Category Archives: Psalms/Psongs for Lent 2011

Psalm/Psong for April 24 – “Dance Me to the End of Love” as sung by The Civil Wars

Here we are at Easter. My Lenten project is complete.

I had a longer reflection written about Easter and what I think it’s about. Unfortunately, I think I left it at work. So, I’ll have to adapt it for another day, or wait a year, or put it in the book I’m working on. Or maybe all three.

So I’ll just reiterate what PW has been saying for years. Easter isn’t about the resuscitation of a particular body of a particular man almost 2000 years ago. Easter is about remembering all the ways in which Love is STILL stronger than death, humiliation, defeat, shame, oppression, and degradation. But it’s not magic. It’s hard work, and so it’s why many of us go to church. We practice it in church so that we can find the strength to go out into the world with that same leaning forward into the hope of Love.

My spiritual advisor once exclaimed to me, after I told him a story about a man who has a bit of a crush both on PW and me: “Well, he’s clearly in love with you. With BOTH of you! And why not? Isn’t that why we come to church in the first place — to learn how to fall in love with each other?!”

It took me more than 50 years of church-going to hear that proclaimed as a reason to go to church. It’s so good, I don’t want to keep it to myself. So Happy Easter everyone. Let’s get out there and dance the world to the end of love. May it be so.

Lyrics to “Dance Me to the End of Love,” written by Leonard Cohen:

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love, dance me to the end of love

Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Oh dance me to the end of love, dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on
Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long
We’re both of us beneath our love, we’re both of us above
Dance me to the end of love, dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I’m gathered safely in
Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove
Dance me to the end of love,dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love


Psalm/Psong for April 23 – “Rivers and Roads” by The Head and The Heart

What better day to post something by a band called The Head and The Heart than in the space between Good Friday and Easter? The lyrics are a good fit, too.

This video is another in the series of bike shop concerts that were part of SXSW 2011. I think the visuals of the setting add a whole new layer of meaning to the song. Also, I love when the drummer starts using a maraca instead of a drumstick.

Lyrics to “Rivers and Roads”:

a year from now we’ll all be gone
all our friends will move away
and they’re going to better places
but our friends will be gone away

nothing is as it has been
and i miss your face like hell
and i guess it’s just as well
but i miss your face like hell

Ohh, ohh, ohh

been talkin’ ’bout the way things change
and my family lives in a different state
and if you don’t know what to make of this
then we will not relate
so if you don’t know what to make of this
then we will not relate

Ohh, ohh, ohh

rivers and roads
oh rivers and roads
rivers ’til i reach you

Psalm/Psong for April 22 – “Darlin’ Kate” by Emmylou Harris

Here’s a Good Friday-themed psong from Emmylou Harris. In this psong, which will be released next Tuesday on her new record “Hard Bargain,” Emmylou sings farewell to her beloved friend, Kate McGarrigle. McGarrigle died last year from cancer, leaving behind a rich musical legacy and a bunch of heartbroken family members, friends, and fans.

If you’re not familiar with the musical genius of Kate and Anna McGarrigle, it’s not too late to do some catching up. I recommend “Love Over and Over” and “Move Over Moon,” in addition to the some of their classics that have been covered by other artists, including “Talk to Me of Mendocino,” “Heart Like a Wheel,” and “Heartbeats Accelerating.”

I wish you a Good Friday that is, you know, actually GOOD. At noon, I get to read Psalm 22 for the umpteenth time this week (okay, it’s only the third time, it just SEEMS like umpteen, however many that is). That’s the one with the scintillating line, “But I am a worm, and not human.” Later, fortunately, there’s this line that I love, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.”

Here’s my recommendation for how to have a Good Friday that is really good: Think of someone who is, for you, the “sweetest note in the chord of life,” and then tell them that, using those words or ones that work for you. Even if that person is dead, say it. If anyone asks you why you’re talking to a dead person, just tell them that Emmylou does it all the time.

Lyrics to “Darlin’ Kate”:

So it’s finally come. You have left this world.
But we’ll miss our Kate, our darling girl!
We held your hand, kissed your lovely brow,
And bid farewell, you’re sailing now.
Free from the pain you lay that burden down
But your strong and giving heart,
Will surely be your crown.

As you slip the surly bonds of earth and sail away,
Perhaps we will meet again somehow, someday.
Until then, there’s nothing we can do, but wait,
To see what’s more, our darling Kate.

All those nights we sang
And talked ‘til the sun come up,
You fed our souls, you filled our cup!
With your perfect words and oh that voice,
We fell in love, we had no choice.

And I can’t say for sure where you have gone,
But in that place I’m bettin’ there’s a better song.
For we’ve all known down here the taste of joy and strife
You were the sweetest note in the chord of life.

Now you’ve slipped the surly bonds of earth and sailed away,
perhaps we will meet again somehow, someday.
But if there was one name I could consecrate
It would be yours.
It would be Kate.

Psalm/Psong for April 21 – “Dimming of the Day” by Alison Krauss and Union Station

I once heard a reviewer comment that one way to know that a song is a classic is if when other artists cover the song, they hew closely to the original arrangement, presumably because it can’t be improved upon. Of course, my leaky memory can remember the comment, but not the song the reviewer was referencing.

Richard and Linda Thompson’s psong “Dimming of the Day” was already a classic before their marriage fell apart. Their divorce makes the Thompson’s duet on this psong that much more intensely beautiful. On the new album “Paper Airplane,” Alison Krauss and Union Station stay almost too true to the Thompson’s arrangement of this psong. Still, Krauss’ voice is one of the wonders of the universe, so she could sing the ingredients list from a cereal box and that’d be just fine with me. Hearing her swoop and soar through this perfect Maundy Thursday psong is a treat, even if the video is lame.

Lyrics to “Dimming of the Day”:

This old house is falling down around my ears
I’m drowning in a river of my tears
When all my will is gone you hold me sway
I need you at the dimming of the day

You pull me like the moon pulls on the tide
You know just where I keep my better side

What days have come to keep us far apart
A broken promise or a broken heart
Now all the bonny birds have wheeled away
I need you at the dimming of the day

Come the night you’re only what I want
Come the night you could be my confidante

I see you in the street in company
Why don’t you come and ease your mind with me
I’m living for the night we steal away
I need you at the dimming of the day
I need you at the dimming of the day

Psalm/Psong for April 20 – “Half Moon” by Iron and Wine

I hereby declare today Murky Wednesday, and not just because our spring-impaired weather here is cloudy and cold, with occasional sideways-blowing Oobleck. Tonight begins the slog through Holy Week, which feels to me like Christianity’s spin on the old Saturday Night Live line “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead!” By the time all the readings are done between the beginning of Palm Sunday and the end of Easter, Jesus has been crucified (by “THE JEWS”!!!) approximately 812 times. At least that’s how it feels to me.

It’s a wonder–maybe even a miracle!–that I’m not an atheist by now. But that’s probably, in part, because I’m married to a Bible scholar who dissembles the anti-Semitism of the Christian Gospels at every opportunity (and there are many). It’s also probably because I have never thought I had to believe any particular party platform in order to belong to a church community.

In keeping with Murky Wednesday, today’s psong is a sort of meditation on darkness and shadows. The unfortunate double negative “I can’t see nothing” makes me hear my 9th grade English teacher’s snorting retort, “Soooo, if you ‘can’t see nothing,’ then OBVIOUSLY you can see SOMETHING!”

Lyrics to “Half Moon”: 

Halfway home in the hilltop trees
And all our footprints in the snow
And the evening glow leaving

Low night noise in the wintertime
I wake beside you on the floor
Counting your breathing

‘Cause I can’t see nothing in this half moon
Lay me down if i should lose you.

Halfway-working on a worn-out house
And all our friends the ragged crows
And aching bones whining.

Where are we when the twilight comes?
The dark of valley and the breeze
And the frozen leaves chiming?

Cause I can’t see nothing in this half moon
Lay me down if i should lose you…

Psalm/Psong for 4/19 – “Losers” by The Belle Brigade

Here we are on Knuckle Tuesday (see the previous post for an explanation of the special name for this day), with a psong that celebrates imperfection. Tuesday is a great day of the week for thirsty music lovers, because that’s generally the day that new records are released. Today doesn’t disappoint, with the release of the self-titled debut album “The Belle Brigade,” by the sister/brother duo, Barbara and Ethan Gruska. I’ve been waiting to share this psong with you all since I first heard it a few weeks ago. I don’t have any lyrics for it, but I think they’re pretty easy to hear. There are other videos of them performing this psong with their band, but this video is too adorable not to share.

Psalm/Psong for 4/18 – “The World (Is Going Up In Flames)” by Charles Bradley

It seems to me that every day of the week between Palm Sunday and Easter should get its own name. Churchier folk than I probably already know them, but since I don’t, I’m going to make them up. The question is, do I go with a theme related to the palm tree, or to the palm of the hand? Maybe I’ll alternate. So, for my newly christened Slippery Elm Monday, you’re in for a treat: Charles Bradley.

How could I never have heard of Charles Bradley before last week? Maybe he’s in the same corner of the musical universe as Ruthie Foster, and I only fell into it last week (though I’ve been a fan of Ruthie Foster’s for a long time). I’ve never been to SXSW, but I love the idea of having a concert in a bicycle shop. For a second there, I thought Charles Bradley was going to hop on one of those bikes and ride it around while he sang. He looks like he’d be able to pull it off.

Lyrics to “The World (Is Going Up In Flames)”:

This world is going up in flames
And nobody wants to take the blame
Don’t tell me how to live my life
When you never felt the pain

Oh, oh, oh, ooh, come on, baby
Ooh, they don’t see me cryin’
Ooh, they don’t hear me tryin’
Ooh, they don’t see me cryin’ so what I’m gonna do?
Yeah, baby

I can’t turn my head away, seein’ all these things
The world is going up in flames
And nobody wants to take the blame
Is it you? Or you? You? Or you?
Me? Or me?

Ooh, they don’t see me cryin’
Ooh, they don’t see me tryin’
Ooh, so stop all that lyin’
You killin’ me

Oh baby, come on baby
Let’s get it right
Let’s make this world a brighter day
For you and me
Come on now
Come on
Come on yeah
Come on people
Come on
Oh, ow, ooooo