Saturday Song: Al Wilson, “The Snake”

snakeWhat a story this song tells. A woman has pity on a poisonous, half frozen snake. So she places him by the fire to warm up and then leaves for work. But when she comes home, she ends up being betrayed by the very one she helped.

Hear Al Wilson’s song here.

This is so true of life. Though we Christians are commanded to love our enemies, we must also exercise prudence. As Jesus said to his disciples in Matthew 10:16 (KJV), “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”

Satan is also described in Scripture with metaphors such as a serpent, Leviathan, a dragon, and a ravenous lion. He never physically became any of these creatures, as some folks allege. These metaphors are use to describe the nature of the Devil, not his physical form. He’s only a spirit and spirits have no mass.

As for me, I can relate well to this song. People who I thought were my friends just wanted something from me. Once I was of no use to them, they discarded my friendship.

I’m also sure that we all have had people who we helped suddenly turn on us. If you feel up to it, please post your experiences in the comments box below. If you don’t feel like doing that, have a wonderful weekend anyway.

Saturday Song: ‘Tar and Cement’ by Verdelle Smith

city buildings @ nightEven though I was only nine years old when I heard this song on my mom’s radio, it still touched my soul. This was because I had been sent from my home in the town of Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta to a school for blind children in the metropolis of Vancouver B.C.

In this song, the person left the familiarity of the small town for the money and excitement of the big city. Like many people, the grass seemed greener on the far side of the fence.

When the protagonist returned to that once-small town, it had become acres of tar and cement. Gone were the lilacs which perfumed the air. Gone was the child-like joy of running through the grass and enjoying merely being alive.

Fort Saskatchewan is now a city. Where a farmer’s field and the town dump used to be is now a conglomeration of big box stores. And half of the forest at the creek where I used to play has become a parking lot for fast food joints and industries.

Even the vibrant downtown has been subdued because of big box stores siphoning off customers. And the Fort Hotel, one of my favourite landmarks, burned to the ground back in 2010.

As I’ve pointed out before, we can’t relive the past. So what can we do? Follow the Apostle Paul’s example. Philippians 3:13-14 (KJV)reads, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

Saturday Song, ‘El Paso’

My good friend Abbie Taylor has been writing a feature on her blog called “Saturday Song” where she writes about significant music in her life and she also provides links to them. I like this idea so much that I’ve decided to do this on my blog too. After all, religious subjects can be intense and burdensome. So let’s have one day of lightness to offset the heaviness.

“El Paso”texas is my favourite Marty Robins song. It’s the earliest song I can recall. In 1959, I was only three years old but somehow the song stuck with me.

Though “El Paso” is about murder, jealousy, and cowboy justice, this song gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling. Like in the movies, the actors all get up and become themselves again when the director yells, “Cut!”

That’s how I feel when I hear Marty’s classic song. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

THE VALUE OF PERSISTENCE

Electronics class 1 (small)

I remember well the final two weeks of grade twelve. The mathematics course I took forty years ago drove me crazy. Even though it wasn’t the most advance course, I couldn’t comprehend how fractions could be multiplied and divided.

“Why can’t you get it?” my math teacher would exclaim often when I turned in another test paper filled with mistakes. I didn’t know the answer then but I now believe that I wasn’t able to visualize what was going on in the equations he taught me.

One Wednesday evening, when a woman I call Sister Eileen drove me home from church, I poured out my complaint to her. “I’m so tempted to drop out of that course and try again in September,” I finished.

“Don’t drop out,” she admonished as she parked in front of the house in which I rented a basement room. “You only have two weeks to go. If you quit now, you’ll have to spend three months doing the same course over.”

I pondered what she said as we sat in her car. It did make sense that I would have to work longer to get my high school diploma. On the other hand, the course felt like pure torture. How well I identified with Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” hit record.

Another song which helped me plow through those final days was “Hold On” by John Lennon. I added my name into the lyrics and sang them to myself whenever I felt like I couldn’t take one more humiliating day.

I’m glad I hung in there and finished the course. Though my mark was forty, the teacher felt sorry for me and added five more percent so I wouldn’t get an F. Because I continued with that agonizing class, I was able to get my high school diploma at the end of June and have a worry-free summer.

Because I stuck with the class, I was able to attend a job and mobility training course at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind in Toronto that September. If I hadn’t heeded Sister Eileen’s advice, I would have had three more months of slogging my way through the same math problems which I couldn’t understand.

As for that summer and the subsequent trip to Toronto, I wrote about it in a book called How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity. Read more about how God providentially led me to a true understanding of him at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell’s Books.

THE FIRE OF HER DREAMS BURNED HER OUT

Lauri Paisley's Fire of Dreams LP coverToday is Lauri Paisley’s birthday. What’s so special about that? Lauri was an electronic music composer back in the mid eighties. Through a fan magazine, I learned of her first LP, The Fire of Dreams. Not only did I buy a copy for myself but I gave several away as gifts and one to the local university station.

Lauri and I carried on a correspondence which only lasted about two years. We wrote each other and also sent each other cassette letters. Mainly, we discussed the music industry but we also told each other about our personal activities.

As time passed, Lauri began complaining about her lack of success. Hauling her mountain of gear around to various gigs in the Elizabeth, New Jersey area sprained her back. In fact, she woke up one morning and was unable to get out of bed for a while. That really frightened her.

In addition to the problem of being her own roady, Lauri felt hard done by because of the CD revolution. She felt that everybody wanted CDs rather than the vinyl records she invested plenty of money into. CDs were touted as being scratch-proof, higher fidelity, and almost indestructible. Lauri felt stuck with boxes of LPs which weren’t selling.

Finally, Lauri told all her correspondents that she was quitting music. She had an episode on stage one night where her mind went blank in the middle of a piece. Therefore, she decided to end her musical career. She, who once begged correspondents to “give her mail man a hernia,” now wanted nobody to write to her.

While I understand her profound disappointment, myself having two books which barely sold any copies, I realize her reaction to constant failure was churlish. She could have continued corresponding with fans and friends without continuing to flog her LPs and cassette tapes. Instead, she chose to cut us all off and she rebuffed any attempts to continue corresponding with her.

I certainly don’t plan on doing that to any of my contacts. In the past, I’ve continued my correspondence with electronic music friends and musicians long after I stopped composing tunes. Though I haven’t sold many books, I have no intension of slamming the door in the faces of my friends like Lauri did. I’ll still sell my paperbacks, though I won’t have any new copies printed for now, and I still have CD-Rs of most of my albums available.

If you’re curious about my music, I’ve made videos¬† for some tracks and uploaded them to YouTube. I’ve also uploaded many tracks to SoundCloud. Additionally, you’re welcome to check out my three memoirs at the Bruce Atchison’s Books page as well as at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell’s Books.

MEMORIES OF DESIREE

A blue radio sitting on a stump.Have you ever noticed the way interrelated things tend to cluster together at times in your life? It certainly happens to me quite often. I’ll hear of the same Bible verse being discussed by two or more unrelated pastors or radio preachers. Sometimes I’ll be thinking of a song and then I hear it on the radio. Usually these coincidences are unremarkable. I forget them after a while because they didn’t make much of an impression on me.

Not so with one of those coincidences back in June of 1970. Neil Diamond released a great tune called “Desiree.” It received quite a lot of airplay on the Vancouver radio stations which I tuned in. If I remember correctly, KJR in Seattle also played it often. What struck me most about the song is that I heard it on the third of June. The coincidence of Neil writing about that date and me hearing the song that day stuck in my mind.

At the same time, Strawberry Alarm Clock released a song called “Desiree.” I didn’t recognize the band as they sounded so different from there “Incense And Peppermints” hit back in 1967. Even so, the fact that two unrelated songs should have the same title also made an impression on me.

Furthermore, I’d never heard of anybody named Desiree. The name sounded exotic. It also sounded like a nice name. That too helped impress the songs and the time of year on my mind.

Rock music has played a big part in my life. Ever since the arrival of The Beatles on the North American scene in 1964, I’ve loved that style of music.

But there were people in charge of me at the school for the blind who hated it. I was told that it was bad music and I ought to be listening to classical compositions.

I was rebuked by Christian elders as well once I was mainstreamed into the public school system. The leaders of the house church I attended called it satanic and even warned that I might be possessed by a demon if I listened to it. Nothing of the sort happened. In fact, the music I loved from the sixties and seventies is now considered classic rock. You can even hear it played over the public address systems in malls and grocery stores. Perhaps we’ll even hear both Desiree songs played someday.

I wrote about the static I received regarding my love of Rock music in my second and third memoirs. Please check them out at my Bruce Atchison’s books page as well as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell’s Books.

LEARNING THE REST OF THE STORY

The cover of Larry Norman's double LP, Bootleg
Bootleg, by Larry Norman

In the summer of 1968, a band called People had a hit out called “I Love You.”¬† Sharing the lead vocals was a young man named Larry Norman. I didn’t know it at the time but he went on to become a pioneer of Christian rock music.

Ten years later, I discovered Larry Norman’s solo album, Bootleg, at the public library in Edmonton. While listening to the double LP, I realized that he was the same person whose voice I heard a decade earlier. I confirmed it by looking at the line-up of band members on the People LP cover, a record my mom bought for me for a dollar back in 1974.

I’ve heard that the very day that “I Love You” hit number one in America, Larry quit the band. According to Wikipedia, most of the band members accepted Scientology. Larry had recently given his life to Christ so he left the group to pursue a solo career.

What was so significant about Larry’s music for me? It showed that rock music was merely a tool and it could be used to spread the gospel. Many Christians insisted that it was the Devil’s music and some even claimed I’d become possessed by a demon if I listened to it. Larry’s lyrics showed me that those folks, sincere though they were, were mistaken.

Certainly music does effect one’s mood. That has been demonstrated through experiments done on various people groups around the world. Even so, believing one can receive a demon merely by listening to rock music is superstitious nonsense.

I’m eternally grateful to Larry Norman. In spite of horrendous criticism from evangelical Christians and poor record sales, He persisted in making rock music with Christ-honouring lyrics. In spite of his weak heart and other health problems, he persisted with his vision of evangelizing and commenting on social issues through his distinctive musical style.

When I get to heaven or if Christ returns before I die, one of the first people I’ll seek out is Larry. I want to thank him for giving me hope during a difficult time in my life. To learn more about this difficult time and how the heavenly father led me out of it, visit Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell’s Books.