lenten journal: how can I keep from singing


April 2

Today has been a day much like any other day. It’s a little hard to keep track. One of the things that makes Thursdays different around here is they are the new Sunday–at least, that is when we do the recording for Sunday’s service. Over the past couple of weeks, I have recorded some songs for worship services to be named later. Some of them are already on Facebook, but tonight I feel like singing. So I offer to you some of what I have sung in church, going back before the virus until now in hopes that the words and music may offer some comfort and companionship.

The first song is a Pierce Pettis cover, “Family.” I sang it in church about three years ago.

can you fix this its a broken heart
it was fine then it just fell apart
it was mine but now I give it to you
‘cause you can fix it you know what to do

let your love cover me
like a pair of angel wings
you are my family
you are my family

David Wilcox’s song “Show the Way” has been a personal anthem of mine for many years because of these words:

look–if someone wrote a play
to just to glorify what’s stronger than hate
would they not arrange the stage
to look as if the hero came too late?
he’s almost in defeat
it’s looking like the evil side will when
so on the edge of every seat
from the moment that the whole thing begins

it is love who mixed the mortar
and it’s love who stacked these stones
and it’s love who made the stage here
although it looks like we’re alone
in this scene, set in shadows,
like the night is here to stay
there is evil cast around us
but it’s love that wrote the play
for in this darkness love can show the way

One of my favorite songs is Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times Come Again No More.” One of the college students at church is a wonderful violinist, so we took our shot at it together.

let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears
while we all sup sorrow with the poor
there’s a song that will linger forever in our ears
oh, hard times, come again no more

’tis the song, the sigh of the weary
hard times, hard times, come again no more
many days you have lingered all around my cabin door
oh, hard times, come again no more

What started out as a song for youth camp about thirty years ago has become a connection with all kinds of folks over the years. This is one I wrote with my friend, Billy Crockett. It is called “Traveling Mercies.”

and for the weary
and for the hopeless
and for the faithful
here is my prayer

go in peace
live in grace
trust in the arms that will hold you
go in peace
live in grace
trust God’s love

One night I was putting songs together for an open mic in Durham and realized REM’s “Everybody Hurts” fit with “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior.” Both songs have been hymns for me for a long time.

when your day is long
and the night is yours alone
when you’re sure you’ve had enough
Of this life
well hang on
don’t let yourself go
‘cause everybody cries
and everybody hurts sometimes

o, pass me not, o gentle savior
hear my humble cry
while on others thou art calling
do not pass me by

The last song for tonight is one that has moved my heart for many years. I love to sing this song.

why should I feel discouraged
why should the shadows come
why should my heart feel lonesome
and long for heaven and home
when Jesus is my portion
my constant friend is he
his eye is on the sparrow
and I know he watches me

I sing because I’m happy
I sing because I’m free
his eye is on the sparrow
and I know he watches me

My life goes on in endless song . . .



  1. Milton, I was awake at 4 a.m. worrying about the people I love. Your music brought peace to my heart. Thank you. Love to you and Ginger from Winchester.

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