Songs of Influence

"He has put a new song in my mouth." (Psalm 40:3)

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

I Am...I Said, by Neil Diamond

I identify with this song because it reminds me of my own circumstances, and that this world is not my home.

In 1987 I left my home town of Christchurch, to move to Wellington for better work opportunities.
When I arrived, I felt a bit like a fish out of water: the weather was worse, the pace of life was much faster, and the people were not as friendly.

Inside I knew I had to make a go of it, but there was always that niggle to throw in the towel and go back home.

But Christchurch changed. The people I used to mix with, well most had moved on with their lives as well. More so now that the 2010/11 earthquakes have levelled the CBD, and changed the entire landscape - when I visit, I can’t get my bearings anymore because the iconic landmarks I used to find my way around, have gone. 
Everything had changed.

Borrowing from the song, I was lost between two shores - Wellington is fine, but it ain’t home, Christchurch is home, but it ain’t mine no more.

But then I remember that, as a Christian, regardless of where I live, none of this world is my home.

Going back to the past is pointless, because it can never be as I remember it.
And moving on to potentially something better is just as pointless, because I’ll just start pining for what I have now.

So, I just wait.

I wait for Christ to return.

I wait to see Him burst through the clouds, or knit together my separated bones from my rotten carcass in the grave - to carry me away to the place he has prepared for me in advance.

A place where I will be content for all eternity: a place I can truly call “home”.

Until then, I will never be completely satisfied with this world.
…and that’s OK by me.


Lyrics (courtesy

L.A.'s fine, the sun shines most the time
And the feeling is 'lay back'
Palm trees grow, and rents are low
But you know I keep thinkin' about
Making my way back

Well I'm New York City born and raised
But nowadays, I'm lost between two shores
L.A.'s fine, but it ain't home
New York's home, but it ain't mine no more

"I am," I said
To no one there
An no one heard at all
Not even the chair
"I am," I cried
"I am," said I
And I am lost, and I can't even say why
Leavin' me lonely still

Did you ever read about a frog who dreamed of bein' a king
And then became one
Well except for the names and a few other changes
If you talk about me, the story's the same one

But I got an emptiness deep inside
And I've tried, but it won't let me go
And I'm not a man who likes to swear
But I never cared for the sound of being alone

"I am," I said
To no one there
An no one heard at all
Not even the chair
"I am," I cried
"I am," said I
And I am lost, and I can't even say why
Leavin' me lonely still

© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

I Saw The Light, by Hank Williams

I'm not really a Country music fan, but this song has a special place in my heart.

Hank Williams recorded this song way back in 1948, and it went on to become the top ranked 'Greatest Songs of Faith' in Country Music Television.

The words read like a Gospel story - man buried under the weight of sin, and rescued and brought into eternal life by a gracious Saviour.

In his later years, my Dad developed a real love for Country music. It was a bit of a shock for us all, because he really only listened to Christian music. But he regularly attended the local Country and Western Club, and would occasionally get up and loosen the vocal chords to whatever song the band were covering.

When the family learnt of this, we planned a nice surprise for him. 

On his 80th Birthday, six of us children all donned cowboy hats. With one of my brothers on the guitar, and myself on the harmonica, we all belted out a personalised rendition of this song that spoke about our big, blended family.
He listened with tears in his eyes, and gave us a standing-O at the end!


Lyrics (courtesy

I wandered so aimless, life filled with sin
I wouldn't let my dear saviour in
Then Jesus came like a stranger in the night
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

I saw the light I saw the light
No more darkness no more night
Now I'm so happy no sorrow in sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

Just like a blind man I wandered along
Worries and fears I claimed for my own
Then like the blind man that God gave back his sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

I saw the light I saw the light
No more darkness no more night
Now I'm so happy no sorrow in sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

I was a fool to wander and a-stray
Straight is the gate and narrow the way
Now I have traded the wrong for the right
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

I saw the light I saw the light
No more darkness no more night
Now I'm so happy no sorrow in sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

I Believe In You, by Bob Dylan

I love this song for the words. 

They talk of standing up for what you believe in, regardless of however people treat you.

When you become a Christian, your attitudes and heart change direction 180 degrees, like going from swimming downstream to upstream.

You feel like the whole world has now turned you into public enemy No.1. 
You suddenly find out who your real friends are. 

But that's OK, because Jesus already warned us that would happen:

John 15:18-25 (NKJV)
18  "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.
19  If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
20  Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.
21  But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.
22  If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.
23  He who hates Me hates My Father also.
24  If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father.
25  But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, 'They hated Me without a cause.'

I do not have to fear because I believe in the One who casts out all fear. 

For the Dylan purists, here's a raw live version:

I also love this Sinead O'Connor cover version:

Lyrics (courtesy

They ask me how I feel
And if my love is real
And how I know I'll make it through
And they, they look at me and frown
They'd like to drive me from this town
They don't want me around
'Cause I believe in you.

They show me to the door
They say don't come back no more
'Cause I don't be like they'd like me to
And I, I walk out on my own
A thousand miles from home
But I don't feel alone
'Cause I believe in you.

I believe in you even through the tears and the laughter
I believe in you even though we be apart
I believe in you even on the morning after
Oh, when the dawn is nearing
Oh, when the night is disappearing
Oh, this feeling is still here in my heart.

Don't let me drift too far
Keep me where you are
Where I will always be renewed
And that which you've given me today
Is worth more than I could pay
And no matter what they say
I believe in you.

I believe in you when winter turn to summer
I believe in you when white turn to black
I believe in you even though I be outnumbered
Oh, though the earth may shake me
Oh, though my friends forsake me
Oh, even that couldn't make me go back.

Don't let me change my heart
Keep me set apart
From all the plans they do pursue
And I, I don't mind the pain
Don't mind the driving rain
I know I will sustain
'Cause I believe in you.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

God Defend New Zealand, by Cindy Ruakere

We all do it, don’t we? Every time we go to watch our nations’ National sporting teams go into battle with anothers’, we stand and sing our respective National Anthems with great gusto.

It fills us with pride. It gives us spectators a lift, and those competitors a purpose for the battle – to defend their country’s honour against the other.

Most National Anthems laud the beauty and spectacle of their respective country, the spirit and pride of the people, and the honour to dwell in its’ borders and be its’ ambassador to the rest of the world.
And there is nothing wrong with having pride in your own country. But did you ever stop and give thanks to God for His bountiful provision, and protection?

That is why I love the New Zealand National Anthem. 

Yes, it speaks of the gift of beauty.
But it also goes a step further to thank the Giver for the gift, and ask for protection.

It is a prayer directed to the Creator of our beautiful country, although seldom treated as such.

The anthem was written as a poem by Thomas Bracken of Dunedin, in the 1870's. It was set to music in 1876, but only officially became New Zealand's National Anthem in 1977. 

Actually, we have 2 official National Anthems. The original one, God Save The Queen, is still recognised, but seldom sung by New Zealanders.

God Defend New Zealand has 5 verses, but normally only the Maori and English first verses are sung.

I love this folky version from Cindy Ruakere.


Lyrics (courtesy Ministry for Culture and Heritage)

E Ihowā Atua,
O ngā iwi mātou rā
Āta whakarangona;
Me aroha noa
Kia hua ko te pai;
Kia tau tō atawhai;
Manaakitia mai

God of Nations at Thy feet,
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our free land.
Guard Pacific's triple star
From the shafts of strife and war,
Make her praises heard afar,
God defend New Zealand.

Men of every creed and race,
Gather here before Thy face,
Asking Thee to bless this place,
God defend our free land.
From dissension, envy, hate,
And corruption guard our state,
Make our country good and great,
God defend New Zealand.

Peace, not war, shall be our boast,
But, should foes assail our coast,
Make us then a mighty host,
God defend our free land.
Lord of battles in Thy might,
Put our enemies to flight,
Let our cause be just and right,
God defend New Zealand.

Let our love for Thee increase,
May Thy blessings never cease,
Give us plenty, give us peace,
God defend our free land.
From dishonour and from shame,
Guard our country's spotless name,
Crown her with immortal fame,
God defend New Zealand.

May our mountains ever be
Freedom's ramparts on the sea,
Make us faithful unto Thee,
God defend our free land.
Guide her in the nations' van,
Preaching love and truth to man,
Working out Thy glorious plan,
God defend New Zealand.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Bridge Over Troubled Waters, by Simon & Garfunkel

This song is especially meaningful for me, for three reasons:

Firstly, the uplifting lyrics. They speak of true friendship and loyalty regardless of the circumstances.

Secondly, the hauntingly beautiful voice of Art Garfunkel that sends shivers down my spine. 

Thirdly, this was my late mothers' favourite song. I remember that when it came on the radio, she would quickly turn it up and sing along at the top of her voice.

A special song, with special lyrics, evoking special memories. Enjoy!

Lyrics, courtesy

When you're weary
Feeling small
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all
I'm on your side
When times get rough

And friends just can't be found

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

When you're down and out
When you're on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I'll take your part

When darkness comes
And pain is all around

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

Sail on Silver Girl,
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine
If you need a friend
I'm sailing right behind

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Whakaaria Mai (How Great Thou Art), by Stan Walker and Friends

There is probably no other Christian anthem that stirs the heart like this famous hymn!

Translated and composed by Stuart K. Hine, from the 1886 poem "O Great God", by Carl Boberg, it speaks of the awesome nature of our God - creating a special world for us to enjoy; loving us enough to spare us from His wrath in offering His Son as a sin sacrifice on our behalf; and the promise of eternal fellowship with Him after death.

Here are the lyrics of the original version, but for a special treat I thought I would post a New Zealand Maori version. 

This song is sung at almost every Maori funeral. 
There is something special and heart-warming when the Maori folk come together with just a guitar as accompaniment, and sing with love and passion with their unique, hauntingly beautiful tones.

I found this Maori / English version on Youtube, and it brought tears to me eyes. 
It is a tribute from friends of 'Audrey Phillips', and features (among others) artists Fourtunate, Vince Harder, and 2009 Australian Idol winner Stan Walker front and centre.
Stan is a full-blooded Maori, even though he was born in Australia. These people are affectionately known as Maori Auzzies, or 'Mozzies'.

It is obvious from the clip that not all of them know the words, but you can still worship with your eyes closed if that distracts you! 


Lyrics to this version:

Whakaaria mai  
Tōu rīpeka ki au 
Tiaho mai 
Rā roto i te pō 

Hei kona au 
Titiro atu ai. 
Ora, mate, 
Hei au koe noho ai


Show Your Cross to me
Let it shine there in the darkness
To there, I will be looking
In life, in death
Let me rest in Thee.)

When Christ shall come
With shout of acclamation
And take me home
What joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow
In humble adoration
And there proclaim
My God, how great Thou art

Then sings my soul
My saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art
How great Thou art
Then sings my soul
My saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art
How great Thou art.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

You'll Never Walk Alone, by Gerry & The Pacemakers

Here's one of those songs that can give you goosebumps when you hear it.

It's a common song that's sung at football matches in the UK, adopted primarily by the Liverpool Football Club, being from the home of the band.

It's a song of hope. When things are going from bad to worse, there will be something sweet at the end of it.

It reminds me of the security I have in Christ. 
I can go through storm after storm after storm, and still feel secure in the knowledge that He holds my eternity in His hands (Psalm 121).

Lyrics (courtesy 

When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high 
And don't be afraid of the dark. 
At the end of a storm there's a golden sky 

And the sweet silver song of a lark. 

Walk on through the wind 
Walk on through the rain 
Though your dreams be tossed and blown. 
Walk on, walk on 
With hope in your hearts 
And you'll never walk alone 
You'll never walk alone. 

Walk on, walk on 
With hope in your hearts 
And you'll never walk alone 
You'll never walk alone.