#454: In re: Comes the Storm

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #454, on the subject of In re:  Comes the Storm.

When the publisher dropped me a note asking if I would write a few words about a pending book of inspirational poetry, Comes the Storm by Deborah L. Kelly, I thought I was a bad fit for such a task; however, apparently they wanted someone with a theological background to write a few words, and they thought of me.  I hope they don’t regret it too badly.

No cover image available.

I have two problems going into this.  The one is that I have never found “inspirational” books at all inspiring.  Even “good” devotional books leave me cold.  I suppose I’m too intellectual for that sort of thing.

The other problem is that I’m very picky about poetry.  There are two kinds of poems that I enjoy.  The one is nonsense poetry, such as Ogden Nash or Lewis Carroll.  The other is traditional poetry with well-structued rhyme and meter, such as Robert Frost.  I believe with Chaucer that poetry is an art form for the ear, not the eye, and that prose does not become poetry simply because of the way the words are arranged on the page.  In short:

I do not believe
Seventeen syllables in
Three lines make a poem.

Oh star–the fairest one in sight–we grant your loftiness aright to some obscurity of cloud; it will not do to say of night, since dark is what brings out your light.  Some mystery becomes the proud, but to be wholly taciturn in your reserve is not allowed.

To my mind, if you can write it all out in a single line and recognize the poetry when you read it, it’s a poem; if you are scattering prose on a page to look pretty, it’s pretty prose.  It might be poetic, but I draw a sharp line between poetic prose and actual poetry; and I’ve written both.

So I had low expectations going into this.

Indeed, I am breaking one of my rules by writing a review of a book I never finished reading.  Part of that was the ebook format, and the fact that I saw no simple way to bookmark my place, and so I had to try to find where I was every time I had to reopen it; I expect that will be resolved in the published version.  Part of it, though, was that the modernist poetic style all blurred together, and while I could probably have defined differences between the poems, for practical purposes I often could not tell whether the one in front of me was one I had read before or not.  As I said, this was not at all my sort of book.

On the other hand, it was often well written.  I frequently felt as if I were reading passages from the Psalms or Wisdom books or some of the Prophets.  If inspirational books appeal to you, this probably should be on your list.  It comes through as sincere and devoted.

Since I was asked to review this based on the fact that I am, in some sense, a theologian, I ought to say something about the theology.  I am of the belief that everyone is wrong about something, including me, and that part of our spiritual growth is recognizing our errors and attempting to correct them.  I have never known anyone with whom I was in complete agreement about everything, and frankly I do not expect to do so in this life.  That said, while I did not agree with everything in this book, it was all within the bounds of orthodox Christian belief.  As long as the reader does not take it as divinely inspired scripture, it is as sound as one could ask–and I would say that about my own writings.

Take that with however many grains of salt you wish.

#453: The Song “Never Alone”

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #453, on the subject of The Song “Never Alone”.

My recollection is that I wrote this while touring Romania in the early summer of 1972 with a select group from the Ramsey (New Jersey) High School chorus.  I believe I played the first verse for Geoffrey Haberer, and he didn’t like it.  That didn’t stop me from making it a staple of the repertoire of The Last Psalm early in 1973, until we lost enough people that we couldn’t do the vocals.

I had had some encouragement.  After returning home from Romania that summer I had served as a counselor for a junior-high music camp, and another staff member sang this with me as a duet.  He was a black pastor, and immediately saw what I never had said I intended, that having him sing the verse about the guy leaving Kentucky would give another dimension to the song.

This vocals-over-midi-instruments recording was part of the nostalgic collection of Last Psalm songs recorded for Jes Oldham.  It was one of the songs that utilized all five voices, as I sang the first verse, Peggy (Lisbona) the second, Jeff (Zurheide) the third, Ann (Hughes) the fourth, and Ruthann (Mekita) the last, with four voices on the choruses and five on the final bridge.  Not having a black member of the band until John Miller joined us when we no longer had enough vocalists to include this song, I gave the Kentucky verse to one of the girls for a similar reason.  I’m afraid that Ruth’s vocal range is daunting, and I had to adjust her parts here on the bridge and particularly on the last verse to be able to do something that approximated them, because she went considerably higher than I could manage at the time of this recording.  I had written the song with the one guitar “lead” introducing each verse, and then when the band did it added the second lead above and worked out the bass part below.

The song has five verses, and each verse has a couplet that tags to its chorus.  When in the early aughts I went to record it, I had a lot of trouble trying to recall all five tags–I remembered mine, and I remembered Jeffrey’s, but the others were all eluding me.  I asked Jes, who had briefly sung as our alto before she left and Ann replaced her, if she remembered hers, but she did not.  I am ninety-five percent certain that these are the original couplets, but only about eighty-five percent certain that I have them on the correct verses.  It is a country song, and although it isn’t exactly funny it is light-hearted overall despite its core message.

Never Alone.

So here are the lyrics.

To the girl who left Virginia when I said that I was on my way,
I just can’t even begin t’ tell you what it’s like to live my life this way,
People always runnin’ out on you just when you need them most;
Praise the Lord, I held together through the power of the Holy Ghost

Praise Him, people, the Lord knows what to do.
Praise Him, people, He’ll show you that it’s true.
If your picture’s in the paper, or you’ve lost your only friend,
Just rely upon the Spirit, and you’ll be on top again.

To the guy who left Kentucky when he heard that I was movin’ in,
I suppose that I was lucky that I didn’t have to live with him,
For they say if I lived next to him, he’d drown me with his gripes,
But you know I’ll always love him with the love that comes from Jesus Christ.

Praise Him, people, the Lord knows what to do.
Praise Him, people, He’ll show you that it’s true.
If you’ve got a million dollars, or your belt is up for hoc,
You just cling right on to Jesus, He’s the only solid rock.

To the guy up in Chicago who once hit me in a hit and run,
Well, I just want to tell you about God’s only Son
Who died upon a wooden cross, and rose to be a king,
And if you don’t know my Jesus, then you don’t know anything.

Praise Him, people, the Lord knows what to do.
Praise Him, people, He’ll show you that it’s true.
Don’t play poker with the devil, ’cause you know he always cheats,
And if you don’t know my Jesus, then I hope you soon will meet.

Because you’ll never be alone when you’ve got Jesus.
He will always be beside your side.
He will never leave us or forsake us,
He said so and you know He never lied.

To the men in San Francisco I just simply want to say
That I know that Jesus loves you all out by your little bay.
‘Though I’ve never even seen you, I believe that you are real.
I’ve got proof in my Lord Jesus, and I know the way I feel.

Praise Him, people, the Lord knows what to do.
Praise Him, people, He’ll show you that it’s true.
If this world makes you feel beautiful or miserably down,
You just praise the Lord and thank Him, ’cause you know that He’s around.

To the people in New Jersey I just simply want to sing,
‘Cause I know that Jesus loves me and will give me anything.
But it’s still a two-way bargain, there is something back from me:
I just give my life to Jesus, that’s the way it’s gotta be.

Praise Him, people, the Lord knows what to do.
Praise Him, people, He’ll show you that it’s true.
If you’re just a little baby, or you live on borrowed time,
You just give your life to Jesus, and this world will seem so fine.

Because you’ll never be alone when you’ve got Jesus.
    (Alone, never be)
He will always be beside your side.
    (Alone, He’ll be beside your side, He’ll never)
He will never leave us or forsake us,
    (leave or forsake us,)
He said so and you know He never lied.
    (you know he never lied.)


Previous web log song posts:

#301:  The Song “Holocaust” | #307:  The Song “Time Bomb” | #311:  The Song “Passing Through the Portal” | #314:  The Song “Walkin’ In the Woods” | #317:  The Song “That’s When I’ll Believe” | #320:  The Song “Free” | #322:  The Song “Voices” | #326:  The Song “Mountain, Mountain” | #328:  The Song “Still Small Voice” | #334:  The Song “Convinced” | #337:  The Song “Selfish Love” | #340:  The Song “A Man Like Paul” | #341:  The Song “Joined Together” | #346:  The Song “If We Don’t Tell Them” | #349: The Song “I Can’t Resist You’re Love” | #353:  The Song “I Use to Think” | #356:  The Song “God Said It Is Good” | #362:  The Song “My Life to You” | #366:  The Song “Sometimes” | #372:  The Song “Heavenly Kingdom” | #378:  The Song “A Song of Joy” | #382:  The Song “Not Going to Notice” | #387:  The Song “Our God Is Good” | #393:  The Song “Why” | #399:  The Song “Look Around You” | #404:  The Song “Love’s the Only Command” | #408:  The Song “Given You My Name” | #412:  The Song “When I Think” | #414:  The Song “You Should Have Thanked Me” | #428:  The Song “To the Victor” | #433:  The Song “From Job” | #436:  The Song “Trust Him Again” | #438:  The Song “Even You” | #441:  The Song “Fork in the Road” | #442:  The Song “Call to Worship” | #445:  The Song “How Many Times” | #447:  The Song “When I Was Lonely” | #450:  The Song “Rainy Days”

Next Song:  King of Glory