Sunday, April 4, 2010

GIVE ME JESUS


Today, Easter Sunday, I complete my Lenten Exercise with one last song. It’s been an interesting and introspective experiment these last 40+ days as I have revisited ideas and experiences that bubbled their way up through my day to day life and ended up in songs. The writing of songs is not commonplace for me. I wish I wrote more prolifically, and I wish I could say I have written deeply and effectively about everything and everyone that matters to me. Truth is I have a rather imbalanced record through my songs. But it is a record nonetheless, even if it is flawed, and for that I am grateful.

When I stand up to a microphone, or when I sit on my couch with my guitar in my hands, I hope, whatever it is I sing, that it is truthful to me. I have said before that if something is believable I can buy it, emotionally. Whether it is lighthearted music about bears wearing pajamas (I’ll one day record that one) or as painfully personal as Flexible Flyer, my goal is to make it honest in a way that will not harm the listener. I have respect for my audience and hope that what I say in song and word is collectively more than cotton candy in substance. (Not that cotton candy doesn’t have its place in the world.)

On this most holy of days, when my heart seems to sit a little higher in my chest, I would like to complete this self imposed “sacrifice” in honor of Lent with a song I did not write.

Of unknown authorship, GIVE ME JESUS is believed to have risen through the deep throated guttural voices of Negro slaves as they labored in the hot fields of the American South. Its simplicity and its repetition are part of its beauty.

GIVE ME JESUS
In the morning when I rise
In the morning when I rise
In the morning when I rise
Give Me Jesus

And when I am alone
And when I am alone
And when I am alone
Give Me Jesus

And when I’ve come to die
And when I’ve come to die
And when I’ve come to die
Give Me Jesus

The recording of this song remains one of the sweet spots in my memory bank. Four of us:
 David Eskelsen (guitar),
 Mark Robinette (upright bass)

and Michael Huff (piano)

took our positions in Guy Randle’s beautiful Rosewood Studios on a sunny summer day. There is a calm earthiness about Guy’s place, partly due to the care he and Kristen have given in the creation of the physical space. But I think it is more likely that the sense of peace comes from the people who work and dwell there. Couple the warmth of the place with the people who play music with me: all three of them like brothers, whose love of the music and the message sparkles in their performances, and a tenderhearted, talented engineer – It’s an amazing combination for any song. But add to that mix THIS song. It is hard to explain. If it had been a church meeting it would have been as if four of us rose to the pulpit at once, all of us with our hearts pounding in our chests as we stood to testify; only the testament is in harmony.

If I close my eyes I can picture myself in that little space where I stood, headphones connecting me to the sounds of my companions, Dave’s sweet guitar begins, like sun rays on the kitchen table in the early morning. Then comes Mike’s piano, swaying sweetly against the guitar, Mark’s bass filling the bottom where few people notice it, though they would surely know if it were missing. Then in the musical bridge when Mark starts to draw the bow across his strings, it doesn’t show so much in this mix – but I can feel it: that’s when it causes me to quiver. This is my testament, using 20 words or less.

I am grateful that this song brought comfort to my brothers and sisters as they slaved away their sorrow and sweat in fields that were not their own. It has comforted me in the singing of it, though it is not always easy to do. I sing at quite a few funerals. This is a difficult task, because you want the spirit to manifest itself of course, but I am one who cries at such manifestations, and trust me, I don’t sing well when I cry. So it’s a fine line I walk between being insensitive so I can sing, and so sensitive I can’t. I have felt the encouraging arms of angels at my back as I have testified through this song at the funerals of some people I love deeply. Before Ardene’s funeral we met in the Primary room to run through the song. Flanked by Mark and Dave, and with Mike at the piano, I stood through the introduction, then when it came time to sing I was simply overcome with sorrow. I could feel the boys lean in toward me. I could feel their prayers. I could feel their worthiness. We prayed together, then went into the chapel expecting that if the Lord wanted this song to be a comfort to those who were grieving in that space, He would give me the power to sing it. And he did. He had done it before. He had given me the power to look into Merlyn’s eyes when I sang it at her husband’s funeral. And He gave me the power again.

I acknowledge that all I have, that is of worth, comes from Him. I thank Him and I praise Him for his goodness.

Last year, for the Lent season, I challenged myself to sacrifice my mornings to write Word of the Day passages. This year the challenge has been more daunting, because I have had to look deeply in a place I don’t always love to look: myself. If you have taken a portion of this journey with me, I apologize for so much of it being “me” oriented. I guess it is the nature of the beast, under such circumstances. For me, I am just grateful to have been able to revisit so much of my past. I am grateful I required myself to write it down. There are more songs than this collection reviews. And hopefully there will be even more in the future. I am hoping my best song is not yet written. (This statement makes me very tired, I must admit)

Thank you for your comments, you who may have read along. When I analyze myself and why I write songs, I concluded I just want to be understood. I think this is a basic human characteristic. Not that I write for comments, nor do I sing for applause, but it is always comforting to hear that someone understands what I mean to say.

I pray the maker of all good things shines on all of us, whether or not you feel him shining. It’s been a beautiful Easter day, and a blessed Holy week, filled with good people and good interaction. There are many tasks that have been waiting for me to free up the time I’ve spent writing. I guess can finally get to them.

(Not that I really want to.)

Until next year, or until the next post, I’m signing off.

Cori




14 comments:

  1. Bless you, Sister Cori. Your sacrifice has been a blessing. I am grateful.

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  2. Hey Cori. Thank you for your posts, which I have faithfully read every day. Some of these were tough to write, so the appreciation runs deep. Have a great post-free week!!!

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  3. what a journey it has been. thank you for taking us along. it has been amazing, fun, sometimes exhausting and always rewarding. now we must print it so that we may leave it at our mother's bedside to read.

    i love your writings. i love your songs. i love your voice. i love your testimony. i love you.

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  4. What a great lent this has been. Thanks so much mom! You are amazing! Now take a good long nap!

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  5. I have read every word, I have listened to every song. Like a good book, as the end of lent neared, I prayed it wouldn't end. I have enjoyed thoroughly every entry. I have appreciated the sacrifice and hours you spent digging deep into the past to share such personal experiences with your friends. I love you for who you are and to me you have a gift which you so willingly free, both in the written word here on this blog and your lyrical abilities. I'm impressed and am glad to be linked in friendship. I will miss these readings. Maybe I'll just start over and read them again. They inspire me.

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  6. Your songs and written words give so much inpriration. Don't ever stop. The world needs you.

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  7. Thanks for all the stories!!! You are an inspiration!!

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  8. Thank you for the journey, the inspiration and the memories. Wishing you peace and love as you continue to tell your story through your music.

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  9. I have loved your postings thanks so much for taking this time to write them down. We miss you guys very much If you ever want to come to DC or the beach your welcome to stay with us. :)

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  10. I am in Texas, where my mother sits in a very nicely appointed room all day, talking to people no one can see, sometimes chastising them with great energy - surprising in a woman of long-time sweet nature and good humor. My father visits and talks to her, and it seems sometimes that she answers exactly what he has said; but it's hard to know, really, what her answers might mean. So we talk to her the way you would a child, reflecting what we think we've seen on her face, in her voice, sometimes calming her. Sometimes saying, "Oh - yes, I know what you mean," which is pretty much a blatant lie.

    Yesterday, our visit had a purpose: Keven, my sister, needed to cut Mom's hair. I want to stop here and say that my visits to Mom are, of necessity, rare. Once a year or so I fly down here. I wish it were a couple of hours' drive, then it would happen far more often.

    But here is the story: two years ago, I was remembering how Mom and Dad used to sing all the old songs when we took road trips - which we did often. We'd drive out for vacations - into the mountains, back to Kansas City - and they sang. It's probably there that I learned to think in harmony.

    And I wondered if my mother would remember all that? If anybody every sang with her. So when we went that year, she was sitting in the lovely living room of her "home" with all the other little half-present women and one black man. And I began to sing songs I remembered she'd favored.

    She was under medication then, in a dream of a dream. And wasn't saying much. But when I finally started in on Down by the Old Mill Stream, she suddenly came alive and leaned forward, bending herself in half - and began to sing. The words were garbled, but they were there, I could hear every consonant in its right place. She had no melody, of course, because her mind won't move quickly from point to point and because you have to keep each pitch in place till the next one replaces it.

    But she was singing with me, and I could hardly sing, realizing it. My father didn't seem to feel the enormity of this - but he is used, by now, to negotiating the wall around his love. I had just jumped right over it in some ways, and I guess I was feeling the shock of finding myself on the other side so suddenly.

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  11. Sorry. This is long.

    No other song got that response from her. Oh, and the one black man? A very pleasant man named Tim. As I sang to her, he wandered over and stood several feet away from us, watching and swaying and listening, and I knew that music was in him and always had been. And I wished I could do more. For him.

    Yesterday, I started to sing the song to her again, this time with Keven - singing as she clipped. Mom's response wasn't the same. Two years later (and all of those women, so changed in that time, or gone), not medicated, she was very talkative, very emphatic. Dad touched her, looking her straight in the face, reminding her who she was and that he was there, and real.

    She's in a wheelchair now. And she sat, looking back at him. Then I sang. She didn't seem to respond at all, and I will admit that I was disappointed. Then Keven and I went on to another song. Singing, talking, singing. Until I realized that mother was now singing on her own.

    Her face had that fierce concentration on it you see on the face of small children, doing grown-up things (in other words, reaching beyond their motor ability), and she was singing a long, throaty tone, low in her chest - with great meaning.

    It was hard to pull the real out of the stream of her narrative, but soon, I heard the patterns, the rhythms, that let me know she was singing something. But I couldn't catch what it was. -

    (Dad just finished and Kev is here - may I finish later?)

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  12. I have SO enjoyed reading all of these. Love you!

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  13. This beautiful song with you singing it is the perfect combination. I listen to it over and over and it truly does give me great comfort. Thank you so much for all you share with me and most of all, your sweet strong testimony of and love for our Savior.

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  14. I am so grateful for your keyboard sacrifices! You are such a beautiful writer with a beautiful soul. I am so grateful to call you 'mother.' Thank you sharing your love of the Savior and teaching me the same. I love you!

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