying he makes” as if Jesus were the idealistic super baby.  I change that word and always sing “but little Lord Jesus LOUD crying he makes”.

 

For the God who we see in Jesus entered this world as a red and wrinkled baby who peed and pooped, and screamed and cried, and suckled at his mother’s breast.

 

The God we see in the birth of Jesus is weak, vulnerable and embraceable.

 

There are a couple of Christmas hymns which allow us to see the frail and very human Jesus.

 

For example “Break forth O beauteous heavenly light” with words by Johann Rist and utterly gorgeous music by J.S. Bach says this “This child, this little helpless boy, shall be our confidence and joy”. 

 

And the 15th Century hymn by Jean Mauburn which starts with the words “Dost thou in a manger lie?” goes to say “If a Monarch where thy state? Where thy court on thee to wait? Sceptre, crown, and sphere? Here no regal pomp we see, naught but need and penury”

We rarely sing them because we don’t have time and the Christmas season is so short. “Tis a pity I think. For in my hours of weakness, despair and pain I am not much helped by the idea of Jesus as a super-King who can solve all my problems and make everything come out right. That does not happen.

 

But I am strengthened and encouraged by the presence of a Jesus who has gone through every bit of human weakness from the cradle to the grave and therefore can say “I know, I understand, I have been there and done that”. “Embrace me in my human frailty and I will embrace you”

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

A perfectly wonderful Christmas Day

I presided and preached at the 10:00 a.m. Christmas Day service at St. Boniface.  It was good to be back in the saddle.

I'll publish my sermon tomorrow.

After service a visitor said  "you are a very good actor".  I took that as a great compliment. Good liturgy is also good performance  as we enact the great themes of our faith.

The congregation  (mostly visitors) numbered 58.  That included the two Churchwardens who made it their business to be present (good for them), and our Director of music playing his fourth service in eighteen hours.

I saw from the attendance book that the Christmas Eve attendance topped 1,000 (in three services).

This afternoon I was at the home of Chris and Greg for a Christmas Feast.  Chris is a professional chef with an international reputation, and Greg is a gracious host.

They open their home on Christmas Day for those who otherwise might be alone.  There were about 35 of us. It was a fantastic feast, with good company (old and new friends) and lively and funny conversation.

'Twas a lovely day.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Late breaking news

 
 
It's a boy!

"O Holy Night"

 
The "history of "O Holy Night"   (and Merry Christmas everyone!)

 
N.B The following is not my writing.  I "lifted it" from the WWW


Stories Behind the Music: "O Holy Night"

"O Holy Night" remains one of the world's most beloved Christmas carols, with uplifting lyrics and melody.

The lyrics were written by Placide Cappeau (1808-1877), a resident of Roquemaure, France (located a few miles north of the historic city of Avignon). Cappeau was a wine merchant and mayor of the town, as well as an occasional writer of poetry.

 Known more for his poetry than his church attendance, it probably shocked Cappeau when his parish priest, shortly before Cappeau embarked on a business trip, asked him to pen a poem for Christmas mass.

In a dusty coach traveling down a bumpy road to France's capital city, Cappeau considered the priest's request. Using the gospel of Luke as his guide, Cappeau imagined witnessing the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Thoughts of being present on the blessed night inspired him. By the time he arrived in Paris, "Cantique de Noel" had been completed.

Moved by his own work, Cappeau decided that his "Cantique de Noel" was not just a poem, but a song in need of a master musician's hand. Not musically inclined himself, the poet turned to one of his friends, Adolphe Charles Adams, for help, when he arrived in Paris.

Adams was an acquaintance of Monsieur and Madame Laurey, who were friends of Cappeau. The son of a well-known classical musician, Adams had studied in the Paris conservatoire. Adams was at the peak of his career, having written his masterpiece, Giselle, only a few years before, in 1841. He was also the composer of over eighty operatic stage works. His talent and fame brought requests to write works for orchestras and ballets all over the world.

Yet the lyrics that his friend Cappeau gave him must have challenged the composer in a fashion unlike anything he received from London, Berlin, or St. Petersburg.

As a man of Jewish ancestry, for Adams, the words of "Cantique de Noel" represented a day he didn't celebrate and a man he did not view as the son of God. Nevertheless, Adams quickly went to work, attempting to marry an original score to Cappeau's beautiful words. Adams' finished work pleased both poet and priest. The song was performed just three weeks later at a Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, 1847, in Roquemaure.

Initially, "Cantique de Noel" was wholeheartedly accepted by the church in France and the song quickly found its way into various Catholic Christmas services. However, the song's popularity declined after its initial acceptance, based on the reputations of the lyricist and composer. Late in his life, Cappeau left the church and became an active part of the socialist movement. He was described as a social radical, a freethinker, a socialist, and a non-Christian.

Church leaders also discovered that Adams was a Jew, and the song--which had quickly grown to be one of the most beloved Christmas songs in France--was suddenly and uniformly denounced by the Church. The heads of the French Catholic church of the time deemed "Cantique de Noel" as unfit for church services because of its lack of musical taste and "total absence of the spirit of religion." Yet even as the church tried to bury the Christmas song, the French people continued to sing it.

Fortunately, more rational perspectives have prevailed. By 1855, the carol had been published in London, and has been translated into many languages. The best known English translation is " O Holy Night" authored by John Sullivan Dwight (1813-1893), a Unitarian minister, an American music critic and journalist who made his home at the Transcendentalist community of Brook Farm, Massachusetts

. Dwight felt that this wonderful Christmas song needed to be introduced to America, and he saw something else in the song that moved him beyond the story of the birth of Christ. An ardent abolitionist, Dwight strongly identified with the lines of the third verse: "Truly he taught us to love one another; his law is love and his gospel is peace. Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother; and in his name all oppression shall cease." The text supported Dwight's own view of slavery in the South.

Published in his magazine, Journal of Music, Dwight's English translation of "O Holy Night" quickly found favor in America, especially in the North during the Civil War. By coincidence, Christmas became a legal holiday in Massachusetts the same year as Dwight published his translation.

There is an unsubstantiated (but frequently repeated) story that this carol figured prominently on Christmas Eve, 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War. The story goes that, in the midst of fierce fighting between the armies of Germany and France, during the Franco-Prussian War, a French soldier suddenly jumped out of his muddy trench. Both sides stared at the seemingly crazed man. Boldly standing with no weapon in his hand or at his side, he lifted his eyes to the heavens and sang, "Minuit, Chretiens, c'est l'heure solennelle ou L'Homme Dieu descendit jusqu'a nous," the beginning of "Cantique de Noel." After completing all three verses, a German infantryman climbed out his hiding place and answered with, "Vom Himmel noch, da komm' ich her. Ich bring' euch gute neue Mar, Der guten Mar bring' ich so viel, Davon ich sing'n und sagen will," the beginning of Martin Luther's robust Christmas hymn, "From Heaven Above to Earth I Come." The story goes that the fighting stopped for the next twenty-four hours while the men on both sides observed a temporary peace in honor of Christmas day. Perhaps this story had a part in the French church once again embracing "Cantique de Noel" in holiday services.

Adams had been dead for many years and Cappeau and Dwight were old men when on Christmas Eve 1906, Reginald Fessenden, a 33-year-old university professor and former chief chemist for Thomas Edison, did something long thought impossible.

 Using a new type of generator, Fessenden spoke into a microphone and, for the first time in history, a man's voice was broadcast over the airwaves: "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed," he began in a clear, strong voice, hoping he was reaching across the distances he supposed he would.

Shocked radio operators on ships and astonished wireless owners at newspapers sat slack-jawed as their normal, coded impulses, heard over tiny speakers, were interrupted by a professor reading from the gospel of Luke. To the few who caught this broadcast, it must have seemed like a miracle, hearing a voice somehow transmitted to those far away. Some might have believed they were hearing the voice of an angel.

 Fessenden was probably unaware of the sensation he was causing on ships and in offices; he couldn't have known that men and women were rushing to their wireless units to catch this Christmas Eve miracle.

After finishing his recitation of the birth of Christ, Fessenden picked up his violin and played "O Holy Night," the first song ever sent through the air via radio waves. When the carol ended, Fessenden read another selection from the book of Luke: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will." The Christmas program was picked up as far south as Norfolk, Virginia; when the program was repeated on New Year's Eve, it was heard as far away as the West Indies.

Since that first rendition at a small Christmas mass in 1847, "O Holy Night" has been sung millions of times in churches in every corner of the world. And since the moment a handful of people first heard it played over the radio, the carol has gone on to become one of the entertainment industry's most recorded and played spiritual songs. This incredible work--requested by a forgotten parish priest, written by a poet who would later split from the church, given soaring music by a Jewish composer, and brought to Americans to serve as much as a tool to spotlight the sinful nature of slavery as tell the story of the birth of a Savior--has become one of the most beautiful, inspired pieces of music ever created. The lyrics are reprinted below.

O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt His worth
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder beams a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine! O night when Christ was born!
O night divine! O night, O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming
Here came the wise men from the Orient land

The King of Kings lay in lowly manger
In all our trials born to be our friend
He knows our need
To our weakness no stranger
Behold your King! before the lowly bend!
Behold your King! before Him bend!

Truly he taught us to love one another 
His law is love and His gospel is peace 
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother 
And in His name all oppression shall cease

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus rise we
Let all within us praise His holy name
Christ is the Lord
Then ever, ever praise we
His pow'r and glory ever more proclaim
His pow'r and glory ever more proclaim


Monday, 24 December 2012


The "history of "O Holy Night" , and Merry Christmas everyone.



(If you go to You Tube  and  search for  "O Holy Night/Nat King Cole"  you will encounter  a wondrous version  of the song, and rejoice in Nat King Cole's  and in  his fabulous diction).

There is a story behind this song. I reproduce it here.


N.B Thie following is not my writing.  I "lifted it" from the web


Stories Behind the Music: "O Holy Night"

"O Holy Night" remains one of the world's most beloved Christmas carols, with uplifting lyrics and melody.

The lyrics were written by Placide Cappeau (1808-1877), a resident of Roquemaure, France (located a few miles north of the historic city of Avignon). Cappeau was a wine merchant and mayor of the town, as well as an occasional writer of poetry.

 Known more for his poetry than his church attendance, it probably shocked Cappeau when his parish priest, shortly before Cappeau embarked on a business trip, asked him to pen a poem for Christmas mass.

In a dusty coach traveling down a bumpy road to France's capital city, Cappeau considered the priest's request. Using the gospel of Luke as his guide, Cappeau imagined witnessing the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Thoughts of being present on the blessed night inspired him. By the time he arrived in Paris, "Cantique de Noel" had been completed.

Moved by his own work, Cappeau decided that his "Cantique de Noel" was not just a poem, but a song in need of a master musician's hand. Not musically inclined himself, the poet turned to one of his friends, Adolphe Charles Adams, for help, when he arrived in Paris.

Adams was an acquaintance of Monsieur and Madame Laurey, who were friends of Cappeau. The son of a well-known classical musician, Adams had studied in the Paris conservatoire. Adams was at the peak of his career, having written his masterpiece, Giselle, only a few years before, in 1841. He was also the composer of over eighty operatic stage works. His talent and fame brought requests to write works for orchestras and ballets all over the world.

Yet the lyrics that his friend Cappeau gave him must have challenged the composer in a fashion unlike anything he received from London, Berlin, or St. Petersburg.

As a man of Jewish ancestry, for Adams, the words of "Cantique de Noel" represented a day he didn't celebrate and a man he did not view as the son of God. Nevertheless, Adams quickly went to work, attempting to marry an original score to Cappeau's beautiful words. Adams' finished work pleased both poet and priest. The song was performed just three weeks later at a Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, 1847, in Roquemaure.

Initially, "Cantique de Noel" was wholeheartedly accepted by the church in France and the song quickly found its way into various Catholic Christmas services. However, the song's popularity declined after its initial acceptance, based on the reputations of the lyricist and composer. Late in his life, Cappeau left the church and became an active part of the socialist movement. He was described as a social radical, a freethinker, a socialist, and a non-Christian.

Church leaders also discovered that Adams was a Jew, and the song--which had quickly grown to be one of the most beloved Christmas songs in France--was suddenly and uniformly denounced by the Church. The heads of the French Catholic church of the time deemed "Cantique de Noel" as unfit for church services because of its lack of musical taste and "total absence of the spirit of religion." Yet even as the church tried to bury the Christmas song, the French people continued to sing it.

Fortunately, more rational perspectives have prevailed. By 1855, the carol had been published in London, and has been translated into many languages. The best known English translation is " O Holy Night" authored by John Sullivan Dwight (1813-1893), a Unitarian minister, an American music critic and journalist who made his home at the Transcendentalist community of Brook Farm, Massachusetts

. Dwight felt that this wonderful Christmas song needed to be introduced to America, and he saw something else in the song that moved him beyond the story of the birth of Christ. An ardent abolitionist, Dwight strongly identified with the lines of the third verse: "Truly he taught us to love one another; his law is love and his gospel is peace. Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother; and in his name all oppression shall cease." The text supported Dwight's own view of slavery in the South.

Published in his magazine, Journal of Music, Dwight's English translation of "O Holy Night" quickly found favor in America, especially in the North during the Civil War. By coincidence, Christmas became a legal holiday in Massachusetts the same year as Dwight published his translation.

There is an unsubstantiated (but frequently repeated) story that this carol figured prominently on Christmas Eve, 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War. The story goes that, in the midst of fierce fighting between the armies of Germany and France, during the Franco-Prussian War, a French soldier suddenly jumped out of his muddy trench. Both sides stared at the seemingly crazed man. Boldly standing with no weapon in his hand or at his side, he lifted his eyes to the heavens and sang, "Minuit, Chretiens, c'est l'heure solennelle ou L'Homme Dieu descendit jusqu'a nous," the beginning of "Cantique de Noel." After completing all three verses, a German infantryman climbed out his hiding place and answered with, "Vom Himmel noch, da komm' ich her. Ich bring' euch gute neue Mar, Der guten Mar bring' ich so viel, Davon ich sing'n und sagen will," the beginning of Martin Luther's robust Christmas hymn, "From Heaven Above to Earth I Come." The story goes that the fighting stopped for the next twenty-four hours while the men on both sides observed a temporary peace in honor of Christmas day. Perhaps this story had a part in the French church once again embracing "Cantique de Noel" in holiday services.

Adams had been dead for many years and Cappeau and Dwight were old men when on Christmas Eve 1906, Reginald Fessenden, a 33-year-old university professor and former chief chemist for Thomas Edison, did something long thought impossible.

 Using a new type of generator, Fessenden spoke into a microphone and, for the first time in history, a man's voice was broadcast over the airwaves: "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed," he began in a clear, strong voice, hoping he was reaching across the distances he supposed he would.

Shocked radio operators on ships and astonished wireless owners at newspapers sat slack-jawed as their normal, coded impulses, heard over tiny speakers, were interrupted by a professor reading from the gospel of Luke. To the few who caught this broadcast, it must have seemed like a miracle, hearing a voice somehow transmitted to those far away. Some might have believed they were hearing the voice of an angel.

 Fessenden was probably unaware of the sensation he was causing on ships and in offices; he couldn't have known that men and women were rushing to their wireless units to catch this Christmas Eve miracle.

After finishing his recitation of the birth of Christ, Fessenden picked up his violin and played "O Holy Night," the first song ever sent through the air via radio waves. When the carol ended, Fessenden read another selection from the book of Luke: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will." The Christmas program was picked up as far south as Norfolk, Virginia; when the program was repeated on New Year's Eve, it was heard as far away as the West Indies.

Since that first rendition at a small Christmas mass in 1847, "O Holy Night" has been sung millions of times in churches in every corner of the world. And since the moment a handful of people first heard it played over the radio, the carol has gone on to become one of the entertainment industry's most recorded and played spiritual songs. This incredible work--requested by a forgotten parish priest, written by a poet who would later split from the church, given soaring music by a Jewish composer, and brought to Americans to serve as much as a tool to spotlight the sinful nature of slavery as tell the story of the birth of a Savior--has become one of the most beautiful, inspired pieces of music ever created. The lyrics are reprinted below.

O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt His worth
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder beams a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine! O night when Christ was born!
O night divine! O night, O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming
Here came the wise men from the Orient land

The King of Kings lay in lowly manger
In all our trials born to be our friend
He knows our need
To our weakness no stranger
Behold your King! before the lowly bend!
Behold your King! before Him bend!

Truly he taught us to love one another 
His law is love and His gospel is peace 
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother 
And in His name all oppression shall cease

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus rise we
Let all within us praise His holy name
Christ is the Lord
Then ever, ever praise we
His pow'r and glory ever more proclaim
His pow'r and glory ever more proclaim

(If you go to You Tube  and  search for  "O Holy Night/Nat King Cole"  you will encounter  a wondrous version  of the song, and rejoice in Nat King Cole's  and in  his fabulous diction).
 

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Happy pre-Christmas thoughts

Christmas-tide  is great --- even if you are not an observant Christian, or if you profess another faith, or if you are agnostic about belief, or if you are an atheist.

1.  It brings people together to enjoy good food and to enjoy each other.  In my case it was the blessing of a gathering on Saturday 21st December with my good friends Ron and Charlotte, with Ron's sister Karen and her husband Den, and with Cindy -  a new friend in this area.  Such good food. Such lively conversations.

2. It provides a good reason to be in touch with friends and family members who we rarely see, or who live far away.  In my case it was a long 'phone conversation today with a fabulous friend in Massachusetts, my dear Gwen S.

3. It encourages people to "put on the ritz".  In my case the "ritz" was a totally gorgeous display of Christmas lights outside a home some four doors east of Ron and Char's home.   The home is ablaze with white Christmas lights on every bush and shrub, and all around the street side of the home.

As I began my drive home last night my eyes and heart were filled with delight at this stunning blaze of light.

4.  I hear the voices of children.  For better or worse I moved into a 55+ condominium complex when I moved to SRQ in 2006.  No children live here.  But at Christmas-tide some of my neighbours enjoy visits from their grandchildren. The sound of the voices of these young ones makes my heart glad
.
Christmas-tide  is great --- even if you are not an observant Christian, or if you profess another faith, or if you are agnostic about belief, or if you are an atheist.