Song: To the Banks of the River Jordan

by Eric Anderson

July 26, 2022

[Verse 1]

First one leads, then one follows
One aids, and one seeks aid.
In the story of friendship
You and I have made.
But you’ve taken the lead this season
And I cannot keep pace
To the banks of the River Jordan,
To your crossing place.

[Chorus 1]

There’s a time for work and progress,
There’s a time for rest and play,
But this time to say farewell to you:
I’d have asked for a later day.

[Verse 2]

We shared in joys and sorrows.
We put our hands to the plow.
There were times of heartfelt sharing:
May they comfort us now.
As you walk to the bank of Jordan,
As you near your crossing time,
My tears flow with reason,
My grief has so many rhymes.

[Chorus 2]

There’s a time to plant and nourish,
There’s a time to harvest and store,
But I’m lost in this time of farewell.
I’d have asked for a little time more.

[Verse 3]

Bright days and thunder sounding,
Our minds at work to shape words
Telling others’ stories as sweetly
As ever a story was heard.
As you make your crossing of Jordan,
Don’t linger, my friend, for me.
You can lay aside life’s burden.
In the crossing, my friend, you’re free.

You can lay aside life’s burden.
In the crossing, be free.

[Chorus 3]

There’s a time to live and to flourish,
There’s a time to shed life’s shell.
Though I could have asked for later, my friend:
Aloha o’e – fare well.

Though I could have asked for later, my friend:

Aloha o’e – fare well.

© 2022 by Eric Anderson

Streamed live on July 27, 2022.

One in a Million of Grief

This song mourns and honors the one million who have died of COVID-19 in the United States of America since 2020, as well as the 15 million more who have died elsewhere around the world. Let us not forget them.

May 18, 2022

[Verse 1]

We knew the day would come
though some denied, and some were mute.
We knew the day would come
Because the sorrow flowed so wide.
We knew the day would come
When the tears would overflow
for all the ones who had died.

[Chorus 1]

Each one one in a million,
the nurses, the meatpackers.
One in a million
The grandmas, the fathers
One in a million
The loving, the foolish.
One in a million of grief.

[Verse 2]

We knew the day would come
for the aged, and for the ill.
We knew the day would come
Because it was so hard to treat.
We knew the day would come
When the tears would overflow
for all the loved ones who died.

[Chorus 2]

Each one one in a million,
the grocery clerks, the drivers.
One in a million
the grandpas, the mothers.
One in a million
the old and the young
One in a million of grief.

[Verse 3]

We knew the day would come
When some refused the vaccines.
We knew the day would come
As each wave spread more quickly.
We knew the day would come
When the tears would overflow
for all the ones who had died.

[Chorus 3]

Each one one in a million,
Firefighters and teachers.
One in a million
Children and teens.
One in a million
16 million across the world.
One in a million of grief.

[Chorus 4]

Each one one in a million
So special to someone.
One in a million
With a smile to light the day.
One in a million
So our tears overflow.
One in a million of grief.

© 2022 by Eric Anderson

A Lenten Success

I try to avoid patting myself on the back in public – but if I don’t, what is social media for?

For some years I have chosen to follow two parallel disciplines each Lent. One is a fairly straightforward decision to refrain from something during the forty-six days of the season (I include the Sundays for this). I’ve given up fast food, beer, soda, computer games, and similar kinds of things (though never coffee – never coffee). I have almost never been able to successfully repeat one of these, so I generally have to choose something new and different each year.

The second discipline, on the other hand, is to take something on. I’ve followed exercise programs and prayer cycles. Frequently I’ve done creative projects with photography or poetry. In fact, my weekly Lection Prayers are an outgrowth of one Lenten season. I simply kept going with them.

This year I set a goal I was not certain I could achieve. I decided to write a song each week of Lent.

Although my repertoire of compositions has expanded greatly over the years, the truth is that I don’t write songs all that often. I was astonished when I counted the songs I’d written in 2021 and came up with a dozen. For me, songwriting requires a good deal more time, concentration, and focus than most other writing projects. I have and do write to deadlines, but I generally prefer to follow some kind of inspiration when it comes to music. I usually am happier with the results.

To set a goal for songwriting which is half my output in the previous year – in six weeks – well. I wasn’t sure I could do it.

I did give myself some space. I did not insist that each song be composed within an assigned week. All I required was that there be six songs by the end of the season. Nor did I impose any subjects or themes on them. The songs would be what they were, and they could fit into the sacred or the secular as it came along. I also knew I’d write one anyway: I’ve made a habit for a few years now of writing something for Easter. Still. Six songs in six weeks?

Friends, I did it. And… all six have now been performed and are available on YouTube.

Wisdom, Feed Us

Premiere performance during the Community Concert of March 11, 2022.

Dream of Peace

Premiere performance during the Community Concert of March 25, 2022.

Come On, Guitar

Premiere performance as A Song from Church of the Holy Cross, March 23, 2022.

Creature of this World

Premiere performance as A Song from Church of the Holy Cross: April 6, 2022.

As We Bring Him Down

Premiere performance during Scripture and Poetry for Good Friday, April 15, 2022.

Walk, Mary, Walk

Premiere performance during What I’m Thinking #259, April 18, 2022.

Journey Around a Star

Community Concert of July 23, 2021 – Clicking “Play” jumps to the beginning of the song, “Journey Round a Star.”

As noted in the video, I am one of those people who will wish others a good trip around the sun to honor their birthday. This song takes up that theme.

They’ll put billionaires in space, because they think they can afford it.
But this is Spaceship Earth; we’re already aboard it!
Sing out… as we mark the day
We came into the world and were on our way.

[Chorus]

All aboard for a journey round a star.
Stand still all you like; even so you’re traveling far.
All aboard for a trip around the sun.
Celebrate the days since your journey begun.

Each you is unique, you are one among billions
And each circuit of Sol… you’re a soul worth gazillions.
Sing out… You’re a creature of worth.
You’re a child of blessing. You’re a child of Earth

[Chorus]

Revel in joy; Loved is what you are.
A star among the planets, orbiting a star.
Sing out… Loud and clear.
Sing out… Launch a new year.

[Chorus]

July 23, 2021

For Easter 2021: How Could the Story End?

What I’m Thinking is a brief weekly reflection on the upcoming Scriptures – except when it becomes What I’m Singing.

How Could the Story End?

They stepped out in the morning’s shade
Bearing the spice mixture that they’d made.
How will we roll the stone away?
Is a question they don’t need to ask today.

[Chorus]

How could the story end?
Grieving/mourning/searching for a cherished friend?
No, the story goes on past the closing page:
Jesus Christ is risen!

They found that things were not as they had been.
The stone was rolled aside and they went in.
With startled face they heard the word
That Jesus’ resurrection had occurred.

[Chorus]

They left in fright and who could blame them
If they kept silent lest the story shame them.
But someone told and someone told and so we all know:
That Jesus Christ is risen!

[Chorus]

A poem/prayer based on Mark 16:1-8, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year B, Easter Sunday.

Two Tambourines

I wrote this piece as part of a prayer/poem/song conversation with Maren Tirabassi, reflecting on the crossing of the Red Sea (Sea of Reeds) and Song of Miriam in Exodus 14 and 15. Links to the other pieces in the conversation are below.

They told us to hustle; no time to leaven bread
“Take only one bag or all of us are dead.”
The strap is over my shoulder as I flee from Egypt land
with a tambourine clutched within my hand.

[Chorus]

I will ring my tambourine as I dance along the shore.
I will shout the joy of freedom over welling waves restored
while another tambourine is sinking in the marsh
and the wailing widows of Egypt mourn.

They called out the soldiers, their chariots and spears.
Will we go back to servitude or will our graves be here?
At the hip of a chariot driver a tambourine has room.
He brought it to celebrate our doom.

[Chorus]

The walls of water billowed as slogged through mud and weeds.
Will we lie in murky graves or will we all be free?
The waters took the army in the moment of our need
and left a tambourine fouled in the weeds.

[Chorus]

A live performance by Eric Anderson from September 16, 2020.

Horse and Rider Thrown into the Sea (Eric Anderson)

For World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10, 2020 (Maren Tirabassi)

Drawing of a tambourine by Biblioteca de la Facultad de Derecho y Ciencias del Trabajo Universidad de Sevilla – 1004173. Uploaded by clusternote, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26967109.

De Profundis

De profundis
De profundis
Clamavi ad te
Clamavi ad te
Out of the depths
Out of the depths
I cry to thee, O Lord
I cry to thee, O Lord

When into darkness I have fallen
When a cloud obscures my way
I raise my voice: and who will hear my crying?
My soul hopes for thee.

Mai loko o no wahi hohonu
Mai loko o no wahi hohonu
Ua kahea aku au ia ‘oe,
‘O Iehova
Out of the depths
Out of the depths
I cry to thee, O Lord
I cry to thee, O Lord

When all I drink of life is bitter,
When those I love refuse their hand,
I raise my voice: and who will hear my crying?
My soul longs for thee.

De profundis
De profundis
Clamavi ad te
Clamavi ad te
Out of the depths
Out of the depths
I cry to thee, O Lord
I cry to thee, O Lord

If you should note my countless failings
How could I ever stand?
Yet you are grace and love and comfort all my crying:
My soul waits for thee.

De profundis
De profundis
De profundis
De profundis

Blessed Are

by Eric Anderson

Searching for hymns that used the Beatitudes as their inspiration, I was quite surprised to find very few of them. And, well, I decided to add one. It was first sung in worship at Church of the Holy Cross UCC, Hilo, Hawai’i, on February 2, 2020.

Upon the mountain, Jesus sat with all his friends about him,
The crowds drew close and silence fell. He taught them without shouting.
He spoke of blessings to the poor. He spoke of new creation.
He spoke of a world overturned when mourners find their comfort.

You meek take hope, the earth is yours, though others pride to take it.
The ones who thirst for righteousness will drink until they slake it.
There will be mercy for the ones whose mercy flowed in rivers.
The pure in heart will see our God in majesty forever.

You who make peace have always been the children of the Maker,
And so are those who suffer for their holiness of labor.
If you are caged and tortured for your witness to redemption
The gates of heaven will open wide when you are present to them.

The hardships of the world are real, as human eyes keep weeping,
But every tear that falls is held within the Savior’s keeping.
Blessed are the humble, meek, and poor; the pure in heart, the peaceful.
Yes, God embraces those who bear the burdens of earth’s evil.

Suggested tune: ENDLESS SONG 8.7.8.7.D.

Copyright © 2020 by Eric Anderson
Used by permission

The image of the Sermon on the Mount is an etching by Jan Luyken from the Phillip Medhurst Collection of Bible illustrations housed at Belgrave Hall, Leicester, England (The Kevin Victor Freestone Bequest). Photo by Philip De Vere. Credit: Phillip Medhurst – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20116195.

Seven Year Sorrowful Anniversary

I have told this story often over the last seven years.

It was a Friday. I’d taken the day off from the Connecticut Conference, United Church of Christ, to drive to Burlington, Vermont, and pick up my son Brendan at the University of Vermont. I’d left early in the morning so that we could stop in Brattleboro and have a tasty and unhurried lunch.

As we approached the town near the Massachusetts line, my cell phone rang. It was one of my colleagues on the Conference staff. She told me that there’d been a shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. There weren’t many details, but…

“It sounds bad,” she said.

As the person responsible for communication, this was my job.

I took the next exit, which was the one I’d intended to use in Brattleboro, but rather than search for a restaurant with a distinctive, creative menu we pulled into the chain restaurant closest to the highway. Instead of a cheerful conversation we sat silent as I scanned news websites, Twitter, and Facebook for information. I’m sure the waitress thought I was the worst father she’d ever seen.

Hastily, I tapped this prayer into my phone and sent it to my colleague in the Hartford office. “Read this carefully,” I warned, “and edit it as needed. Then email it to our churches and leaders.”

This was the prayer:

Our voices rise as from Ramah. We cry out for our children. God, who will comfort us?

With stunned tears we watch and listen and wait as word of horrors comes to us. With frozen minds we ask how, once again, such terrible violence has erupted among us. With aching hearts we anticipate the grieving cries: Rachels upon Rachels, Isaacs upon Isaacs, weeping for their children.

The days will come when we can ask why and have some hope of answering the question, O God. We pray your guidance then, when we can labor to prevent these tears.

Until then, to our aching hearts, for our frozen minds, amidst our streaming tears, bring tender comfort and unshakable love.

Amen.

Our hasty meal consumed, we resumed our southward drive, directed now toward the Conference office and not our home.

The next day I received a phone call from one of the pastors of First Church of Christ UCC in Glastonbury, where I was a member. “We need a song for a candlelight vigil on Sunday night,” she said. “Can you find something?”

I couldn’t.

I had to write something instead. The prayer gave me the place to start.

I sang “Courage in the Candle” for the first time that night. You’ll find photos and a recording of that original performance here. The video below comes from a worship service at a meeting of the Connecticut Conference. It features my dear friend and colleague the Rev. John Selders on the piano. At his suggestion, we melded “Courage in the Candle” with “God Has Work for Us to Do.”

I keep singing this song for fresh tragedies.

I wish I could stop.

When Will We Find Healing?

Written for healing following the fatal shootings at the Pearl Harbor Naval Yard on December 4, 2019. The recording is live from an interfaith vigil at Church of the Holy Cross UCC, Hilo, Hawai’i, on December 5.

When will we find healing
When the night is long?
When will we find healing
In something more than song?
Bring your caring
To make our healing strong.
Bring your caring:
Make our healing strong.

When will we love mercy
As we know we may?
When will we love mercy
In the light of day?
Bring your healing
To make our mercy strong.
Bring your healing:
Make our mercy strong.

When will our humility
Overcome our pride?
When will our humility
Blossom deep inside?
Bring your mercy
And raise our souls to care.
Bring your mercy…
Bring your humility…
Bring your healing…

Make our spirits strong.

© 2019 by Eric Anderson