A visiting photographer took this shot of the simple front doors to Emmanuel Episcopal, donated by Julie Michie in memory of her aunt, Marguerite McDonald. We have used the photograph on note cards for our church family and visitors, with the caption Doors of Faith. Those doors opened for me in 2008, and I innocently entered, completely unprepared for the experiences that would lay therein. They became my symbol for that which is both a threshold and a constraint. I have found myself constrained to open such doors and embrace the grace they promise.

I watched the storms and floods in the East so recently following the devastating sand storms in the West. The tornadoes in the South and the blizzards in the North. Then the news of the fires in Bastrop confirmed my fears that a dear friend, a concert violinist, must surely have lost his most precious musical instrument, and every other material possession. In resignation more than despair, I mourned, "Lord, we would have heard You - You didn't have to speak so loud." The rest of the lyric came straight from the evening news. Writing is very cathartic, and by the time I got to the concluding refrain, I was at peace. What began as resignation became acceptance – and serenity.

While riding my motorcycle through the Central Texas countryside, this message was on a marquee in front of a small rural church: Every Saint has a Past, Every Sinner has a Future. I thought about the road I was on - where I had been and where I was going. I began reflecting on one's path from both perspectives - before the acceptance of God's presence and after the willingness to place His will before mine. After writing the song down, I found out sometime later the basis for the message on the marquee. English playwright Oscar Wilde had once famously written, "Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future." My Muse had me transpose the phrases, and I prefer the rhythm of this scansion.

I was one cut away from completing my CD TAKING TURNS, a collection of twelve of my songs produced by me and performed by twelve different artists using Austin's best studios, engineers and musicians. On April 1st, I was riding my motorcycle on Charcoal Road in eastern Caldwell County to visit the painted church in Cistern, Texas. The song just presented itself to me, and I struggled somewhat to keep my concentration on the road until I could stop and jot down the song before it disappeared. I knew this would be the twelfth and concluding step for my recording project.

The word angel derives from the Greek term for "messenger", "bearer of tidings", "envoy". In modern times, many have come to have a special connection with a person or spirit sent as the bearer of the Good News of love. Fr. Tom Bruns reminded me that God had sent an angel to watch over me and share my path. All love comes from God - love is sent from above.

Songwriters often write by assignment or commission. We needed an Easter hymn, and Lent had prepared me to value my blessings. I wanted to celebrate that simply and honestly. All I had to do after that was follow the commission I had been given. It pleases me that Fr. Tom particularly likes this.

I could not accept the fact that Christmas carols must be old. And I particularly focused on the little-discussed role of Joseph in the Lord's birth and upbringing. Before I realized it, this new carol emerged, and fortunately I was paying enough attention to write it down.

Puer aeternus is a concept I came to understand through the writings of Carl Jung, popularized and epitomized by the character Peter Pan. I know there is a downside to hanging on to childish things - the apostle Paul remonstrated us as such. Yet there is a child-like innocence to Christmas and the celebration of the infant Jesus which I find consoling, and I return to that emotion anytime and anywhere I miss the presence of pure and simple love.

I simply wanted to update the melody to this important seasonal part of our worship.

This lyrical masterpiece appears commonly in Protestant hymnals. Reginal Heber, an Oxford scholar, was a prolific writer of poetry, essays and hymns for period magazines. (Only after his death was a collection of his hymns published, including the great Trinitarian hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy”.) The melody in the hymnal is attributed to sixteenth century composer Louis Bourgeois, and did not seem to complement the elegance of the verse. So I wrote this more gently flowing setting.

Again writing from commission, I wanted to pen a new hymn as underscore for our Eucharist. The words are adapted from a traditional work in the Hymnal, originally based on an Ambrosian chant, a plainchant form associated with the Archdiocese of Milan, and named after St. Ambrose (much as Gregorian chant is named after Gregory the Great). The setting here in the minor key reminded me of the sacrifice, with the promise of reconciliation given in the relative major key of the middle section. Okay, enough musicology!

I found two separate melodic treatments of this lyric by Louis F. Benson (1855-1930) in our hymnal for use in the Holy Eucharist. I initially composed a new treatment in a minor key to emphasize the gravitas of the usage. Recalling, however, the early Church’s view of the mood expressed by use of the minor mode, I composed a second treatment in the parallel major mode conveying a more conventionally positive mood.

I was fast asleep recently, until that little voice said to get up and write this down. I rolled over and noted the time as 4:30am, about an hour earlier than my customary arising. Dutifully, I got out of bed, and without tea or coffee, scribbled down the refrain. Realizing it would take a while to grab manuscript paper, I went straight to my laptop's software to compose (transcribe) the melody of the refrain - with a quick check on the guitar. The verse melody popped up, and I went to Matthew 3 for the text. When finished, I had my tea at the appointed time.

Every Wednesday evening at church, no matter who is there for service and supper and no matter what has been brought for the potluck, it is always just enough, and everything is exactly as it should be. No amount of study explains the persistence of poverty in the midst of seeming abundance, although the question remains, "Abundant in what?" The conventional economics I studied is commonly based on the concept of scarcity. Surrounded by a consumerist society driven by an insatiable desire for more stuff, it seemed to me here was Jesus’ own espousal of the economics of sufficiency. And not just at a cover-dish supper!

We needed a Lenten song for our church services, and this phrase rolled around in my head. (I confess it kept getting confused with Freddie Fender's "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights", but then I have come to believe that this was Freddie's inspiration as well.) Anyway, doing my due diligence, I realized that Noah and Moses had shared Jesus' term of trial in their own confrontations with God's will, just as we in our Lenten period face ours.

For every choice, the opportunity cost is the foregone alternative. How to choose? People considerably wiser than I commended to me that I meditate on that and then do the next right thing. The right thing is always the best choice, so I turned that into the next best thing. Take that step, and then the next on the path similarly, and before you know it, you are on the proverbial straight and narrow. Of course a little feedback from the universe and the awareness and humility to acknowledge it help a lot.

LET IT GO (2005)
I fret a lot - and not just because I am a guitar player. I labored under the delusion that I was Captain of my own fate. Posh! More like a lowly seaman. Reinhold Neibuhr famously reminded us: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Acceptance is the key, and in this case for this song, C Major.

This song was written for a friend at church - petite and elderly, possessing a soft yet firm voice. Our evening service, as specified in the Book of Common Prayer, would customarily end with "Alleluia, Alleluia!". Barely audibly, she would intone an extra concluding "Alleluia!" after the customary two specified in the BCP.

A dear friend passed away recently. She was, and will remain, a treasured member of our congregation who touched the lives of many, both in her own loving family and her church family. Fr. Tom gave us the news as we were beginning our Wednesday church supper following our customary service. A couple of hours later, in a quiet moment, I could imagine that, though she couldn’t join us for supper, there would be one more soul in heaven that night. Two days later, I was privileged to share this song with her friends and family as my own eulogy at the service commemorating her passing. God Bless You, Ann Metz.

A passage from page 164 of a popular Big Book reads, ‘We realize we know only a little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us.’ Folks naturally use the shorthand phrase, more will be revealed. So with that as a motif, the lyrics worked themselves out. Emmanuel Episcopal Church's folk group, Original Sinners, typically ends our Sunday service with an upbeat, cut-time, new-grass number, so this fit the bill.

The subject of this traditional American Negro spiritual came up in the scripture designated for a particular Sunday. I enjoy reading through the music to songs I have never heard, because the written notes and lyrics are unaffected by whatever treatment has been given them in a particular rendering. The more I played around with this on my guitar, the more it began to have a reggae feel. I half-jokingly refer to ours as a Primitive Episcopal Church - why should the Baptists have that to themselves? - and this is right in that spirit.

click here for lyric sheet

click below for midi (.mid) or audio (.mp3) file

Arms of an Angel midi ~ mp3
Bread of the World, in Mercy Broken midi ~ mp3
Every Sinner Has a Future midi ~ mp3
Extra Alleluia midi ~ mp3
Fishes & Loaves midi ~ mp3
For the Bread Which You Have Broken (minor) midi ~ mp3
For the Bread Which You Have Broken (major) midi ~ mp3
Forty Days and Forty Nights midi ~ mp3
Golden Pathway midi ~ mp3
Golden Pathway, from Rose & Judy* ~ Fletcher Clark**
He Gave His Son midi ~ mp3
It's Christmas Time Somewhere midi ~ mp3
It's Christmas Time Somewhere, from Fletcher Clark**
Kyrie Eleison midi ~ mp3
Let It Go midi ~ mp3
Lord, We Would Have Heard You midi ~ mp3
Lord, We Would Have Heard You, from Fletcher Clark**
More Will Be Revealed midi ~ mp3
My Flesh Is Food Indeed midi ~ mp3
Next Best Thing midi ~ mp3
O Come, Thou Prince of Peace midi ~ mp3
One More Soul in Heaven Tonight midi ~ mp3
Open Up the Doors midi ~ mp3
Take Me Down to the Riverside midi ~ mp3
There Is a Balm in Gilead midi ~ mp3

*recorded by Rose Kimball & Judy Painter

**Fletcher Clark house concerts


©2014, Fletcher Clark
All Rights Reserved.
rev. 1/6/14