“Wayfaring Stranger”

During our darkest hours, songs assist us in relieving the stress & strain associated with the darkness that comes to us all—some more, some less—but darkness comes physically & naturally to us all.  Songs soothe us during those difficult times of our lives & provide a roadmap to guide us home, once we understand where that home is.  One thing I’m certain of, this world is not my home for I am nothing more or less that a sojourner stationed for a time on this medium size planet, floating miraculously through space as it rotates around a medium size star, which we call our Sun.  It appears, as far as my education will allow me to affirm, that everything about our existence on planet earth involves a unique place, but one of stellar mediocrity.  We live on a medium size planet, rotating around a medium size star, within a medium size galaxy.  If that is correct, then I think I can say that this mediocre boy fits right in with our stellar reality of not too big, not too little, but just right.

Songs for me are mainly about words with the singer as primary purveyor of a story, idea, or feeling, with musical instruments playing a complimentary role.  The singer’s voice performs as the first & most important instrument of the song with all other instruments supporting the singer’s efforts in moving the audience to join in a physical or emotional experience.  My recipe for a good song is for all other instruments to mimic & enhance the sound quality of the voice & for the accompanying instruments to compliment the vocal style of the singer’s voice.  The music must never become so overbearing as to drown out the voice & words of the singer.

As for me I like the natural ability of the singer to come forth without being influenced by too much formal training.  In my folksy way I find opera & classical music too stultifying for my taste.  It inhibits the natural creativity of the artist while channeling the singer & musician into a dramatic, cartoonish character that I find hard to watch & enjoy.  One cannot deny their vocal gift, skill level, & all the hard work that it takes to achieve success.  They deserve the accolades they receive from their audience.  We all have our preferences & dislikes.

A simple man likes simple things; & I am that simple man. With that in mind let me introduce you to the three songs I have selected to speak to you about some of my thoughts & feelings—permanent as far as humans are permanent, but in reality always changing.  The three songs are:  1)  Wayfaring Stranger, 2)  This World is not my Home, & 3) I’d Rather have Jesus.

These three songs pretty well sum up my life insofar as how I attempt to conduct myself on this planet.  As Corrie Ten Boon’s father told her as a young girl, paraphrasing: Don’t hold onto the things of this world too tightly, for when it comes time to let them go, it will be too hard to do so.  I consider those words very wise ones, & I hold them close to my vest.  I view myself a sojourner, a “Wayfaring Stranger,” just traveling through life with a time & a place scheduled for my departure.  Not a specific time picked from my birth, but a time because there is death & there is time; neither can escape the other, but it is not a known specific time written in blood at our birth.  Otherwise, one must believe that all our early choices in life like our choices of diet, exercise, & vocation have no bearing on our longevity.  In addition, I do not accept the notion of fate; & with those two items added together, I am firm upon my conclusion that there is no causal relationship between time & death, only a relational one.  As every death will occur at a certain time….  Sometimes, I feel so confused!

Death is a humbling equalizer for all.  It brings the kings & great men of valor & prowess down to the level of all other men.  Even the great King Solomon noted all his work on Earth is vanity for he too must leave all his great works behind.  No doubt he was depressed at the time, but there iscivil_war truth in what he says.  Will those after him appreciate his works & maintain it like he would.  Maybe, but in the end all manmade monuments & cities will crumble to the ground.  One day the sun will become a swollen star, red in color, destroying the planets as it overcomes them with heat & destruction.  Our home, the Earth, will end.

Our mortality challenges all men to look inward and ask this one question:  Who am I?  “This World is not my Home” further amplifies the echoes of reality coming down from the majestic mountains brought low by the erosive work of nature–wind, rain, heat, cold, & father time itself.  Death releases our red-knuckle grip upon the treasures of this world as we take our final breath and face that great judgment day.

I was raised a Christian, & I plan to die as one.  My faith is far from perfect, but I decided during the dark days as a 101st Airmobile grunt to hold onto my faith at all cost.  As we marched through the jungles of Vietnam & faced the green tracers & rocket propelled grenades of our enemy, I prayed for deliverance; but if I fell in battle, I wanted those who saw my lifeless body, whether friend or foe, to say: “I can tell this soldier is a Christian for I see a golden cross around his neck.”

I laughed inside when my assigned worker at Social Security added up my lifetime earnings to calculate my likely retirement payment. I always proclaimed money didn’t mean that much to me, & I proved it beyond a doubt.  It’s embarrassing, but I learned how to handle a “little” bit of money well.  It sure is coming in handy now.

I have already given to my children most of my prized possessions that I’ve accumulated on this earth except for a few pictures.  I thought about tearing them up, but I couldn’t part with them–so few, yet so precious to me. I’ve given the following to my children:  My SKS rifle captured in Vietnam; a few medals; my baseball cards; my double barrel, double trigger, side-by-side shotgun given to me by my Uncle Richard, my dad’s little brother; some pictures; and some little mementoes that I treasured.  That’s all for a lifetime of work.  I always said I wasn’t interest in things of this world, and once again I proved it.

The song “I’d Rather Have Jesus” testifies to me about what’s really important in life.  That song provides an excellent path to follow as we face the ups & downs of our lives.  It’s a good anchor to hold onto when one’s circumstances become dire, and a good anchor to hold onto when life gives us abundance.  My wife reminds me to remember how important it is to have food on our table, a place of warmth in which to lay our head, & three beautiful children well adjusted & gainfully employed, & all raised to serve our Lord.  I am blessed!  Wayfaring Stranger: garland dale

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