Category Archives: Bible and Theology

#455: The Song “King of Glory”

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #455, on the subject of The Song “King of Glory”.

I’m going to state up front that I would put this at the bottom of just about every list.

It is one of the weakest songs I ever wrote, musically and lyrically.  I actually wrote it in eighth or ninth grade, and it was intended originally to be part of a rock opera (they were a big deal then) about a depressed teenager, and was supposed to tell of an encounter with the Jesus People (also a big thing then).

It’s also a pretty bad recording.  It’s another vocals-over-midi-instruments one I did as part of the nostalgic collection of Last Psalm songs recorded for Jes Oldham.  I was struggling to squeak out Ruthanne Mekita’s soprano, and I don’t know whether that was the problem but the intonation of the vocals I just couldn’t get right.  I’m never that bad on my intonation, and it’s embarrassing.

But I recorded it, as I suggested, because Jes wanted a collection of Last Psalm songs, and this is one on which she sang once upon a time.  I won’t be at all offended if you skip it, but here it is if you want to hear just how badly I can do this sometimes.  I assure you that The Last Psalm sounded considerably better on this–I once had tapes, but they’re long gone, so this is the best I can offer.

King of Glory.

So here are the lyrics.

Won’t you try my Jesus?
He is everything.
He’s the King of Glory,
The Eternal King.

When I need someone beside me,
He is always there.
When nobody else will hide me
He makes me take the dare.

Won’t you try my Jesus?
He is everything.
He’s the King of Glory,
The Eternal King.

When you need an answer, man,
He’s the place to go.
He drew up the master plan,
You know he’s gotta know.

Won’t you try my Jesus?
He is everything.
He’s the King of Glory,
The Eternal King.

Won’t you try my Jesus?
He is everything.
He’s the King of Glory,
The Eternal King.

Won’t you try my Jesus?
He is everything.
He’s the King of Glory,
The Eternal King.

Won’t you try my Jesus?
He is everything.
He’s the King of Glory,
The Eternal King.

*****

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” | #453:  The Song “Never Alone”

Next song:  Greater Love

#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.

#451: The Bethel/Hillsong Music Controversy

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #451, on the subject of The Bethel/Hillsong Music Controversy.

A long time friend asked me via Facebook private message:

You would most likely know about this.  I just watched a debate over Bethel and Hillsong music being played in worship services.  Since I am unfamiliar with them I could not follow the debate.  Perhaps you could shed some light on this.

Quite honestly I have not followed the details, and my friend might be better informed on this than I; but I think there are points worth considering.

There are of course those who object to using contemporary music for worship at all.  I encounter these arguments frequently, and there isn’t really any substance to them.  Some say that the contemporary music sullies the holy message, but the Reformers and the leaders during the Great Awakenings all used secular songs, usually bawdy songs sung in bars, to set Christian words and make our hymns.  Some argue that most contemporary songs aren’t very good, but that’s true in every era, and to some degree time is the test as most of the songs that aren’t good are forgotten and some of those which are survive.  In the end, the contemporary songs of the present are the great worship songs of the past in the future.

But it is specifically the songs of these two groups that are the target of this objection, and they have something in common:  they are worship bands from very large churches.  Thus the question becomes whether their churches taint their music, or more specifically their lyrics.

The first question in this is of course whether the churches themselves are heretical.  That’s not an easy question.  After all, there are Catholics who think Baptists are heretical, and Baptists who think the same about Catholics.  Yet both groups have produced wonderful worshipful music over the centuries, and even have borrowed from each other.  Some would paint the entire Charismatic/Pentecostal world as heretical, others as the fruit of the Third Great Awakening.  As a wise Quaker reportedly said to his best friend, “Everyone’s a little queer ‘cept me and thee, and sometimes I’m not so sure of thee.”  Many would label the entire Prosperity Gospel movement heretical, but others would say they’re just a bit misguided, and obviously there are many who believe their message.  At the same time, behind the first question is the question, does that matter?

It leads to the second question, which is, does the supposed heresy of the church impact the lyrics?  That is, do these songs preach or teach a false message?  That is a more difficult question.  After all, there are a plethora of songs about the pre-millenial return of Christ, most of them pre-tribulation, and while that’s a popular view it’s not necessarily the true one.  Every once in a while I hear a song that recalls the submission and discipleship theology of the 70s, and I usually turn it off.  How wrong does a song have to be to be a problem?  I heard one person object that most contemporary songs aren’t about Jesus about but about my relationship with Jesus–but if we are to sing spiritual songs in addition to psalms and hymns, would that not be included?  Songs that clearly teach a false belief should be discouraged, but I’m not aware that the songs from these bands do that.  Singing songs which are theologically sound popularized by bands from churches which are not is not in itself a problem.

However, there is one other potential objection, which is whether singing or otherwise promoting the songs themselves promotes the ministry behind them.  When songs by Hillsong or Bethel get heavy airplay and rise on the charts through sales, this means money into the pockets of the ministry and exposure to a wider audience.  If there is some egregious error promulgated by these ministries, even if it doesn’t show in their music, supporting the music might help promote the error.  Those who think the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints a heresy rightly hesitate to listen to Christmas albums from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, because the purchase helps fund the church.

That, though, brings us back to the first question:  are these ministries in some way heretical?  I don’t have the answer to that question.  Further, I don’t know that I need the answer.  I am not in a position to influence what songs are sung in any local church, or played on local radio stations; I don’t buy music or subscribe to a streaming service, so I’m only going to hear these songs if one of the local stations plays it.  That does happen, and although I do hear songs on the radio which I wouldn’t clear for airplay were I programming, I don’t think any of those are from the groups in question.

Just to be clear, if I were involved in leading local worship or programming a radio station, this is a question I would seek to answer.  The answer would matter to me in that case.  But that’s their job, and I have my own obligations.  If they think it’s all right to play, I’ll trust that they are aware of the controversy and took the time to address the questions.

#450: The Song “Rainy Days”

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #450, on the subject of The Song “Rainy Days”.

This song doesn’t really belong here; I did not write it.

It was written by my good friend Arthur Lee “Artie” Robbins, who played with me beginning in eighth grade, before The Last Psalm, as bass guitarist in BLT Down and for Genuine Junk Parts before that, and as an acoustic and vocals duo before that.  He wrote this as a love song probably in eighth grade, and when BLT Down became The Last Psalm he, being Jewish, left.  I needed material, so I changed a few words and continued using the song; I also wrote the triple lead, but it was only ever a double lead until that band’s last concert, when we had both Andy Nilssen and Annette Young so could run two bass guitars and she played the third lead on the six-string short-neck Wurlitzer while he handled the bassline.  The song also had an improvised lead which segued into the triple lead, but I omitted that.  I also omitted backup vocals–during the last verse while Peggy was singing the melody the other four of us each had one note in the chord in an “ah” which we slid down from the E chord to the D, singing off mic, but I couldn’t sing the high E when I was finally recording this and couldn’t figure out how to make the midi vocals slide together or sound off-mic.  It’s a rather poor recording–I felt I needed chords behind the triple lead, and I didn’t want to add another guitar to two guitars and two bass guitars during the singing (and anyway, we didn’t have another guitarist) so I use the piano, and the mix was all wrong bringing the chords too far forward and drowning out the leads.  But you can hear them if you listen closely.

So why is it here?  It was one of those vocals-over-midi-instruments recordings made as part of the nostalgic collection of Last Psalm songs recorded for Jes Oldham entitled When I Was Young.  It is the only one of those which I did not write which I recorded, although Ruth has asked me about her song Lord, Lord, which we stopped singing when she left us but I might record for her if I get some new software working.

Rainy Days.

So here are the lyrics.

The rain, it pours and pours all day.
It turns the skies all cloudy and grey.
But inside my house the sun still shines,
‘Cause the Lord of Love, I know He’s mine.

Rainy days may come my way.
I guess we’ll have to make due,
‘Cause even if the skies are cloudy and grey,
I still know that I love you.

The rain, it pours and pours all day.
It turns the skies all cloudy and grey.
But inside my heart the sun still shines,
‘Cause the Lord of Love, I know He’s mine.

Rainy days may come my way.
I guess we’ll have to make due,
‘Cause even if the skies are cloudy and grey,
I still know that I love you.
I still know that I love you.
I still know that God loves you.

*****

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”

Next song:  Never Alone

#447: The Song “When I Was Lonely”

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #447, on the subject of The Song “When I Was Lonely”.

This is another very early song, undoubtedly from my high school days, performed by The Last Psalm.  It didn’t make the list because it’s a very simple song, musically and lyrically.

That doesn’t mean that the song has no merit at all.  The simple message is still solid.  In the fourth verse, I changed the accompanyment to underscore the notion of dying.  In the fifth verse, I replaced the last two lines with instrumental because “I haven’t been lying” would not be understood as intended.

This was another vocals-over-midi-instruments recording made as part of the nostalgic collection of Last Psalm songs recorded for Jes Oldham entitled When I Was Young.  I remember that sometimes I sang it, but eventually I gave the solo to Peggy Lisbona, as it was in her range and I was trying to avoid being the star of the band.  It strikes me that Peggy was a friend of Jes, whom I met the night I invited Jes to sing with us and Peggy leaped at the opportunity to be involved.  I was hesitant to include someone I had never met before, but she proved to be a remarkable asset.

When I Was Lonely.

So here are the lyrics.

When I was lonely and all alone
I just asked Jesus to be my own,
And I haven’t been lonely since He came in
And made my heart his home.

When I was cryin’ and feelin’ sad
I just asked Jesus to make me glad,
And I haven’t been cryin’ since He came in
And made my heart his home.

When I was searchin’ for who I am,
I just asked Jesus to take command
And I haven’t been searchin’ since He came in
And made my heart his home.

When I was dyin’ inside my soul
I just asked Jesus to make me whole,
And I haven’t been dyin’ since He came in
And made my heart his home.

When I was lyin’ flat on the floor
I heard my Jesus outside my door.

When I was lonely and all alone
I just asked Jesus to be my own,
And I haven’t been lonely since He came in
And made my heart his throne.

I can only hope you benefit from the song in some way.  I will continue with additional songs in the future.

*****

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”

Next Song:  Rainy Days

#446: The Religious Freedom Abortion Argument

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #446, on the subject of The Religious Freedom Abortion Argument.

It happens that I have twice heard this argument raised, some forty years apart, by Jewish women.  I do not know whether it is exclusive to them, but that will to some degree influence my treatment here.  The argument appears to be that Jewish law gives women the right to abort unwanted children, and therefore any national law forbidding that is an impingement on freedom of religious practice.

I had trouble believing that Jewish women had an affirmative obligation to abort a child under any circumstance, but I am no Talmudic scholar–so I consulted those who were.  Rabbi David M. Feldman’s article Abortion:  The Jewish View (here in PDF) has been adopted as a majority opinion of The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly, sixteen to none with one abstention; it thus represents the interpretation of the Talmud from the perspective of Conservative Judaism, although it is not binding.

It may be worthwhile to acquaint the non-Jewish reader with a few concepts in connection with modern Judaism.

  • The Talmud is a large collection of writings interpreting earlier writings by thousands of rabbis interpreting the Torah, and is to a significant degree the fundamental basis for Jewish theology and practice.  The image accompanying this post gives an impression of its encyclopedic breadth.  It was completed around 500 A.D.
  • There are effectively four “denominations” of Judaism in the modern world, and they approach subjects differently.
    • Hasidic Judaism is the most conservative, adopting the most traditional views and many traditional practices.  These are the men you see in the wide-brimmed hats with the side curls and frequently robes.  They might be somewhat analogous to the Amish, separating themselves from the world and focusing on their own faith communities.
    • Orthodox Judaism is not quite as conservative as that, but sticks to traditional doctrine very closely.  The men of this denomination are often seen in yarmulkes and prayer shawls when out in public, and they follow many rules modern society would consider archaic–such as the concern that a man not come in contact even accidentally with a woman who is not a member of his family.  They might be most analogized to the Eastern Orthodox churches.
    • Conservative Judaism probably comprises the bulk of those in the modern world who are recognizably but not extremely Jewish.  Some will wear yarmulkes in public, but not all will, reserving their religious clothing for religious services.  They frequently have mezuzah, those small emblems of the Ten Commandments, on the doorframes of their homes.  Yet they are fairly fully integrated into the modern world.  From an outside perspective, they perhaps provide the best balance between religious piety and secular integration.  In one sense they are most similar to Lutheran and Episcopalian denominations.
    • The fourth group of Judaism is called Reformed, and it is perhaps the most diverse.  There was a joke in Mad Magazine many decades back to the effect that Orthodox and Conservative Jews had a different name for Reformed Jews, calling them “Christians”.  Those I have known have generally been kosher and observed most of the usual rituals, but you would have to know them to be aware that they were Jewish.  Individual beliefs of this group are the most varied, making them perhaps most comparable to Baptists.

This hopefully establishes why I consider Conservative Talmudic scholarship the best representation of modern Judaism.

There are a few critical points in the article.

  • The Talmud does not believe that the Torah establishes the unborn child as a living person.  It is regarded part of the mother until the moment either its head or a substantially large portion of its body has emerged.
  • Nevertheless, a mother may not decide to abort a child; it is a decision made by an attending medic, who must make the determination that it is a choice between the life of the child and the life of the mother.  The principle is that although the child’s potential life has value to be protected and once the child is born we do not trade one actual life for another, until that moment the mother’s actual life is more valuable than the child’s potential life.  It is thus incumbent on the doctor to abort the child if the mother cannot survive the birth.
  • Extrapolated from this, it is argued that if the birth of the child will have serious medical–not social or economic–impact on the mother, a doctor may decide to abort it.  It is specifically asserted that aborting a child because of a belief that genetic defects will result in a poor quality of life for the child is not permitted, because we cannot know that having no life would be better than having that into which the child will be born.  It is only the mother’s physical well-being that can be the justification for this.

At no point in Talmudic Law is a woman given the right, let alone the obligation, to abort an unborn child.

However, as mentioned, Reformed Judaism is a lot looser in its interpretations.  It is certainly within the realm of plausiblity that a Reformed Rabbi might believe and teach that a woman has the divinely-given right to abort a child she does not wish to carry to term.  That certainly does not have roots in traditional Judaism from ancient times, but if someone believes it, that makes it their religion, and they do under the Constitution have the right to believe whatever they choose.  Does that give us a religious argument?

Classical Islamic Law, as expressed in Shari’ah, requires that apostates be put to death.  This is done not so much as a punishment for abandoning Islam but as a protection of the community from the errors of the apostate.  Although the practice is rare in the modern world, there are still countries in which apostacy is punishable by death.  Similarly, many Muslims believe that killing an infidel–someone who does not believe in Islam–is a free ticket to paradise.  This is a religious view in a centuries-old religion.  However, killing people for unbelief in a particular religion is against the law in these United States, and in the majority of countries around the world.  If you murder your sister, the claim that she abandoned Islam for another faith is not a valid defense.

Yet it is a claim of religious liberty:  my religion says that I should kill someone who does this, so by killing them I am exercising the requirements of my relgion.

It should be clear that the fact that a religion requires certain conduct does not always stand as an excuse for the performance of that conduct–you cannot kill people for abandoning Islam despite the fact that your religion says you must.

The question of whether an unborn child is or is not a person is clearly a religious one; at the same time, it is one that the law has the right to decide.  We have decided that negroes are human beings and have the rights of human beings–something relatively new in the European-American world.  If the law decides that someone is a person, a religious belief to the contrary does not justify, legally, treating him as not a person.  In the same way, if the law were to say that abortion is not legal, a relgious belief that it should be does not justify it.

Further, the claim cannot be made that women have a religious obligation to get abortions.  It can be claimed only (and as we have seen on dubious grounds) that they have the freedom under their beliefs to do so, and that doctors are obligated to perform them at least in life-threatening situations (which in the modern world would ordinarily be addressed by a Caesarean section).  There are many things that are permitted but not required by many religions that are forbidden in our country or other countries, and the accommodation in such cases is that we limit our conduct to that which is permissible, opposing the law only when it is in conflict with that which is required, and, as in all cases of civil disobedience, accepting that we will receive the appropriate punishment for breaking the law.

Thus the claim of religious freedom as a basis for abortion appears to me to fail twice, first because there is no religion that requires practitioners to get abortions, and second because the law is permitted to decide whether or not a particular group is a protected class and thus can protect the unborn if it so chooses.

That makes it an issue to be determined by the democratic process.

#445: The Song “How Many Times”

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #445, on the subject of The Song “How Many Times”.

I can explain why this song was not on the original “short list” for the Extreme Tour demo:  I wrote it in high school, and I feel like it shows the marks of an immature believer.  Yet I might judge it too harshly for that.

After all, my youngest son Adam (who co-wrote Even You, featured a few months back) likes it a lot, was learning to play the piano part for it.  I could discount that, because I think he likes angsty songs–but he says that “people” like it.  It also has a long history that commends it.

It is probably the song that put my music on the map.  The Last Psalm had been playing very small venues when we were invited to perform at the Luther College Coffeehouse Night, an invitational gathering of the heads of coffeehouses throughout the northeastern New Jersey area early in 1974.  I had Peggy (Lisbona, also contralto vocals) sit at the piano, while I joined Ruthann (Mekita, soprano), Ann (Hughs, alto), and Jeff (Zurheide, baritone, also lead guitar) in a stairwell adjacent to the dais.  The four of us sang the first verse and chorus of the hymn Softly and Tenderly in four parts a capella, and as we finished Peggy started playing the introduction to this song on the piano.  I scampered up the stairs, picked up my guitar, stepped up to the mic, and on the downbeat of the first verse I hit the CM7 chord and began singing.

At that moment, several people who thought all my talk about how to run a musical ensemble was hot air suddenly updated their thinking.  Andy (Andrew Hagan Nilssen) followed me and began playing bass mid-verse, followed by John (Mastick) on the drums, and Jeff came to the stage to play lead frills behind the vocals as the second verse began.  Ruthann and Ann joined us in time to sing the four part vocal ending, and the audience welcomed us to the stage.

We played a carefully-planned twenty-minute slot, and yielded the stage to others, but were invited back on stage at the end of the program to play another maybe half hour.  After that, several local coffeehouses invited us to play their venues.  This song had a lot to do with that, I think.

After The Last Psalm dissolved, I made a monophonic multi-track recording in which I improvised lead guitar frills; I liked them enough that I expanded them to two parts, and recorded that on a regretably lost tape I made in a studio at Gordon College.  I preserved the parts, though, for this vocals-over-midi-instruments recording, made as part of the nostalgic collection of recordings of Last Psalm songs for Jes Oldham entitled When I Was Young.  There is a midi “hiccough” in the second line, but it’s barely noticeable.  Although the lyrics don’t really strike me as great, I do like the inside rhymes.

I don’t perform it because I always feel like it needs the four-part ending vocals; I have a live recording I did at the Silver Lake Community Church one week which to my mind underscores that.  Yet it was an important song in my history, and worth preserving in its own right.

How Many Times.

So here are the lyrics.

How many times can I look down,
Only to find I’m still on the ground?
How many days?  I can’t even count.
How many ways have I tried to get out?

How much more is all I can take?
Before I know I will break?
And if I break, what else will there be?
Is it too late to care about me?

Is there someone, somebody, somewhere,
Or someone’s son who really cares?
Is there a man–there has to be–who would lay down his life,
Do what he can for you and me to save us from strife?

Yes, there is someone:  Jesus loves you.
Yes, there is someone:  Jesus loves you.
Yes, there is someone:  Jesus loves you,
Jesus loves you, Jesus loves you.

I can only hope you benefit from the song in some way.  I will continue with additional songs in the future.

*****

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” |

Next song:  When I Was Lonely

#442: The Song “Call to Worship”

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #442, on the subject of The Song “Call to Worship”.

It’s easy to explain why this song was not on the original “short list” for the Extreme Tour demo:  it’s short.

I hesitate to say that I wrote it in high school.  I think that BLT Down, the band that was precursor to The Last Psalm, used it on one occasion in 1972 to open a church service; I know that The Last Psalm sometimes used it as a concert opener.

I made this vocals-over-midi-instruments recording as part of the nostalgic collection of recordings of Last Psalm songs for Jes Oldham.  It has never been one of my favorites, but it is more a function song, a bit of modern liturgy.

I’ve had an odd relationship with liturgy over the decades.  Growing up in Baptist and Presbyterian churches, there was very little of it, and it was constantly in flux.  I remember creating worship services at summer camp, and specifically attempting to use the bits of liturgy as teaching tools.  The more liturgical churches generally had the same words repeated week after week, and this seemed to me to be vain repetition.  It wasn’t until I was in college that I read C. S. Lewis’ piece on updating the Anglican liturgy (in God in the Dock) that anyone explained to me the value of saying the same words week after week, which, according to him, meant you didn’t have to think about the words but could focus on the Person to Whom they were addressed.

I still don’t do well with liturgy, but I get it.  It’s like singing familiar worship songs, or praying in tongues, the worshipper freed from thinking about what he is saying so he can focus on God.  Liturgy just doesn’t work that way for me.

Because this song predates my reading of that essay, it has an aspect of trying to teach something to the congregation.  I know now that that’s not really what liturgy is for in liturgical churches, even if Baptists and Presbyterians use it that way.

Call to Worship.

So here are the lyrics.

God is our Father, this church is His home.
Let us now praise Him with our thoughts and our song.
Come into His presence and sing to His name,
Let Him run your life–you won’t be the same.

God is our Father, He’ll live in your heart.
Once He’s inside you, He never will part.
So when you leave here, wherever you go,
Take Jesus with you, let His glory show.

I can only hope you benefit from the song in some way.  I will continue with additional songs in the future.

*****

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” |

Next Song:  How Many Times

#441: The Song “Fork in the Road”

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #441, on the subject of The Song “Fork in the Road”.

John David Mastick, drummer from long ago in The Last Psalm (and, incidentally, Jacob’s Well), has been nagging me for this song since he first became aware that I was posting songs.  I hope he’s not too disappointed in this version of it.

The song goes back to my high school days, and is rather blatantly inspired by the Robert Frost poem The Road Not Taken; I occasionally recited the poem in introducing the song, but honestly even I can see that the words to the poem are better.  It was an effort to create a Christian rock song in a time when these were few and far between.  It always had vocals except on those rare occasions when I sang it solo, in which case the bottom voice part is the melody.

It was first performed by The Last Psalm, probably as early as early 1973.  The first four verses, presented below as one block, were sung, followed by a lead guitar solo, and then the vocals returned with the second half.  It’s difficult to recall the details of back then, but I think after the last line we shifted into a simple riff with an E9 sliding in from a half step below a half beat before the downbeat and another guitar solo, very much a fast jazz sound.  We would eventually do a live fade, and come back with the original progression into a thrasher ending.  Then that fall John joined the band, and we expanded the arrangement by inserting a drum solo after the first guitar solo.  It was very much the typical late 60s-early 70s drum solo, in which the band moved to the wings and the drummer played as long as he wished; I don’t recall exactly how I would know it was coming to the end, but my return to the stage signaled the others to do the same, and John would give us a pickup back into the second half.

This song landed last on the list of thirty-four songs I put forward for consideration, and I ranked it thirty-fourth for the quality of the song; I had come to think the words very derivative and the music very simple.  I ranked the midi and vocals recording found here thirty-third, and with Tristan not listing it that put it at the bottom.  Yet for some reason in 1975 when The Last Psalm broke up, I felt like this was a song I had to keep for my anticipated looming solo career, and I needed some way to fill that instrumental space.  It had, after all, been the band’s real crowd-pleaser.  I got together with Dave Oldham, who had been the band’s sound engineer that last year (and would later play bass guitar in TerraNova), and wrote an accoustic guitar instrumental section.  It was at the time one of the trickiest and most impressive bits of acoustic guitar work I had done, and I very much liked it.  Thus I included it as the instrumental break here.  We also wrote a shorter multi-chord ending, also used here.

When I put it on the repertoire for Collision, I wanted to restore the extended rock-style instrumental work, but not lose the well-constructed guitar instrumental, so I reconfigured the latter to be played by the band (much as in this recording, but with bass and keyboards playing some of the riffs), then went into a more structured improvisational solo section:  the drums played eight measures of solo, maintaining beat and tempo, then the band returned with an eight-measure lead guitar solo, a keyboard solo of the same length, and then a bass solo of the same length, and then returning to repeat with another drum solo, guitar, keys, bass, and do it again, and finish with another drum solo, playing the harmonics bit again twice, and going back to the second half of the song.  We kept the multi-chord ending.  We had only two vocals, so omitted the top voice.

So it has been through a lot of versions, and this recording is neither the first nor the last, nor the best nor the worst, but gives the sense of the song and most of what I perceived as the good parts other than that I would not presume to create a drum solo given the excellent drummers who have done so before me.

Fork in the Road.

So here are the lyrics.

I came to a fork in the road of life,
And I wondered which road to take.
I knew what one way would try to build,
The other one would try to break.
The one on the left ran fifty feet,
And disappeared around a bend,
While the right one seemed to go quite straight,
But was too long to see the end.
Looking down the left hand road
I wondered what’s around the turn.
It’s true that I might be set free,
But it’s also true that I might burn.
Then I saw the right road was one
Anyone could take in stride.
‘Though it didn’t look like much fun,
Others would walk by my side.

I stood there for a longer time
Than I’ve ever stood anywhere before.
Add all the choices I had made,
And this one meant a thousand times more.
I walked to the turn in the left-hand road,
Knowing I could turn around.
You ought to know another bend
Was all that I had found.
Went back to the fork, and I started out
Along the other road.
In no time I could see the end,
And all it’s glory showed.
I stand at the fork in the road of life,
And I tell people ev’ry day:
Ask Lord Jesus in your life–
The right road is the better way.

I can only hope you benefit from the song in some way.  I will continue with additional songs in the future.  From this point forward, songs posted will be those that did not, for various reasons, make the original shortlist, in no meaningful sequence.

*****

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”

Next song:  Call to Worship

#438: The Song “Even You”

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #438, on the subject of The Song “Even You”.

It is difficult to know what to write about this song, because I wrote about it before.  Back when it was written, I posted web log post #181:  Anatomy of a Songwriting Collaboration, in which I described how beginning with the memory of something Jack Haberer posted in our high school yearbook I engaged my youngest son Adam in constructing this song.  Here I offer this recording, done in my living room with an acoustic guitar in competition with an air cleaner, not long after a hospitalization so I would have a recorded copy.  There is an earlier recording on another web site somewhere, linked from the previous article, in which Adam is playing the piano.

Tristan did not mention the song on his list; I suspect he had never heard it, as it was fairly new and he was not at our house much.  I placed the song itself at twenty-ninth, and the recording, flawed as it is, at thirty-second, which tied it with the previous song, Trust Him Again, at thirty-second overall.  The progressions were mostly somewhat common, and although I liked the lyrics I admit that there are spots where I’m not at all sure what Adam meant.  But it is a good song, and I’ve performed it at least once or twice live despite the fact that I rarely get to perform live anymore.

Even You.

So here are the lyrics.

If deep in your heart you remember when,
Did you want to be born again again?
The good news is the news is true:
Jesus comes to make all things new,
Even you, even you, even you, even you.

There in your mind when you feel abused,
Don’t you get tired of being used and used?
Darkness falls, then the light breaks through.
Jesus comes to make all things new,
Even you, even you, even you, even you.

You want what you want.
You get the joy, he took the pain.
You get what you get:
Redemption sustains, sin is a stain.

Ask yourself why you want to sin,
Why you lose; you were made to win.  To win
Victory, and to make it through.
Jesus comes to make all things new,
Even you, even you, even you, even you.

Thank God for what He’s done
To set us free.
He gave His only Son
For you and me.

I can only hope you benefit from the song in some way.  I will continue with additional songs in the future.

*****

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”

Next song:  Fork in the Road