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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Taming of a Texan Part II

I have seen some wonderful, memorable performances in my life. Sunday evening’s Cowboy Christmas with Michael Martin Murphy ranks right up there. Usually, it’s not the music that makes it memorable… The music, which you have heard before, is supposed to be good. It’s a human connection that might be made with the artist, which made the performance stand out. You go expecting to see some famous person do their thing, and you are just a pebble on the beach admiring the ship that comes in. But then they take the time to sign autographs, or sing you an extra song upon request, or shake your hand while riding around the arena full of thousands. And suddenly it becomes a lifelong memory. An idol becomes a person, another regular person doing extraordinary things…

But this time, it was the performance. And it was still enhanced by a striking level of personal connection. Michael Martin Murphy came out and energized his audience so thoroughly, that for a moment in time, every person there seemed like they were in spiritual unity with the performers, enthusiastically embarking on a mass teleportation to Anson, Texas, where Murphy illustrated what has been lost in our bloated, compassless culture. The theater at Houston Baptist University was beautiful and new and blessed with excellent acoustics. But more importantly, Murphy was in his element, because he brought it with him, and the theater was effectively transformed into his chosen heartland, and the crowd sensed they were experiencing something great. Great music you bet, as large projected images on the stage accompanied each number, and our eyes followed snow covered cattle in the high country, cowboys facing the elements, and Murphy’s family hauling hay. Murphy and his band enjoyed three standing ovations, as the Texas Baptists in Houston displayed a comfortable familiarity with the man and his message, and the trip he took them on.

You have to see his Cowboy Christmas for yourself, but one number during his concert really tells everything about Michael Martin Murphy’s gift for storytelling, and soulful communication, through music. He stood before his audience alone, almost in the dark, and he had no microphone, and even the spotlight seemed dim for a deeper, serene atmosphere in the room. Murphy remarked that even Carnegie hall had nothing on the acoustics in HBU's Dunham Theater. This simple, humble presentation was proof of it. He told a story of a Jesuit Missionary in the 1600’s who had been living with a tribe of Hurons in Canada. Father Jean de Brebeuf had written a Christmas carol in their own tongue, and set it to music, to teach them the Christmas story. There was dead silence as Murphy told the audience that the priest had been killed, along with most of the tribe by the non- Christianized Alonquians.

But the carol had survived, and he believed it to be the oldest known Christmas carol from North America. I felt my throat tighten, and a tear pop into my eye, as he told how some Hurons had escaped, and told the other missionaries what had happened, and they wrote it down, as remembered by the Huron refugees. They had the song buried in their hearts, and Murphy buried it in ours. He sang it with Faith and cowboy dignity. The multiple ironies filled my mind. This modern day songwriter cum cowboy, once the dissident poet of Geronimo’s Cadillac, lifting up a 350 year old hymn, embraced by a nearly forgotten people, telling of and praising the birth of Jesus!

Halleluiah! Praise God!

It may have been the bravest and most heartfelt communication I have ever witnessed. True, Murphy is a showman, and a good one, and yet this was the message of his evening with us. Christ is born, no matter what language you speak. Then he advised everyone to roll with the punches as the secular world tried to kill the word Christmas from our national celebration. He grinned as he reminded everyone the original pronunciation of their supposed alternative, “holidays.”
It was originally Holy days. That’s more Cowboy logic, and something tells me after this performance, more than a few Baptists are going to be digging out their old dusty cowboy hats.

Welcome home Michael, and God Bless you in your mission. Did you know your namesake was an Archangel? That means he was the highest ranking messenger of God. That’s a pretty tough act to follow, but I’m pretty sure if God was to look for somebody on this earth to serve in that capacity, he would get somebody like a cowboy to do it.

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