First and Second Mile Blues

If you’ve come to walk just one mile
And to tell me what you’re taught to say,
Go on home; I’m not gonna listen.
I don’t think you’ve a thing real to say to me.

But if you will walk all the way
And tell me how you really feel,
Have a seat; I’m ready to listen.
I think you might have something real to say.

About this Song:
I was visiting my original in-laws in November of 1979 when the ideas for two songs came to me. This is one of them. What you can’t tell from just looking at the words,  however, is the rhythm was so tricky–so challenging–that I never bothered to write the tune down until 1993.

It was just as much a challenge to play.

I’ll never forget doing a concert at Allen Memorial Baptist Church in Salisbury, Maryland, one Sunday evening closer to 1979 than to now. I was sitting on a stool. “The First & Second Mile Blues” made me so nervous that the guitar bounced up and down on my knee from start to finish, and I’m not sure how many right notes I hit–if any. No wonder I decided never to do that song in public again!

But my friends at the Ashland Convalescent Center are pretty low key and uncritical, and I don’t get as uptight about mistakes as I used to. So a few months ago I chanced doing it for them. It not only went well, they actually seemed to like it.

Enough about that, though.

If you’re familiar with Jesus’ teachings, the idea of voluntarily going the second mile in doing something distasteful rather than just the required first mile–that teaching can be applied to so many aspects of life–then you understand where the idea came from.

You can see why I’ve chosen to pair this song this week with “An Empty Spoon.” Both songs warn people who try to pass their wisdom along to others–epecially if it’s unsought–in a forceful and distasteful way to back off. No wonder we tend to describe people like that as “Bible thumpers” and accuse them of hitting listeners over the head with their Bibles.

They can’t seem to understand that nobody wants to listen to them until they’ve established themselves as genuine examples of what they’re proclaiming. As Christians, that means going the second mile.

If this song has spoken to you, please leave a comment.

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the bottom right.

I have free lead sheets (chords, notes, & words) for many of my songs. To see which ones and print or download any of them (not including today’s), GO HERE.

“As I Come Singing” isn’t my only blog. If you’d like to see “On Aging Gracelessly,” CHECK IT OUT HERE.

Best regards,
Roger

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An Empty Spoon

As you come to fill my mouth
With food for thought from your abundant past,
Why wonder that I do not eat?
For I am not molded in your cast.

You tell me you can tell me what truth is,
But truth is that truth for right now
Is not yours to give.
You tell me you can tell me how life should be,
But my life is not your life to live.

As you come to fill my mouth
With food for thought from your abundant past,
Why wonder that I do not eat?
For I am not molded in your cast.

When I was young you gave me milk.
As I began to grow up, you gave me meat.
But now the time has come for me to feed myself,
You’d rather see me starve to death
Than sick from what I’d eat.

You feed me from an empty   spoon.

About this Song:
Sometime around 1970 I read a fascinating non-fiction book by Sunny Decker. That I can even remember her name is a real tribute to the power of her book. But the title itself left even more of an impression on me: An Empty Spoon.

Sunny wrote about her real-life experiences teaching out of her comfort zone in an African American school. While I don’t recall anything specific about her story, I do remember feeling so overwhelmed when I finished reading it that I picked up my Epiphone 12-string guitar and just started playing and singing. Once something started to gel, I just kept playing it over and over.

The words to this song came very quickly–as did the tune and the chord progression. Probably faster than any other song I’ve written.

I can’t look back now and relate the lyrics to Sunny Decker’s book, but I can and do think about how easily adults–perhaps especially those of us who’re supposedly more mature –think we have all the answers to life’s questions. If not that,  we’re apt to at least have strong opinions and recommendations about pitfalls to avoid.

Although our advice may be well thought out and legitimate, we can be a bit too free offering it at times. And it may not be received as willingly as it is offered.

As Bob Dylan said so eloquently around that same time in American history, “The times they are a-changing.” So “An Empty Spoon” becomes an imaginary someone’s protest against those of us who fail to note the changes and think things ought to continue being done the same old way.

That’s apt to be true even regarding spiritual matters. While the truth of God’s love and His plan for salvation for each of his creatures through faith in Jesus Christ is unchanging, the world is filled with false religions, and if we are to share our faith with others, we must know how Christianity differs from all of the other faiths that are vying for young peoples’ attentions.

Even though we may speak the truth in love, we must make its relevance evident to those we’re sharing it with. Else we may be just like the person to whom the lyrics of “An Empty Spoon” are addressed.

If this post speaks to you, please share a comment.

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the bottom right.

I have free lead sheets (chords, notes, & words) for many of my songs. To see which ones and print or download any of them (not including today’s), GO HERE.

“As I Come Singing” isn’t my only blog. If you’d like to see “On Aging Gracelessly,” CHECK IT OUT HERE.

Best regards,
Roger

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Learning to Touch Lives

When I meet someone for the first time
And I shake that person’s hand,
I touch his life in a physical way
That says, “I know you’re there.”

But my prayer is to learn to listen
To just what he thinks and how he feels-
So I may learn to touch his life
In a way that says, “I care.”

About this Song:
The three songs starting with today’s all deal with our influence on other people and their perception of us.

Shaking hands is the most common way for men in our society–sometimes women, too–to greet one another. Especially the first time they meet.

A handshake is a formal greeting, though. Nothing at all like a hug or a peck on the cheek. Those are greetings we reserve for people we know and care about.

Nonetheless, a handshake allows one person to acknowledge the existence of another one–and the second person to return the acknowledgement. But it’s a purely physical greeting.

No emotional involvement is at risk. A handshake doesn’t mean that one person cares about the other. Learning to care–especially to care deeply–is apt to take many  contacts beyond the initial one.

If we listen to what people tell us–especially on an ongoing basis–they will discover that we care. Then they’ll be more willing to open up to us and allow us to minister to them in ways we couldn’t do otherwise. It’s one method of giving a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name.

Jesus told us that what we do for others we are doing for Him.

But the hard part is being quiet and listening. All too often, we want to be the ones sharing our problems with others. How much more effective we are as Christians when we close our mouths and open our ears–and our hearts.

Please leave a comment if this song has spoken to you in any way.

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I’ll be back again next Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the bottom right.

I have free lead sheets (chords, notes, & words) for many of my songs. To see which ones and print or download any of them (today’s is not available), GO HERE.

“As I Come Singing” isn’t my only blog. If you’d like to see “On Aging Gracelessly,” CHECK IT OUT HERE.

Best regards,
Roger

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We’ve Been Travelin’

We’ve been travelin’ all over this land
From the flat land country to the mountains grand,
From the humdrum of the city to the wildness of the sea.
O blessed land where we all are free.

We hear folks singing with all their might;
We hear them singing of freedom’s fight:
The worth of human life and the lives that have been lost-
The price of freedom, high is the cost.

We’ve been travelin';
We’ve been praying
That by God’s grace,
We may remain forever free.

About this Song:
I  reached WAY back in my notebook of songs for this one…the first song I ever wrote. Also my only patriotic song.

The words speak for themselves, but let me share a little background.

I wrote this song–probably in 1963 as a high school junior. I had started playing guitar less than a year before, and I was playing around with the chords to “Greensleeves.” In the key of Em, most people would play a progression of Em-D-C-B7. But I switched the sequence to Em-D-B7-C, and that–as Robert Frost has said–made all the difference.

I don’t recall anything about the process of writing the words.

At that time, I belonged to a folk trio of guys from church. The Flatlanders (appropriate for people living in Norfolk, VA) consisted of Will Robertson, Bobby Hetherington, and–of course–me. We all played guitar and sang and just generally enjoyed ourselves. I’m sure I was a little shy about sharing my song with them, but they loved it and chose to use it as our theme song. No telling how many times we sang it.

Once I graduated from high school and moved to western Maryland–far away from the Flatlanders–I was forced into becoming a soloist. “We’ve Been Travelin'” didn’t quite fit with “I,” so I ignored it for a number of years.

Then around 1971 I wrote a musical drama called Escape Velocity. “We’ve Been Travelin'” fit in perfectly–but not with the folk sound it had during the 1960s. So I changed it to a major key and turned it from 4/4 time to 6/8. Those changes affected the melody, of course.

A year or two  back I sang the original version at my church’s weekly nursing home ministry–the first time I’d done it publicly since Flatlander days. I’ve added a recording of that performance to the Listen page of my website. Go to the Voice & Guitar 1 drop down box to find “We’ve Been Travelin’.”

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Please leave a comment if something in this post has spoken to you. I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the bottom right.

I have free lead sheets (chords, notes, & words) for many of my songs. To see which ones and print or download any of them (including today’s), GO HERE.

“As I Come Singing” isn’t my only blog. If you’d like to see “On Aging Gracelessly,” CHECK IT OUT HERE.

Best regards,
Roger

 

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Psalm 40 (Part Four)

At the assembling of Your people together, Lord,
I will sing glad songs of salvation.
Good news like that cannot be kept a secret;
I’ll not be silent till everyone knows that
You are the giver of eternal life.
You are all faithfulness,
You are all loyalty,
You are all love.

At the assembling of Your people together, Lord,
I will sing glad songs of salvation.
Good news like that cannot be kept a secret;
I’ll not be silent till everyone knows
You are the Lord of everlasting life;
Your faithfulness keeps me safe,
Your loyalty keeps me sure,
Your love makes me strong.

About this Song:
Today we look at the last of my songs from the first eleven verse of Psalm 40. I was working from the Good News Translation:

9  In the assembly of all your people, Lord,
      I told the good news that you save us.
      You know that I will never stop telling it.
10 I have not kept the news of salvation to myself;
      I have always spoken of your faithfulness and help.
   In the assembly of all your people I have not been silent
      about your loyalty and constant love.
11 Lord, I know you will never stop being merciful to me.
      Your love and loyalty will always keep me safe.

One thing you’ve probably noticed is that although I tried to capture the truth of the Scripture, I elaborated on the Psalm much more in this song than in the other three. Something else you may have noticed is the treatment of verse 11, which is different from what you might have expected. Instead of putting that verse into its own set of lines, I worked faithfulness, love, and loyalty into each of the two stanzas. I didn’t specifically say anything about mercy, but I think it’s implied.

The last four lines in the second stanza parallel those in the first stanza:
1.
You are the giver of eternal life.
2.
You are the Lord of everlasting life;

1.
You are all faithfulness,
2.
Your faithfulness keeps me safe,

1.
You are all loyalty,
2.
Your loyalty keeps me sure,

1.
You are all love.
2.
Your love makes me strong.

You’ll find very early recordings of these four songs on my website. GO HERE and look under the drop down box for “Home Recordings.”

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Please leave a comment if something in this post has spoken to you. I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the bottom right.

I have free lead sheets (chords, notes, & words) for many of my songs. To see which ones and print or download any of them (not including today’s), GO HERE.

“As I Come Singing” isn’t my only blog. If you’d like to see “On Aging Gracelessly,” CHECK IT OUT HERE.

Best regards,
Roger

 

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Psalm 40 (Part Three)

What can I offer You, Lord,
That You don’t already have?
What can I bring to You, Lord,
That’s not already Yours?

What would please You more
Than for me to read Your Word
And to listen for Your voice
And to answer, “Lord, I’m Yours”?

Your Word is all I need, Lord,
To teach me how to live.
Help me to understand what it means,
So I can obey.

What would please You more
Than for me to read Your Word
And to listen for Your voice
And to answer, “Lord, I’m Yours”?

What can I give to You, Lord?
Here I am; I’m Yours.

About this Song:
Part Three of my songs from Psalm 40 is based on verses 6-8, probably from the Good News Version of the Bible, which I used most often during that period of time:

6 You do not want sacrifices and offerings;
      you do not ask for animals burned whole on the altar
      or for sacrifices to take away sins.
   Instead, you have given me ears to hear you,
    7 and so I answered,
         Here I am;
      your instructions for me are in the book of the Law.
 8 How I love to do your will, my God!
      I keep your teaching in my heart.

Verse 6 reminds me of another Scripture, Hosea 6:6.

  I want your constant love, not your animal sacrifices. I would rather have my people know me than burn offerings to me.

Verse 7 reminds me of Isaiah’s response to God’s call in Isaiah 6:8.

8 Then I heard the Lord say,
         Whom shall I send? Who will be our messenger?

   I answered,
         I will go! Send me!

Next Wednesday will bring this series of songs from Psalm 40 to a close.

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Please leave a comment if something in this post has spoken to you.  If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the bottom right.

I have free lead sheets (chords, notes, & words) for many of my songs. To see which ones and print or download any of them (today’s song is not available), GO HERE.

“As I Come Singing” isn’t my only blog. If you’d like to see “On Aging Gracelessly,” CHECK IT OUT HERE.

Best regards,
Roger

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Psalm Forty (Part Two)

Happy are those who trust in You, Lord,
Not in the false gods of this world;
So many gifts You’ve given,
I can’t name them all.
Lord, there’s no one else like You.
Lord, there’s no one else like You.

About this Song:
Part Two of the songs from Psalm 40 is short and to the point. It’s based on verses 4 and 5:

4 Blessed is the one
    who trusts in the Lord,
who does not look to the proud,
    to those who turn aside to false gods.[b]
5 Many, Lord my God,
    are the wonders you have done,
    the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
    were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
    they would be too many to declare.

I’m the first one to admit that the Scripture does the idea more justice than my song does. I didn’t make any effort to deal with the reference to “the proud.” Neither does it refer to the things God has planned for us.

But it does focus on three of the basic ideas from those two verses:

  1. Unlike those who trust in false gods, those who trust in God are happy
  2. God’s gifts are too numerous to be counted or named
  3. God is incomparable; no one is like Him

Check back here next Wednesday for Part Three of Psalm 40.

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Please leave a comment if something in this post has spoken to you. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the bottom right.

I have free lead sheets (chords, notes, & words) for many of my songs. To see which ones and print or download any of them (does not include today’s), go HERE.

“As I Come Singing” isn’t my only blog. If you’d like to see “On Aging Gracelessly,” check it out HERE.

Best regards,
Roger

Posted in God's Gifts, Happiness, Psalm Forty, Psalms | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment