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Since I wrote my last post, I have been thinking about songs that would give melody to the symphony of emotions that accompany my decision to leave my job. As I said, I feel sad and hopeful and anxious and sad. I’ve gone through a lot of songs that have offered comfort and courage, but as I began to put the list together I began to realize that I had a song list of old guys writing, in one way or another, about making sense of life as it stretches out. Some of these are old favorites, even expected. All of them sound like hymns to me right now.

Our opening hymn is “Rewrite” by Paul Simon, mostly because of the overarching metaphor of the song and the lines that say, “Ohh, thank you–I had no idea that you were there.” Here are a few more of the words:

I’m workin’ on my rewrite, that’s right
Gonna change the ending
Gonna throw away my title
And toss it in the trash
Every minute after midnight
All the time I’m spending is just for
workin’ on my rewrite, that’s right
Gonna turn it into cash

I said
help me, help me
help me, help me
ohh thank you
I had no idea
that you were there

when I said
help me, help me
help me, help me
ohhh thank you
for listening to my prayer

Kris Kristofferson has written a lot of great songs, but this one is my favorite, in particular for the words of the opening verse and the gratitude to God “for the artist that you are and the man you made in me.

wide awake and feeling mortal
at this moment in the dream
that old man there in the mirror
and my shaky self-esteem

here today and gone tomorrow
that’s the way it’s got to be
with an empty blue horizon
for as far as I can see

God Almighty here I am
am I where I ought to be
I’ve begun to soon descend
like the sun into the sea
and I thank my lucky stars
from here to eternity
for the artist that you are
and the man you made of me

James Taylor was a much younger man when he wrote “Secret o’ Life,” but it takes on a new life to hear him sing it as he has aged so gracefully. And yes, it is a lovely ride.

the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.
any fool can do it, there ain’t nothing to it.
nobody knows how we got to the top of the hill.
but since we’re on our way down,
we might as well enjoy the ride.

the secret of love is in opening up your heart.
it’s okay to feel afraid, but don’t let that stand in your way.
‘cause anyone knows that love is the only road.
and since we’re only here for a while,
might as well show some style.
give us a smile.

isn’t it a lovely ride? Sliding down, gliding down,
try not to try too hard, it’s just a lovely ride

“Some Dreams” is a song about dreams and baseball and the truth that not everything goes our way, but some things do. Steve Earle knows of what he sings.

when I was a little guy
my daddy told me “Mister,
don’t ever try to climb too high
‘cause it’s the fall that gets ya
and some dreams can never come true
they’ll never come true”

well, I heard every word he said
but I don’t guess I listened
but every time I banged my head
against the wall or system
yeah, some dreams don’t ever come true
don’t ever come true
but some dreams do

if you just hang on
and your heart is true
and your hope is strong

well, just because you’ve been around
and had your poor heart broken
that’s no excuse for lyin’ there
before the last word’s spoken
cause some dreams don’t ever come true
don’t ever come true
aw, but some dreams do

“Working Prayer” is one of Mac McAnally’s more recent songs. It is a prayer worth sharing.

I want to look back
and still keep on moving forward
whatever I lack
I want to make up for somehow
and when I get off track
I want to find a way back on it
I want to be smack
in the middle of here and now

when they lay me down
and put a marker on that ground
let some good things grow around me there
that’s my working prayer

The last two songs are the songs most of you would probably name if you were asked what songs I would choose. My favorite story about “Angel from Montgomery” by John Prine is about the time I was singing it and introduced the song by saying, “I think I identify with this song as much as any song I know.” Then I sang the first line: “I am an old woman named after my mother.”

there’s flies in the kitchen
I can hear ’em there buzzin’
and I ain’t done nothing
since I woke up today

how the hell can a person
go to work in the morning
then come home in the evening
and have nothing to say?

make me an angel that flies from Montgomery
make me a poster of an old rodeo
just give me one thing that I can hold on to
to believe in this livin’ is just a hard way to go

Our closing hymn is “The Cape” by Guy Clark. One of these days I’m going to get one.

he’s old and grey with a flour sack cape
tied all around his head
he’s still jumpin’ off the garage
will be till he’s dead
all these years the people said
he’s actin’ like a kid
he did not know he could not fly
so he did

he’s one of those who knows that life
is just a leap of faith
spread your arms and hold your breath
always trust your cape

Thanks for all of the words of kindness, compassion, and encouragement.

Peace,
Milton

3 COMMENTS

  1. Walking down Main Street getting to know the concrete
    Looking for a purpose from a neon sign
    I would meet you anywhere, western sun meets the air
    We’ll hit the road, never looking behind

    Can you deny, there’s nothing greater
    Nothing more than the traveling hands of time?
    Saint Genevieve can hold back the water
    But saints don’t bother with a tear stained eye

  2. Thank you for this collection of songs as hymns and prayers that bring comfort as we transition in so many ways these days. Brought tears to my eyes as I read/sung them.

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