An Open Letter to My Evangelical Friends

I love you guys, I truly do. I am, at heart, really still one of you (even though I’m a Methodist, and technically mainline). Even though some of you have told me that you’ve decided I’m not (literally praying for my soul).

But there is a large group of you who have decided your faith is defined by a political position that now consists of attempting to put a man into power who is, in the eyes of a shockingly high number of people, a danger to public safety (even as just a candidate).

I’ve argued that with some of you for a while, and I’m not doing that here today, because work starts soon.

Instead, I’m reminding you that not everyone who disagrees that this reprehensible individual should be president has abandoned their faith. No, on the contrary, we are seeing the current political landscape through the lens of faith. The lens of a faith that teaches us that the very highest and greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbor (that includes our “enemy” as Jesus CLEARLY showed) as ourself.

That’s it. So… those of us who are not only not thrilled with the Republican party’s sad choice of candidate but who actively oppose him… we have not left the faith.

We are, in fact, making our decisions based on our living active faith in the God who rescued the refugee, elevated the place of women (even allowing a woman to bear the Son of God for the salvation of the world), and taught us that even if someone is different from us, they are worthy of love, of respect, of rescuing along the side of the road if need be.

We are faithfully considering that as we choose for whom to vote.

We are not sure you are.

Together

This is the last of several “song blogs” I’ll be doing to tell the stories behind the songs on “Protest Songs“. (You can listen or download for free or whatever you want to pay here.) Here’s the final one for you.

 

I  couldn’t end on such a down note. The opportunity to be part of a community of faith that is potentially such an amazing example of God’s work in the world is humbling and marvelous. We are, indeed, all in this together, and that’s an opportunity, not a trap.

I need to dedicate this one to the late David E. Bish, my pastor and boss from July 2005 until March 2011, for “assigning me” to write this song for a service when we realized we couldn’t find a song that said what we wanted to that particular week. Dave passed away suddenly in February and will be missed by all who knew him, but waits to greet us in glory.

Done With You

This is the seventh of several “song blogs” I’ll be doing to tell the stories behind the songs on “Protest Songs“. (You can listen or download for free or whatever you want to pay here.) Here’s one I wrote just a few months ago.

 

In the church circles I run in, we like to categorize people to better understand them. We have now got some groups called “nones”, who no longer identify with a religion, and the “dones” who are so disenchanted with religion and Christianity that they no longer want to be identified with it. Some of those people are not really done with God, some are, sadly, only because of the way they see believers behave.

I am noticing yet another group that is really done with the very public Christianity that is espoused by certain Christian leaders, but are very much still lovers of Jesus and faith. Some of us have stayed in the church (a lot of us work there) and some of us have even given up on that.

In the last few years, and even more so in the past few months (as of September 2016 when I am writing this), certain parts of the Evangelical movement have morphed into what is now more of a conservative political movement than anything remotely religious or spiritual, and many of us feel that this represents a move away from many of the core teachings of Jesus towards a pursuit of some kind of influence and power in the world that Jesus would have us be wary of and perhaps even actively avoid. So a lot of people who once called themselves Evangelical are becoming part of the “dones”, even though they still believe strongly in Jesus. This song is for us.

This is another song I tried desperately to “soften”, but opted not to, simply because it better represents what I was feeling at the moments I wrote it.

I Can Hope

This is the sixth of several “song blogs” I’ll be doing to tell the stories behind the songs on “Protest Songs“. (You can listen or download for free or whatever you want to pay here.) This was a fun song to write sitting on the front porch of the Farm about 8 or 9 years ago.

 

Almost 10 years ago I wrote a song called “Hands, Feet, Heart & Soul” when I took a few days off at a favorite spot of our family called simply “the Farm”. I sat on the front porch swing and worked it all out. Some of you have heard or sung that, and some have heard that story.

What you don’t know is that I wrote another song at the exact same time. Maybe the least personal song I ever wrote, but I thought it was kinda fun. So here it is.

A lot of love songs written by Christians have a spiritual subtext, and that always annoys me, but… then again… this one does, too. So imagine that the jilted lover is God, and the one that is being sought is your soul… I normally hate that kind of cliché with a passion… but here it is anyway…

Silence (Rescue Me)

This is the fifth of several “song blogs” I’ll be doing to tell the stories behind the songs on “Protest Songs“. (You can listen or download for free or whatever you want to pay here.) This is the one song I have written that just totally always comes back to me.

 

This is my favorite song I’ve ever written, and it has been 25 years or more since I did it. The lyrics are inscrutable, I admit it, and I’ve tried 3 or 4 times to make them more accessible, but the original words still work best for me.

What is it about? I’m glad you asked. Not sure. I do know it’s about the desperate nature of a created thing to reach out to its creator. Beyond that, I’ll just let those ridiculous words speak for themselves.

It is, I think, the fourth time I’ve attempted to record this song and capture everything in the recording that I hear in it. I got closer this time, and maybe I’ll give it a rest now. I didn’t intend to record the song over and over again, but it just happened.

Goodbye

dad_grad_1940s_web

That is my father, I believe upon graduating high school in the mid-1940s.

This is the fourth of several “song blogs” I’ll be doing to tell the stories behind the songs on “Protest Songs“. (You can listen or download for free or whatever you want to pay here.) For this morning, this one is for all of us with aging parents.

 

Obviously, this song is intensely personal. My father is 87 as I write this, and his mind is slowing down due to some very normal aging and some dementia. I visited one time not too long ago, and for the whole first day I was there, I’m pretty sure he knew I was family, knew I was special to him, but had no idea what my name was. It was one of the great shocks of my life.

But… it was tempered by the fact that I knew I had taken advantage of the opportunities years before to tell him how precious he was to me, and by the knowledge that I have been mightily blessed in my life to have him as a father. I knew I had told him, and I’m pretty sure it stuck with him.

Tell your loved ones how precious they are. Today. Now. Seriously.

Vegas

This is the third of several “song blogs” I’ll be doing to tell the stories behind the songs on “Protest Songs“. (You can listen or download for free or whatever you want to pay here.) Today we’ll talk about that city built on greed out there in Nevada…

 

I have spent a week in Vegas on 3 different occasions, for work. I remember marveling at the surreal nature of what I think of as a colossal monument to sin and greed and avarice. And it seemed designed to numb you to it the longer you spent there. I remember a cab driver telling us that fairly often, a well-dressed businessman would get in his cab, hand him 10 or 20 bucks and say, “Will this get me to the airport? I came here with thousands of dollars in cash. This is all that’s left.” How sad.

I didn’t gamble while I was there, didn’t want to. Didn’t even pull the “free slot” at any of the casinos. Gambling is a bit of a hot button issue with me. But I’ll say this, if you’re not into the gambling and schtick entertainment in Vegas… it really has very very little to offer whatsoever.

If You Can’t

This is the second of several “song blogs” I’ll be doing to tell the stories behind the songs on “Protest Songs“. (You can listen or download for free or whatever you want to pay here.) Today we’ll talk about the first song and that little intro music I added just because I could…

The intro is simply an excuse to mess around with two-voice guitar on my Line 6 Helix and grab the listener’s ear for a few seconds. That’s only one guitar, the delays on the guitar have a bit of high octave added and the reverb has a whole bunch of schmaltz. If none of that makes any sense, you should have skipped this paragraph…

I remember one time getting up early to take some sunrise photos on a vacation and wondering how anybody could see all this wonder in the universe and not see the God behind it. These words came to me, and a LOT of years later, I finished the song. Honestly, I really like it, but I can’t even tell if it’s good, so skip it if you don’t.

I admit I’m not happy with how “preachy” this song came out, and tried to soften that tone, but it didn’t capture the way I felt on that particular morning in the Grand Tetons.

My Favorite Memory

This is the first of several “song blogs” I’ll be doing to tell the stories behind the songs on “Protest Songs“. (You can listen or download for free or whatever you want to pay here.) I’m going out of order because track 7 is the most important song on here, and it’s very timely, as my wife and my 30th Anniversary was just yesterday.

 

This is the most personal song I’ve ever written, and it’s the whole reason I stuck all the other songs on here for you. I have a favorite memory. It’s of my then-girlfriend soon-to-be-fiancée’s smile as we were walking one day. I’ve always loved, and still adore, my wife’s smile, the way her eyes smile along with the rest of her face. It slays me every time, and immediately takes me back to that moment.

So yesterday afternoon, just before I activated the web site, I brought my guitar into the living room, sat down and said, “I have a present for you”. I think she liked it.

Wesley Covenant Prayer

Not too long ago I wrote a contemporary wording with music of John Wesley’s covenant prayer. Here it is… for free or whatever you want to pay.

Here’s the recording at this link.

Here’s a link to a lead sheet and chord chart if you want to use this in your church.

And here are the lyrics if you’re interested.

Wesley Covenant Prayer

Chorus:
I don’t belong to me, I belong to you
I belong to you
My life is not my own, it belongs to you
It belongs to you

Verse 1:
Have me do what you want
Put me with whoever you want
Put me to work, or set me aside
Let me be exalted for you
Let me be humbled for you
Fill me up or empty me out

Verse 2:
Grant me everything in you
Or take it all away for you
Give me joy, or fill my heart with tears
Because everything I have
I surrender it to you
Let me serve you, with a humble heart

Bridge:
Glorious God, Blessed One
Creator, redeemer, sustainer and Lord
Let this promise I make
Reach from earth to the heavens
You are mine, and Jesus, I am yours

©2016 Peter J. Hamm, based on John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer.
If you use this in your church, please contact me to let me know. Thank you.