Song for the day, My Lines

sunsetMY LINES

Well, here we are at number ten of ten. Thanks for spending some of your time with me as i’ve posted these daily tunes. i’ve been encouraged by your notes and emails and am hoping that maybe i’ll do something like this again in the future. If i can figure how to make them downloadable, i’ll do that since some of you have asked for copies of the songs.
Today’s song is actually an old one, old enough to have been recorded on a cassette tape some years ago. … A couple of years ago when John Scott Evans (guitarist) and i were playing a lot of gigs together, we recorded a bunch of soft songs and hymns including this one, that ended up in a drawer. My neighbor, Donna, reminded me about them and suggested that i put one of them on the website. So here’s one of those, one that seems to capture what has been and continues to be true about my 53 years. The title comes from a Psalm of David, number 16, in which he observes that “the lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.”
You’ll figure out quickly that “My Lines,” like much of what i write, is a celebration of small things that, taken together, add up to a whole life. The moments described are simple ones, ones you’ve probably experienced, but i’ll tell you a bit about
the moment that inspired the last verse.
It was a beautiful springtime day. The family, all of us including the nieces and nephews who had been born by that time, were at the farm for Easter (i think). There was a windy day and we were flying kites. Christina’s got away from her and floated to wherever runaway kites go when they get their freedom. She chased it on her little 5 or 6 year old legs (a heartbreaking sight), realized that it was a hopeless pursuit, and sat down in the field and just had a good old cry. “It’s hard to watch her learn the truth/ that life is tough.” i guess we’ve all had our version of that moment – the runaway dream, the one that got away, the loss that seemed so unfair, the cry for the unretrievable – but, for many or most, maybe all, of us, we can render this verdict: the lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.
Maybe we can’t believe that now, but someday – if we’ve been to the Never Empty Table and the Ever Open Door – we shall.
i’m glad that the lines for me somehow include you.
Be in touch, ok?

Song for the day, The Opposite of Loneliness is Home

allen and samOpposite of Loneliness

Years ago, I took part in a discussion at which the leader asked a question: what is the opposite of faith? After several of us had offered our thoughts, he suggested that the best answer might be “control.” (If you can control everything to your liking, then there is no need for faith … that was his thinking.)
Since then, I have found it a helpful practice, when I’m trying to understand what a word means, to explore its opposites. And I try to exclude the obvious answer. For instance, if I’m considering the opposite of “life,” I’ll start by saying that I cannot use the word “death” though that might be my first impulse. The exercise is a good one for groups and has lead to some really interesting, insightful, eye-opening conversations.
So, the opposite of “loneliness”?
The title of this song has been in my idea book for awhile and i’ve worked on it from time to time but today, July 15, 2009, seemed a good day to finish it.
I had written the first two thirds of the song (the parts before the key change) when I took a break this morning to go with some friends to wish Benjamin “Shorty” Floyd a happy birthday. Those of you who’ve heard “People In My Town” know Shorty, my neighbor two miles east of here. He is a dear friend and a wise soul. Today is his 85th birthday.
After the seven of us sang “happy birthday” to Shorty, he spontaneously said, “and I hope I have many more.” And then he paused, a pregnant pause full of thought, and said, “well, no I don’t.” And it was clear that he meant what he said. He still gets around, lives alone and takes care of himself, but it seems to me that he’s a bit tired, that he’s seen as much of this world as he wants to see, that he misses a place he’s not yet seen, and that he’s ready for Home.
I returned to the studio and finished the song.

2 Songs to Go

Hello friends,
Thanks so much for listening to the last 8 days of songs and for your kind comments. i’m out of town tonight and won’t be here to put up a song tomorrow morning but, Lord willing, i’ll be back tomorrow night and will add a new song Wednesday and Thursday. … Till then, every blessing, levi

Song for the day, Church of the Fully Fallen

To hear the song, click on the title (in green, above). That will take you to a page with a music icon. Click on that music note and the song should launch.

This song is a bit earthy but it is a slice of reality that i encounter from time to time in travels and in life at home. …
Some years ago, I played at a Valentine’s banquet at an inner city church in Atlanta. It was located in a low income, high crime area of the city. The ministry, now moved to a nearby warehouse, is called City of Refuge. It is a remarkable work headed up by Pastor Bruce Deal (
When I first played at COR, in their old location, I sat with Bruce before the concert began and let him tell me a bit about his work there. He simply looked around the room and told me stories about the people sitting there – a table of people all infected with AIDS, a table hosted by a former prostitute for her former clientele, a table of people who had been helped through addiction to crack cocaine. Theirs was a reality far removed from my own and I was a bit curious about whether the songs I sing would connect with that group. But connect they did, in what was one of the more memorable evenings of my musical life. It was a room of fully fallen sinners, but sinners who knew something of grace. Places like City of Refuge, as well as some AA gatherings that I’ve attended with friends, were inspiration for this song.
Truth is, of course, that every church is filled with fully fallen people. It just seems a bit more evident and indisputable in some places than others. And I don’t suggest that a church is any more authentic because it is filled with people with lots of baggage. Even a church filled with well educated, disciplined, responsible, pleasant and respectable people is, when seen through the lens of perfection, a congregation of the fully fallen.
If you’re curious about the reference in the song to the alabaster jar, take a look in your Bible at Mark 14:3-9.

“These are people who need not be told of their failure,
That’s a doctrine they know very well,
In the Church of the Fully, Fantastically Fallen,
Love and forgiveness prevail,
Jesus’ love and forgiveness prevail.”

Song for the day, They Will Still Be Wrong

They Will Still Be Wrong
To hear the song, click on the title (in green, just above). That will take you to a page with a music icon. Click there and the song will launch.

I can easily understand why Jeremiah tried to argue his way out of the job. It’s one that nobody in his right mind would ask for.
Being a prophet.
Your job, after all, at least in part, is to tell the world that it is wrong, gong in the wrong direction, believing the wrong things, bowing down to the wrong gods, making wrong use of good things. And all of this to a world and to people and to institutions that hate being told they are ever wrong. But the role – prophet – is one that some must fill if ones like us are ever to find our way to God, to home, to our true humanity.
I’ve been reading the Old Testament prophets lately and am struck by what must have been the challenges, the loneliness, the burdens of their existence.
They were in mind when I wrote this song, But I thought of others too (like my brother Gary, in the picture) who, if not prophets, speak and live prophetically, challenging and inspiring the culture by their words and examples, people who can and do stand alone because of their commitment to “thus saith the LORD.” I thought about missionaries in Afghanistan, of suffering churches in Sudan and Egypt, of those in the Episcopal church struggling these very weeks to stand for biblical truth and for love as Jesus taught it, of high school and college students trying to be uncompromising but caring witnesses for the Gospel at their various campuses, of pastors who preach the whole counsel of God to their people, and of any who might have become “weary in doing good.” It occurs to me that there has never been a time when people of the Kingdom did not need encouragement and affirmation. The world has never been a friend of grace after all.
It seems that our cultural commitment to open-mindedness and tolerance makes us timid of ever declaring definitively and confidently that somethings are right and others wrong, some good and some evil. But I am struck, whenever I read the prophets (and books like the Proverbs), at how blunt the Bible is in declaring particular conduct one or the other. The frequent comparison between the “wise” and the “foolish” is ongoing; of particular attitudes and conduct, the prophets and writers of scripture declare with no elaboration, that they are simply wrong … end of discussion.
As difficult as their messages can be, ones like myself need sometimes to hear the painfully honest truth of God in plain, unvarnished terms. Thankfully, there have been and are those who have had the courage and compassion to speak the truth even when it is unpopular, unaccepted, and costly. The prophets were some such people. This is for them, past and present.

Song for the day, Airport Good Samaritan

SNOW Airport Good Samaritan

To hear the song, click on the title (in green, Airport Good Samaritan). It will take you to a page with a music icon. Click on the note. Hope you enjoy it.

Last year, on a delayed flight home from Kansas City (greetings Dr. Pat) that put me into Atlanta at about 10 p.m., there was a long delay in unloading the bags from the plane. Luggage didn’t make it to the belt until midnight. I was not in a hurry, was surprisingly patient with the airport workers, and actually enjoyed watching folks making their way through the terminal.
I had the idea that night that it might be fun to write a collection of songs inspired by airport moments. I’ve got a song list already drawn up and, while I’m not sure that the project will actually ever get done, I do go to the airport now with a heightened sense of attentiveness, thinking that I might find material to write about.
This song – not one on my list for the CD – is about an airport encounter and about a small chance, like dozens that we have everyday, to be kind.
We’re all travelers. We all need help. We all have help to give.

Song for the day, Proposal

dad and mom weddingPROPOSAL (A LOVE SONG)
To hear the song, click on the title (in green just above this line). It will take you to another page with a music icon. Click on the music note and the song should play. Enjoy.

Years ago, if memory serves me correctly, I read an article written by Elizabeth Eliot. Her father, she wrote, had advised her brothers that a young man should never tell a girl he loved her unless and until, in the next sentence, he was prepared to ask the girl to marry him. Her father, apparently, wanted the young men to have a sense of just how meaningful, how weighty, how full of commitment the words “I love you” are. To use them apart from the promise that they imply – the promise to be faithful and deeply committed to the one loved – would be potentially dishonest, dishonorable, careless and unkind. It is thought-provoking and wise counsel, if difficult to follow.
A lot of years have intervened since i read that article but, for some reason, the idea of writing a song about it never left me. In going through my book of song ideas, i came across this one and decided to give it a try. Today’s song is the outcome of my experiment.
So imagine … you’re the young man. You’ve heard and followed your father’s advice. You’ve met and spent time with the girl; y’all know each other well by now. You’ve held back on speaking the words until you were willing to follow them with a marriage proposal. You happen also to be a songwriter. Here’s the song you write to ask her to marry you.
i’ll confess that it felt a bit funny to put myself in that young man’s place (this is, after all, a younger man’s song), but the hopeless romantic in me found it kind of sweet too.

Song for the Day, Never Empty Table …

never empty table

To hear the song, click on the title (above, in green). You’ll be taken to a page with a music icon on it. Click on the note and the song will launch.

Good morning all. And thank you for listening. It sure is encouraging to this small time songwriter. Really …

i still write and forget lots of songs. By all accounts, i should have forgotten this one long ago, given that i’ve only sung it once.
It was written years ago when I was visiting with the Bonness family, good souls and dear friends in Overland Park, Kansas. At the church gathering on Sunday morning, i was asked to sing a song before Communion. I didn’t have a Communion song at the time, but i did have a short while before the service began. A usable draft of “Never empty Table” got written and was sung that morning. I don’t believe that I’ve ever sung it since then. This recorded version is, i think, a bit different than what i sang that day, but only a little.
Not much to say about it except to state the obvious; it draws on the scene at which Jesus initiated the Lord’s Supper and washed His disciples’ feet. Most notably, it reminds me that the meal still goes on, in some way always will, and that ones like myself — sinful, selfish, slow — are still welcome. The Table is still full. The Door is still open.
“In this room that’s full of welcome to the last and to the least,
There is hope of finding fullness as Love offers up the feast,
There’s a cup of satisfaction, but it leaves us wanting more,
From the never empty table and the ever open door.”

Greetings Bob, Chris, Sara, Laura and Daddy Bob. Hope y’all are well.

(The photo? The Thursday morning men’s group that meets at my house every week. Ten years now. A never empty table.)

Tomorrow’s song. “Proposal.” A love song.

Song for the day, Artificial Ocean (the seagull song)

Artificial Ocean

To hear the song, click on the title (above in green). You’ll be taken to a page with a music icon. Click on the note and the song will launch.

Good morning and thanks again for listening. i told you yesterday that i’d have a communion song today. i can’t get it to upload (yes, i am actually doing this myself) so i’m putting up a different selection. i’ll get the problem figured out and have “Never Empty Table” on the blog tomorrow. …

Some of you might have heard “Artificial Ocean” in a concert during the past year or two.
It was inspired in a parking lot, a large grocery store parking lot, a parking lot, acres big, in Georgia. The season was winter. The weather was drizzly. It was the last place in the world that you would expect to see seagulls. But there they were. High, high, high above the parking lot. Flying in wide, looping circles.
When I saw them, I asked the obvious question. What are seagulls doing here? Not just here in Georgia, 200 miles from the ocean, but here above a large parking lot on a drizzly winter night?
Obviously, they were lost or disoriented, far from home. Maybe they were trying to find their way back to where they belonged. And maybe, just maybe, when they saw that expanse of open area, with the sheen of water glimmering under the street lamps, and a car or two that might have looked like little boats from way up there, maybe it all looked so familiar that they imagined they’d found their resting place, their destination, their homeland.
In case you wonder, the song is hardly about seagulls. It’s about folks like us who, in the course of looking for our True Home, settle for parking lots, for second best, for counterfeits, for smoke and mirrors.
Lord, save us today from our artificial oceans.

Song for the Day, One of You

One of you mix

Cam and Uncle allen

(To hear the song, click on the title, in green just above. You’ll be taken to a page with a music icon. Click there. Enjoy.)

One of the hazards of working alone is that there is no one to remind me that songs should not be too long. There is an unwritten (maybe written) rule that, to be commercially viable, a song cannot be longer than three minutes. i am obviously not constrained by that restriction but perhaps i should be. Attention spans and listening time do have their limits after all. So, to make this long lullaby work for you, may i make a suggestion? If you’re a parent, think of a child; If you’re not, think of someone really dear to you. Now, the song is the soundtrack for the slideshow that you’re going to run through your mind’s eye as you listen to this new piece. Think high school graduation or a wedding, where photos of the one loved are recalling their life and your time with them. This song is for that person, that occasion. (And, as a pure lullaby, it should be pretty effective too. Five minutes of soft guitar could put anyone to sleep.) …
Now, about the song itself …
Some of my favorite and most gratifying letters over the years have been those from parents who’ve used the “Open Windows” CD to put their children to sleep. I have a deep fondness for songs of the lullaby-ish kind, songs that are unapologetically pretty, sentimental, soft-spoken. And I hope that someday I’ll find time to record another batch of them. I write lots of them but they rarely make it out of the studio.
On occasion when I write a new song, I try to imagine that I am actually singing it to a particular individual, child or adult. That practice keeps what I do from being too theoretical or impersonal and also makes writing time, which is usually pretty isolating, not feel quite so alone. Young Cam Railey, my first grand-nephew, was in mind when I started “One of You” awhile back. (That’s him in the picture.)
Maybe lullabies are our earliest attempts to teach our children about their uniqueness and their worth to us. If I had a child, I like to think I’d sing this one to him or her long past nursery school days, into the years when they were old enough to go to college or get married or have kids of their own, to remind them of this truth that follows us all from cradle to grave.
Simple song, this one. It reminds me of one of my favorite stories, You Are Special, by Max Lucado, the first one that I read each year to the grade school classes that I adopt for Thursday visits. It is easy to forget sometimes, of ourselves and of those with whom we rub shoulders each day, that each is one of a kind, a treasure, an image-bearer of God, a singular creation “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
It’s a thought full of profundity and beauty, “He only made one of you.”

Tomorrow’s song, “Never Empty Table,” a song for communion.