Posts Tagged 'johnny cash'

I Came To Believe.

“And I came to believe in a power much higher than I.
I came to believe that I needed help to get by.
In childlike faith I gave in and gave Him a try.
And I came to believe in a power much higher than I”.

From “I Came To Believe” by Johnny Cash.


I’ve been musing upon why I find it hard to share my faith.  What is my story when I distill it down beyond places and people and specific periods of time?

I think it actually involves realising that just like most people I wanted to believe that my life counted.  I wanted to harness my potential.  I wanted to believe that I could change things and make a difference.  I wanted to believe that there was more to life than getting a decent job, a nice car, a house in the right postcode and 2.4 children.  I wanted to believe that I didn’t have to conform to some conveyor belt mentality or appearance.  I wanted to think for myself.

That said, life seemed really big.  I was daunted by it.  I was fearful of the consequences of my decisions and the ramifications they might have on how life unfolded.  I lacked confidence and I worried about these things.

I met Christians who seemed to have something in their lives that I didn’t.  It was authentic and attractive.  It permeated every part of their everyday lives.  It was something I wanted more of in my own life.  As I watched and observed them, I found myself spending more time with them and reading the Bible and trying to grapple with what I believed it really had to say.  I committed myself to Christ and His teachings.

It’s not that life is always easy now or that I always make the right decisions, but I do feel anchored.  I have deep peace amidst the storms of life and all of the constant juggling.  I find a purpose in the big and small things of everyday life.  I have a sense of guidance and direction.  I see a bigger picture than just my immediate circumstances.  I feel enormously thankful for the way many of the big questions I had in terms of life decisions have panned out.  I have security and hope.  I have a real sense of not being alone.  I feel that I am growing into the person I was always meant to be.

I’m still learning, still questioning, still wrestling, but I think that’s what keeps faith alive.  I’m trying to see how to apply it and I am aware of my own short-comings.  It’s not been a bunch of rules or traditions that have hindered or shackled me, but something that has freed me.  Sure, I have plenty of off days, but I wouldn’t trade what I have now for anything in the world.




On my previous post I asked what single song you would sing if you were lying out in the gutter dying and you had time to sing one song…One song that would let God know how you felt about your time here on earth.  One song that would sum you up…

Whilst I often love clever lyrics, at the end of the day some things just need to be said as they are.  Whatever our life experience or standing in society, we all fall short and hide behind masks and ultimately there comes a time when we simply stop pretending…

Is there time when old hymnals come back to mind and we recite phrases like “amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me”?  How seldom many of us see ourselves in that light.  And yet for untold numbers of others, they see themselves simply in that light with no hope of restoration.

I’ve been thinking it over for a couple of days and have concluded that I’d choose the same song as Scott.  So, when it all boils down to it the song I’d choose is as follows:

“Well I have wandered away from the narrow path

Have I gone so far that you won’t have me back?

You see my reaction to the world’s distractions.

If the apple is sweet, then I am bound to eat…

Lord, have mercy

Lord, have mercy

Lord, have mercy on me.

Well I came to you from that lonely place

At the end of the season from the sea and the sun

If you’re really there and you really care

Surely you will understand the depths of my despair 

Lord, have mercy

Lord, have mercy

Lord, have mercy on me.

Will you listen to me in my moment of weakness?

I’m your prodigal son and I’m looking for rest


Lord, have mercy

Lord, have mercy

Lord, have mercy on me”.

From “Mercy” by Gena Rowlands Band.

The above comes from the “Flesh and Spirits” album which I consider my best find of 2007.  I now regard it as one of the most important albums I own.  Whilst, the language may not always be the way in which I would articulate things, this record has helped me view life, love, attraction, temptation, sex, death, God and the human condition in a way like precious little other music has done for a long time.  If that has got you intrigued, then you can listen to some of the tracks at their myspace page here or order the album here.

One of my friends saw Gena Rowlands Band play a gig in Brooklyn last year.  They finished the set with this song.  Bob Massey sung the song whilst the rest of the band packed up their gear around him and those gathered in the venue began to sing along the refrain, “Lord, have mercy on us”.  I love that picture –  a small bar full of people, many of whom, I expect, would never consider entering a church and yet singing words together that they can understand and own.  It makes me think about how little time Jesus spent in religious places compared with how much time he spent with ordinary people in their everyday lives.

As Scott also recently commented in an email to me – church is more like a hospital for sinners than a museum for saints.  There’s a lot of truth in that and yet I wonder how many churches that actually rings true for?

I Was There When It Happened


There’s a scene in the film “Walk The Line” where John R. Cash is trying to support his young wife and family by holding down a job as a door to door salesman. Whilst doing this he is distracted by the sounds he hears from a band recording at, the now legendary, Sun Studios. Eventually he manages to secure some time there and makes a plea to company owner Sam Philips to get a chance to audition for a record contract.  When asked to play something, Cash and the Tennessee Two play “I Was There When It Happened” which has the following lyrics,

“Yes, I know when Jesus saved me (yes, He saved my soul),
The very moment He forgave me (yes, He made me whole);
He took away my heavy burden (yes, He took my sin and),
And He gave me peace within (gave me peace within).
Satan can’t make me doubt it (he can’t make me doubt it),
It’s real and I’m gonna shout it (I’m gonna shout it);
‘Cause I was there when it happened (oh, my Lord),
and I guess I ought to know (yes, I ought to know)”.

Sam Philips cuts them off short and claims that he can’t sell gospel music and that everyone else has been trying that.  Johnny Cash gets really defensive, as if his own faith or right to grace is being dismissed. 

After a few heated moments, Sam Phillips looks Cash in the eye and says, “If you was hit by a truck and you were lying out in that gutter dying and you had time to sing one song, huh, one song before people would remember you’re dirt.  One song that would let God know how you felt about your time here on earth.  One song that would sum you up, you’re telling me that’s the song?  That same old Jimmy Davis tune we hear all day on the radio about your peace within, about how it’s real and you’re gonna shout it?  Or would you sing something different?  Something real?  Something you felt?  ‘Cause I’m tellin’ you right now, that’s the sort of song that people wanna hear.  That’s the sort of song that truly saves people.”

In the film Johnny Cash’s response was not some trite ditty about Jesus, love or happiness.

If there was only one song you could sing in that situation what would it be?  Feel free to click on the comments icon to leave some thoughts…

Just Like Christmas


“On our way from Stockholm
Started to snow
And you said it was like Christmas
But you were wrong
It wasn’t like Christmas at all”

From “Just Like Christmas” by Low

I always pity those folks who have to work in shops and be exposed to cheesy, cheery, Christmas music from the middle of October onwards…The decorations go up so early and we are buoyed into a sense of compulsive festive spending at what seems like an ever alarmingly early point in our calendar.

That said, there is something I love in amongst all of that.  Dark mornings and nights, steam exhaling from nostrils, warm drinks, cozy fires and a time to revert to childhood and the anticipation of Christmas.  It is one of the times in the year when lots of folks who never darken church doors find themselves in a church singing songs they have learned as kids when life often seemed less complicated and full of possibilities. 

I’ve come to love re-workings of some of those old Christmas songs.  Belle & Sebastian’s reading of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”, Sufjan Stevens’ “O Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing” or most of the “XFM: It’s A Cool, Cool Christmas” album.  No Christmas Day in our home is likely to be complete without the Christmas albums of Johnny Cash and Frank Sinatra getting an airing.

My all-time favourite seasonal album though has to be “Christmas” by Low.  Last night we had the delight of seeing them play over in Glasgow (a treat I have enjoyed more times than I can be sure of).  After a typically sparse and beautifully melodic opening setlist, the minimalism was interrupted by a cluttered stage comprising an ensemble of Low and Ida together with Eric from The Retribution Gospel Choir and Sun Kil Moon and Jean on violin.  They ran through most of the songs from the “Christmas” album and a few other festive favourites.  They threw themselves into it and it was a sight to behold Mimi really hitting those drums and all sorts of percussive instruments in a seasonal ho-down.

It didn’t really feel like Christmas, as I have a mental list of a million things to do between now and then.  Yet, it was a pleasure to behold in the presence of my true love.  It was so nice of a good friend to offer to babysit.  It was a rare treat to munch crepes in the car afterwards as we watched band and fans spill out of the venue.  Yet in the midst of it all, there was a contrast of seasonal silliness and a deeper sincerity.  Alan Sparhawk exited the stage saying “God is a forgiver, God is a forgiver”.

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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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