Song for Today

I Almost Cut My Hair

This morning, I cut my hair and tidied up my beard.

The words of a song came into my head, so I went to my wife and said:

I almost cut my hair
It happened just the other day
It was gettin’ kinda long
I could-a said, it was in my way
But I didn’t and I wonder why
I feel like letting my freak flag fly
And I feel like I owe it to someone

She said … they’re great words – you should turn them into a song.

I broke it to her … sadly they’re not my words. They’re David Crosby’s from his song “Almost Cut My Hair” on the CSNY album ‘Deja Vu’

I almost cut my hair
It happened just the other day
It was gettin’ kinda long
I could-a said, it was in my way
But I didn’t and I wonder why
I feel like letting my freak flag fly
And I feel like I owe it to someone

Must be because I had the flu for Christmas
And I’m not feelin’ up to par
It increases my paranoia
Like lookin’ at my mirror and seein’ a police car
But I’m not givin’ in an inch to fear
Cause I promised myself this year
I feel like I owe it to someone

When I finally get myself together
I’m gonna get down in that sunny southern weather
And I find a place inside to laugh
Separate the wheat from the chaff
I feel like I owe it to someone

I wish I had written it, or even arranged it – the guitar work by Stephen Stills and Neil Young is exquisite.

Jesus · Song for Today

Resurrection Morning On Robinswood Hill

It’s 8.20 am on Easter Day.
We’re not long back from our Easter Dawn gathering on Robinswood Hill.
Our practice over many years has been to wake before dawn on Easter Day to meet with other Christians and proclaim Christ’s Resurrection.

The traditional ‘Easter Shout’ says it all:
Alleluia, Christ is risen
He is risen indeed, Alleluia.
Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He has given us new life and hope
by raising Jesus from the dead.
Alleluia. Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

We sang a song as the sun rose … Beautiful Things, by Gungor.

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things …
You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new

Ecology · Song for Today

Song For Today # 27

This song came to mind yesterday. It seems more and more relevant as the days go by. It’s written by Spirit’s lead guitarist, Randy California. Other songs of his indicate a sensitivity to a world beyond the materialistic and a desire to be guided by a higher power. The song appears on Spirit’s 1970 album, ‘The Twelve Dreams of Doctor Sardonicus.’ If you’re into rock music, give the album a listen. They are a band from the late 60’s and early 70’s who didn’t achieve the superstar status of some other bands, but their music has stood the test of time.

Here’s a live version with Randy California on guitar and vocal, Ed Cassidy on drums and Mike Nile on bass. It’s a beatiful version with an exquisite harmony vocal and a brief example of Randy California’s understated lead guitar playing.

Nature’s Way

It’s nature’s way of telling you something’s wrong
It’s nature’s way of telling you in a song
It’s nature’s way of receiving you
It’s nature’s way of retrieving you
It’s nature’s way of telling you something’s wrong

It’s nature’s way of telling you, it’s in the breeze
It’s nature’s way of telling you, dying trees
It’s nature’s way of receiving you
It’s nature’s way of retrieving you
It’s nature’s way of telling you something’s wrong

It’s nature’s way, it’s nature’s way
It’s nature’s way, it’s nature’s way

It’s nature’s way of telling you something’s wrong
It’s nature’s way of telling you in a song, oh
It’s nature’s way of receiving you (it’s nature’s way)
It’s nature’s way of retrieving you (it’s nature’s way)
It’s nature’s way of telling you something’s wrong
Something’s wrong
Something’s wrong

Grace and Peace.

Song for Today

Song For Today # 26

We’ve been watching the fourth series of TV programme Fargo (Channel 4 in the UK). It’s a balck comedy and pretty brutal stuff, but as always with the Fargo series there’s food for thought. Episode 9 ended with this track which I thought was a pretty amazing version of the Stevie Wonder classic, Higher Ground by the Blind Boys of Alabama.

People keep on learnin’
Soldiers keep on warrin’
World keep on turnin’
Cause it won’t be too long

Powers keep on lyin’
While your people keep on dyin’
World keep on turnin’
Cause it won’t be too long

I’m so darn glad he let me try it again
Cause my last time on earth I lived a whole world of sin
I’m so glad that I know more than I knew then
Gonna keep on tryin’
Till I reach my highest ground

Teachers keep on teachin’
Preachers keep on preachin’
World keep on turnin’
Cause it won’t be too long
Oh no

Lovers keep on lovin’
Believers keep on believin’
Sleepers just stop sleepin’
Cause it won’t be too long
Oh no

I’m so glad that he let me try it again
Cause my last time on earth I lived a whole world of sin
I’m so glad that I know more than I knew then
Gonna keep on tryin’
Till I reach my highest ground…Whew!

Till I reach my highest ground
No one’s gonna bring me down
Oh no
Till I reach my highest ground
Don’t let nobody bring you down (they’ll sho ’nuff try)
God is gonna show you higher ground
He’s the only friend you have around

Writer(s): Wonder Stevie

Church · Song for Today · World Affairs

Beige, Purple, Red, Blue, Orange …

First, a disclaimer … this is not mine, nor is it Rob Bell’s but comes from academic scholarship. Rob Bell has presented it for a wider audience, and it’s very interesting. Me, We, Everybody, Part 2

I tried to outline some of what this was about in an earlier post, so I’m just going to take off from there. It’s all about human development. The first episode was about the micro, or personal aspects of human development. This episode is about human development through history.

And another disclaimer. This is just a broad outline. It’s not meant to give a precise blueprint, but I can see that it is a helpful way of understanding human development.

The first three are firmly ‘Me’ – based on the individual and their needs.

So – first – a period of time when survival was the main thing. Kill or be killed. Make sure that you have the basic essential of life. Food, water, shelter, etc. This is firmly focussed on the individual. Rob Bell assigns colours to each stage and this one is Beige.
In Beige, who holds the power ? I do

Second. This is all to do with pleasing the gods. Survival depends on food, and humans notice that crops need two things – sunshine and water. So we pray to the rain and the sun gods, and if the crops fail, we look for ways to ask the gods to help us. Rituals and sacrifice become ways that we use to pray to the gods. This period is magic, and the colour is Purple.
In Purple, who holds the power ? The Priest/Shaman

Third. This is to do with following a leader. As communities form, so strong leaders emerge – people who have power, or wealth, and charisma. People who are able to influence others to obey them. This period is Red.
In Red, who holds the power ? The King.

Now we move to ‘We’ – where the tribe becomes important.

So – Fourth. Sometimes leaders pass on their mantle to others in the family – usually sons. Dynasties rule over communities, but at some point the power of the individual is replaced by traditions that have gathered force over time. This is where community comes in, and we live our lives more in accordance with values and practices that have emerged over time, rather than blind obedience to a leader. This period is Blue.
In Blue, who holds the power ? The Rules

A third move to ‘Everybody’ starts from this point

The Fifth period is about beginning to look outside your community and discover that other people follow different traditions and ways of living. Scientific discovery opens our eyes to new ways of seeing, and some of humanity’s basic assumptions are questioned. (The earth is no longer the centre of the universe). So, for example, in the 16th century and beyond, this is a period when in Western Europe, we start to see democracy as an alternative way of deciding who our leaders are. It’s also the time of the Reformation, when there is a great religious upheaval in the Western Christian Church.
This period is Orange
In Orange – who holds the power ? Science.

The Sixth period after Orange is Green. This is not so much about scientific discovery changing things (although that is a major influence), but about seeing the value of different points of view. In other words – pluralism. It’s no longer about what is the right way to live, but about accepting and valuing a range of different lifestyles. The 1960’s would probably be the time when this exploded, with for example, Human Rights, the Civil Rights Movement, Feminism, The Anti-War movement, Nuclear Disarmament, Animal Rights etc. One of the characteristics of this period is the belief that every way of seeing the world has equal value – no one way is better than the others. Every story must be listened to. There is a celebration of diversity. A feature of this Green period is difficulty in moving forward, and making a decision, because no one wants to say that their way is better. Every ‘truth’ is equal. However, claiming that there is no higher level truth is a contradiction, as that in itself is making an absolute truth claim, At its extreme, Green sees any view that is held with conviction, and which they see as unhealthy, as a form of violence.

In Green who holds the power ? No-One / Everyone

The next period is Yellow, where there is an acceptance that all of the above have their place and their value. In Yellow, there is an attempt to integrate all of the other colours. So whilst the Purple ‘Magical’ period might have been discarded by the other colours so far, Yellow is keen to hold a sense of mystery that comes with the Purple era.
In Yellow, who holds the power ? I Do, kind of …

The originators of this theory, called Spiral Dynamics, suggest that a society is ready to move from one stage to another when 10% of the population are moving, and that each society has a ‘centre of gravity colour’ that describes the dominant culture. They suggest that there are other phases yet to be realised ….

I’m now asking how this might work in a church setting. For example, what might a church that is operating largely in Red look like ?

So this is me, just wondering …

Beige – A church where it would be every one for themselves. I can’t quite picture what this would look like ..

Purple – One of the characteristics of this type of Christian/Church would be asking, in the face of adversity, ‘what have we done to deserve this ?’ Working harder and praying harder to please God. God is seen as rewarding or punishing us according to what we have done.

Red – Over reliance on the leader. Unquestioning obedience, as in cults, and over authoritarian leadership.

Blue – Following the norms and traditions of your denomination, congregation. Not being open to other ways of doing things. Believing that your way is the right way. Superiority when you compare your church to other churches.

Orange – Looking outside the tradition to explore other ways of doing things. Learning new things from other traditions, and leaving behind what has been unhelpful from your tradition – eg male only leadership.

Green – Valuing all the different expressions of church equally.

Yellow – Integrating the different colours – so seeing the value of leadership, tradition etc as well as diversity.

Question. If you are a member of any faith community, Christian or otherwise, can you see any of the above in your experience …

A final thought – individuals, communities and nations all experience aspects of most of the colours. It’s not like we move from one colour to the next. But it is a journey of discovery seeing the importance of each of the ‘colours.’ I was listening to a song earlier today, and it seemed to say something about this journey of life through sometimes troubled waters, but always inviting us to sail on …

Sail on Sailor

I sailed an ocean, unsettled ocean
Through restful waters and deep commotion
Often frightened, unenlightened
Sail on, sail on sailor

I wrest the waters, fight Neptune’s waters
Sail through the sorrows of life’s marauders
Unrepenting, often empty
Sail on, sail on sailor

Caught like a sewer rat alone but I sail
Bought like a crust of bread, but oh do I wail

Seldom stumble, never crumble
Try to tumble, life’s a rumble
Feel the stinging, I’ve been given
Never ending, unrelenting
Heartbreak searing, always fearing
Never caring, persevering
Sail on, sail on, sailor

I work the seaways, the gale-swept seaways
Past shipwrecked daughters of wicked waters
Uninspired, drenched and tired
Wail on, wail on, sailor

Always needing, even bleeding
Never feeding all my feelings
Damn the thunder, must I blunder
There’s no wonder all I’m under
Stop the crying and the lying
And the sighing and my dying

Sail on, sail on sailor
Sail on, sail on sailor
Sail on, sail on sailor

I still have to listen to the next part of ‘Me, We, Everybody,’ and I’ll maybe add another post then.

Grace and Peace

Church · community · Following Jesus · music · Song for Today

Song For Today #25

We had a reading in Church today from the first letter of John that included these words …
This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome ….
1 John Chapter 5 verse 2

And the Gospel reading was from John’s Gospel and included these words of Jesus:
This is my commandment, that you love (and unselfishly seek the best for) one another, just as I have loved you.
John Chapter 15 verse 12 (Amplified Bible)

Mike, the preacher today, introduced the Gospel reading by showing us that the first section of John 15 (that we had last week), is about the believer’s relationship to God, the second section today is about the believer’s relationship to others in the faith community, and the third section will be about the believer’s relationship to the world.

The phrase in the reading from John’s letter tells us that what God requires of us as we relate to one another is not burdensome. Straightaway my mind locked on to the word burden. Caring for one another in the community of faith is not a burden, because they are my brothers and sisters in Christ. There’s a pretty straight line from there to the song for today:
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

The road is long, with many a winding turn
That lead us to (who knows) where, who knows where?
But I’m strong, strong enough to carry him – yeah
He ain’t heavy – he’s my brother

So on we go, his welfare is my concern
no burden is he to bear, we’ll get there
For I know he would not encumber me
He ain’t heavy – he’s my brother

If I’m leaving at all, if I’m leaving with sadness
that everyone’s heart isn’t filled with the gladness
of love for one another.

It’s a long, long road, from which there is no return
While we’re on the way to there, why not share?
And the load doesn’t weigh me down at all
He ain’t heavy – he’s my brother

Words and Music: Bobby Scott and Bob Russell.
Recorded by the Hollies in 1969. A classic!

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Grace and Peace

music · Political · Song for Today

A Song For Today #24

It’s been a while since I posted a song. This one came to mind today as we were listening to Canned Heat – I thought about Woodstock, and then this Richie Havens song popped in. (Richie was the opening act at Woodstock) … I went looking for a live recording and found one here. There’s a fuller production (of course) on his 1968 double album enititled ‘1983’

I can remember hearing the song on the radio back in the late 60’s or early 70’s and I must have missed the D.J. announcing the song, because it took me years to track it down – before the age of the internet. When I did discover who it was, I went out and bought the album. It’s a bit patchy, with too many Beatles covers for my taste, but for some reason this song has remained one of my personal favourites from that era. The words are challening for any age, and the melody really does it for me, added to Richie’s percussive guitar style with open tuning. The addition of something like sitars on the album recording give an eastern vibe, that is very much of the time.

Just Above My Hobby Horse’s Head

Oh, day is near,
darkness gone
and the word is clear
Children see the light,
we close their eyes
and we call it night.

And as they dream their dreams,
we talk the hours away
And as we plan and scheme,
we change tomorrow to yesterday

Borrowed for the time,
the life we share
is a sacred right
we may find
we’re on the road
and there are no signs

And we say we love and we say we care
And we say we know and we say we’re there
If we live our hates and we fight our wars
And we burn our towns, what is going down?

Children raise their voice,
questioning all
has been their choice
from within
point the way
to where we’ve been

And as the music plays
and we become all the days
That become the years
of our lives,
of our lives

Richie Havens / Mark Roth

faith · God · Jesus · Song for Today

The Canticle Of The Turning

The message of Advent and Christmas is that God is doing something new.

As this song declares – The world is about to turn.

May you know the new thing that God will bring to birth in you.

Wishing everyone a very Happy Christmas

1 My soul cries out with a joyful shout
that the God of my heart is great,
and my spirit sings of the wondrous things
that you bring to the ones who wait.
You fixed your sight on your servant’s plight,
and my weakness you did not spurn,
so from east to west shall my name be blest.
Could the world be about to turn?

My heart shall sing of the day you bring.
Let the fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near,
and the world is about to turn.

2 Though I am small, my God, my all,
you work great things in me,
and your mercy will last from the depths of the past
to the end of the age to be.
Your very name puts the proud to shame,
and to those who would for you yearn,
you will show your might, put the strong to flight,
for the world is about to turn. Refrain

3 From the halls of pow’r to the fortress tow’r,
not a stone will be left on stone.
Let the king beware for your justice tears
ev’ry tyrant from his throne.
The hungry poor shall weep no more,
for the food they can never earn;
there are tables spread, ev’ry mouth be fed,
for the world is about to turn. Refrain

4 Though the nations rage from age to age,
we remember who holds us fast:
God’s mercy must deliver us
from the conqueror’s crushing grasp.
This saving word that our forebears heard
is the promise which holds us bound,
till the spear and rod can be crushed by God,
who is turning the world around. 

Activism · faith · Greenbelt Festival, · music · Political · Song for Today · Songwriting · World Affairs

A Song – Work In Progress

I don’t think I’ve posted one of my own songs before, but here goes. If you’ve been following me, you’ll know that I am trying to understand the situation in the Middle East, especially as it applies to the relationship between the State of Israel and the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza.

One of the defining moments in the last 100 years was what Palestinians call Nakba – the time in 1948 when Palestinian families were forced to leave their homes. One of the accounts of that event is told by Sami Awad, and tells how his grandfather, living in Jerusalem with his family, lost his life to a bullet. The truth of what happened that day is disputed, but whatever that truth is, his death was caused by the actions of Israel.

I wrote a song that tries to capture something of those events. It’s just a home version, with me doing all the singing and playing, and it’s very rough round the edges, but it’s a story that I needed to tell. The last 72 years have seen the bitter fruit of those days in 1948, with the loss of access to water, expulsion from the ancestral lands, frequent loss of the olive trees that are a symbol of Palestinian life and the perils of losing the heritage seeds that tell the story of day to day life in the foods that are eaten.

Amos Trust is a small human rights organisation – find out more about the situation here

My song is actually work in progress. I need to do some more work on it, but I wanted to put it out there. I am a songwriter, who like many others, dreams of others seeing the value of their work and making it their own. So if anyone out there wants to take the song and do something with it, let me know.

Here it is: Catastrophe

Grace and peace

Song for Today

Song for Today # 23

One of my all time favourite bands. The first I heard of them was the album ‘How Will The Wolf Survive.’ That was back in the mid eighties. Here’s a song from the album ‘The Neighbourhood.’

A warm wind is blowing through the valleys and the mountain tops
Down the road to a place we know so well
The children are running with ribbons in their baby hands
While we all gather ’round the Giving Tree

Let’s sing songs, the blue ones, let’s sing about the Lord above
And thank the old sun for all we have
The sad times, the glad times, the babies swingin’ in our arms
Don’t seem like much like rain ’round the Giving Tree

Like the shepherds once followed a star bright up in the sky
We’re all here to say, come be with us now
Come give us a good one, come give us a happy time
While we all here dance ’round the Giving Tree

The Giving Tree