What is a song or poem that speaks to you and why?

Throughout the month of January, WordPress is sending participating bloggers a writing prompt each day. It’s a way to find some creative inspiration and perhaps make connections with other bloggers. My entries in this blogging challenge will appear here under the tag #bloganuary.

There was a time when I wanted more than almost anything else to be a singer/songwriter. Though I had been a loyal fan of the Beatles since 1964, by the time I was in junior high school a few years later, I was listening to folk music and protest songs, and discovered Bob Dylan. My friends made fun of me for being a Dylan fan–“He can’t sing!” they said. You don’t understand because you’re not really listening, I thought.

I’m still a Dylan fan, and a fan in general of singer/songwriters of many kinds. There were so many artists (both individuals and bands) whose songwriting spoke to me: Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, James Taylor, Simon & Garfunkel, Larry Norman, Paul Clark, Randy Stonehill, Jim Croce, Cat Stevens, Leonard Cohen, Bob Bennett, Andrew Peterson, David Wilcox and many, many others. But one artist in particular, Pierce Pettis, has somehow managed to land not one, but TWO songs on my personal funeral playlist.

I know that might sound a bit macabre. As a staff pastor at the church where I worked for several years, I participated in, and occasionally officiated, many funerals where there were often video presentations with photographs of the deceased displayed over some of the music they loved. I produced some of those videos myself for the families of the departed. As I was approaching retirement age, and as thoughts of my own mortality pestered me from time to time, I decided to begin compiling a list of songs that have been meaningful to me, songs that I hope will comfort and encourage any who may be in attendance at whatever funeral or memorial service might potentially be held for me. (I’ve told my family about the existence of this list, which is a work in progress. I hope they remember where to look for it.)

One of those songs is Pierce Pettis’ beautiful song, “Instrument.” The first line is from the well-known prayer of Saint Francis (“Let me be an instrument of your peace”), but the rest of the song is the artist’s prayer that the rest of his life might be characterized by love and earnest service to others. Here is the first verse:

Let me be an instrument of Your peace
Let me be a tool in Your hand
Crooked and warped though I might be
Let me do some good here while I can

Let me be a vessel for Your grace
Let me be the first one to forgive
Though the world might curse me to my face
Let me learn to bear it like You did

–Pierce Pettis, “Instrument” from the 2019 Compass Records album, “Father’s Son”

None of us knows how much time we’ll be given in this life. All I know now is that what’s left for me is considerably less than what has gone before, and I feel the urgency to use my remaining time well. This song articulates what I am feeling in this season of my life, and the fourth line of the first verse, which is also repeated at the end of the song–“Let me do some good here while I can”–slays me every time. It brought tears to my eye as listened to the song on repeat while I wrote this piece.

I suppose that this song represents a way for me to express, as a parting word to my family and friends, that though I wasn’t perfect, I tried to something good in this life. I hope they’ll understand.

[And in case you’re wondering, the other Pettis song on my funeral playlist is “More,” a collaboration with Andrew Peterson.]

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