Thursday, October 12, 2017

Finish Line

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.- 1 Timothy 4:7-8

Each day we run a race toward the finish-line. Sometimes the pace is slow; sometimes very fast. We cannot lose sight of the goal. Our goal is nothing less than forward motion, all the time, toward the finish. It is not a difficult goal but anything less will not be sufficient. Sometimes it feels like the forces of darkness are conspiring against us to keep us from attaining our goal. The mud sucks at our soles and threatens to take away our shoes; but a word scatters our enemies and restores us to the path.

This is the mood of a song written by Steve Taylor for the Squint album.        
The Finish Line
(Words and Music by Steve Taylor)
Once upon an average morn
An average boy was born
For the second time

Prone upon the altar there
He whispered up the prayer
He'd kept hid inside

The vision came, he saw the odds
A hundred little gods
On a gilded wheel

"These will vie to take your place,
But Father, by your grace
I will never kneel"

And I saw you, upright and proud
And I saw you wave to the crowd
And I saw you laughing out loud
At the Philistines

And I saw you brush away rocks
And I saw you pull up your socks
And I saw you out of the blocks
For the finish line

Darkness falls, the devil stirs
And as your vision blurs
You start stumbling

The heart is weak, the will is gone
And every strong conviction
Comes tumbling down

Malice rains, the acid guile
Is sucking at your shoes
While the mud is fresh
It floods the trail, it bleeds you dry
As every little god
Buys its pound of flesh

And I saw you licking your wounds
And I saw you weave your cocoons
And I saw you changing your tunes
For the party line

And I saw you welsh on old debts
I saw you and your comrades bum cigarettes
And you hemmed and you hawed and you hedged all your bets
Waiting for a sign

Let's wash our hands
As we throw little fits
Let's all wash our hands
As we curse hypocrites

We're locked in the washroom
Turning old tricks
Deaf and joyless
And full of it

The vision came, he saw the odds
A hundred little gods
On a gilded wheel

"These have tried to take your place,
But Father, by your grace
I will never kneel
I will never kneel"

Off in the distance, bloodied but wise
As you squint with the light
Of the truth in your eyes

And I saw you, both hands were raised
And I saw your lips move in praise
And I saw you steady your gaze
For the finish line

Every idol like dust
A word scattered them all
And I rose to my feet
When you scaled the last wall

And I gasped
When I saw you fall
In his arms
At the finish line
Lord help me each day to reach for the goal; and, at the beginning of all days ever after, may I reach the finish-line.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Glory or Horror

“Each day we are becoming a creature of splendid glory or one of unthinkable horror.” 
Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis, 1952.

“The internal struggle continued. Who was it that had killed him? Well, first he had to decide who he was himself. Was Ray the good guy or the bad guy in this TV series? Was he the victim or accused? Indeed, he was both, and eventually that is how he answered.”
The Great Beyond, Keith Allan Shields, 2017, pp. 84, 85.

“I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road. A sum can be put right: but only by going back til you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot 'develop' into good. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound, bit by bit, 'with backward mutters of dissevering power' --or else not.”
C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, 1945.

Sunday, October 1, 2017


Key of Zed has recorded a new song. (Check it out here.)

(Lyrics and Music by Mike Charko and Keith Shields)

I called you up to see how you were
So you think that I still care
Don’t get me wrong, I’m movin’ on
With a part of me still there

Asheville’s pretty this time of year
And I want to be there with you
But you left me at the altar
With tears in my eyes, feeling just like a fool

Said you needed some more time
Just a little bit more time
To live on the wild side of life
But you’ve got me going out of my mind
Getting you off my mind

Carolina in the spring time
I don’t want to be someone’s fool
Carolina in the spring time
I don’t want to be on my own

Asheville’s pull is calling me back
Like a magnet to the north
I hope that guy is good to you
If he knows a violet’s worth

(Instrumental bridge)

I hear there’s a job in East Tennessee
With a bunch of working men
A foundry is good for singing the blues
When your heart is cracked and bent

Maybe I need some more time
Just a little bit more time
To find a new kind of life
But you’ve got me going out of my mind
I can’t get you off my mind

Carolina in the spring time
I don’t want to be someone’s fool
Carolina, scent of Jasmine
I don’t want to be on my own

Carolina with the flowers
I don’t want to be someone’s fool
Carolina in the spring time
I don’t want on my own

(Registered with SOCAN and SAC)

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Rich Mullins and Steve Taylor

(Click on this image for a larger view.)

I just became aware of one of the great moments in music history. On May 1st, 1986, two music legends became entangled in the delicate business of admiration for one another and self-promotion. In 1986, Rich Mullins was an upstart singer-songwriter with a solo career. Amy Grant had recorded one of his songs (Sing Your Praise to the Lord) in 1981 but his own career as an artist had not yet taken off. So, in 1986, Rich Mullins decided to write a letter to Steve Taylor. At the time, Steve Taylor was a rising star in the Christian Music industry. His album, Meltdown was released in 1984 and the title track, "Meltdown (at Madame Tussauds)" was played on MTV. By 1986, Taylor had received a Grammy nomination and had released the album, On the Fritz.

Mullins looked to Taylor as someone whose approval meant much and so he decided to catch his attention. The letter he wrote tells us something about Mullins’ personality, humor, and desire to succeed in the music business. Here is what he wrote:

Steve Taylor –

            There is some clumsiness in giving someone a tape of yourself. It’s like saying to them “listen to me because I want you to like me” and so then you get stuck with the chore of responding under conscription. Sorry. But, here’s my tape anyway.

            I will do you this favor that I will tell you that I have appreciated your stuff before you ask. Ok – so it may be presumpuous (sic) of me to think that you have any concern about how I feel or what I think about your music – but as an artist I know that it is good to hear an encouraging word from just about anybody. So just think of it like that because that’s how it is. And if it lets you off the hook any, I gave another tape to a security guard and I hope he likes it too.

            Thank you for being someone whose approval means much. It is good that you are in this world.


I wish I knew what Steve Taylor did with the tape he received from Rich Mullins. Perhaps I will be able to sleuth out some more details and post them in a future blog. Yet, simply as this letter stands, it represents a great moment in music history.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Enemies and Psalms

As I read Psalm 3 a few days ago I was struck by two things: the dangers familiar to the writer of the psalm and the dangers of my life. The psalmist lived in a time of constant war in which any one of his many enemies might be lying in wait or planning his demise. He had physical enemies that carried swords, knives, spears, and other weapons of destruction. The writer laments that he has so many enemies and that many are saying, “God will never rescue him!” Then he is reminded that the Lord is “a shield around [him]; [his] glory, the one who holds [his] head high” and he is comforted. He knows that if he cries out to the Lord, he will answer. He will provide him with safety. Suddenly, he is not afraid of even ten thousand enemies. He knows that his Lord will slap his enemies in the face and “shatter the teeth of the wicked.” He knows that ultimate victory comes from the Lord. He trusts that the Lord will bless those who trust in him.

The enemies in my life are different. I fear cancer. I fear financial ruin. I fear a catastrophe in my career. I fear loss of my marriage partner. I fear that I might mess up relationships with my kids. These are the enemies of my world. How will God respond to my enemies? I can trust him to take care of my enemies just as King David did. The Lord is a shield around me as well. He is my glory and the lifter of my head. As I cry out to him, he will rescue. I need not fear even ten thousand of these enemies. I may not understand what it means for the Lord to “slap cancer in the face” or “shatter the teeth of financial ruin,” but I can trust that the Lord has it under control. I need not fear. The Lord is in control.

Psalm 3 (New Living Translation)
O Lord, I have so many enemies;
    so many are against me.
So many are saying,
    “God will never rescue him!” Interlude

But you, O Lord, are a shield around me;
    you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
I cried out to the Lord,
    and he answered me from his holy mountain. Interlude

I lay down and slept,
    yet I woke up in safety,
    for the Lord was watching over me.
I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies
    who surround me on every side.

Arise, O Lord!
    Rescue me, my God!
Slap all my enemies in the face!
    Shatter the teeth of the wicked!
Victory comes from you, O Lord.
    May you bless your people. Interlude