Some songs just get into your whole body.

The rhythm pulses in your blood, the melody lines hum in your muscles, the lyrics rest deep in your bones. The song feels as natural to you and as naturally yours as if it had emerged from your own mind and soul.

That’s how this one is for me. From the moment I first heard it, it made sense to me – from the 5/4 rhythm to the rolling musical phrases and the vibrant lyrical metaphors. I think I had this memorized before I realized I wanted to learn it.

I realize that not everyone has this experience with this song, by Jason Shelton and Mary Katherine Morn. Some, because it can be overused. Some, because their accompanists never got the hang of the 6/8+2/4 that is this particular 5/4 meter. Some, because the chorus goes high on the word ‘fire,’ a word that can be weird to sing because of its dipthong.

But for me, this song, written for the celebration of First Unitarian Universalist Nashville’s 50th anniversary in 2002, is practically perfect.

From the light of days remembered burns a beacon bright and clear
Guiding hands and hearts and spirits Into faith set free from fear.

When the fire of commitment sets our mind and soul a blaze
When our hunger and our passion meet to call us on our way
When we live with deep assurance of the flame that burns within,
Then our promise finds fulfillment and our future can begin.

From the stories of our living rings a song both brave and free,
Calling pilgrims still to witness to the life of liberty.


From the dreams of youthful vision comes a new, prophetic voice,
Which demands a deeper justice built by our courageous choice


I think it’s so strong in so many ways. Morn’s lyrics are expansive, hopeful, and to me, theologically sound. Shelton’s music is alive with joy, energy, and anticipation. I haven’t studied music composition, but as a singer I know that just as there are keys that evoke certain mood, there are also certain feelings that you get from different time signatures; my experience with songs written in 5/4 is that there’s an anticipatory feel to them, like something is not quite finished – and that’s either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the song.

Anyway. If you haven’t had a chance to really hear the song the way it should be, check out the recording from Jason’s album – you can hear the addition of percussion helps keep rhythm; additionally, playing the accompaniment with the emphases in the right hand also keeps it driving forward.

I love this song deep in my bones, and I am grateful to Jason, Mary Katherine, and all who worked to bring this song to the fore and plant it in our living tradition.

“Fire Chalice” by PeacePeg – see this and more of her beautiful work at

This song is making me angry today.

Normally, I like it – a sweet song for a stewardship campaign, for mitten tree Sundays, for services about mission or honoring our ancestors or gratitude.

But today, after another white man with a history of domestic abuse and an AK-15 murdered 26 (or more?) people, including young children and adults of all ages, IN A CHURCH, this song rings as hollow as the ‘thoughts and prayers’ offered by politicians bought and sold by the National Rifle Association. (It’s helpful to start saying their full name.) What gift can we bring, especially when we can’t keep people safe in places of sanctuary? And if churches and schools aren’t safe, what can we possibly hope to bring?

Is it possible that we could ever bring gun control and background checks and real consequences for domestic violence?

I want those things, and I have been part of a majority that elected representatives who want those things (I am fortunate to live in NY-20), but I am not the one who has any influence at all beyond my vote and my occasional ‘thanks for voting in favor of my interests’ emails to Schumer, Gillibrand, and Tonko. I am not rich. I am not male. I am not employed by a powerful lobby. I’m a simple woman-identified minister with only this blog as my pulpit right now. And while I have some moral authority, that isn’t carrying much weight with the people who can bring the gifts we need most of all.

When I remember the past and ‘those who had vision’ I remember how deftly, how surgically precise the dismantling of their progress has been by those who don’t value freedom, inherent worth and dignity, religious and racial and sexual plurality. What we see today didn’t happen a year ago today, or nine years ago this week. It happened in a coordinated fashion over time, this long, hard time of change. I’m not sure I buy Parker’s assertion about the moral arc of the universe today, because I sit here weeping at how hard Pharaoh’s heart as become and how little our moral authority can do to soften it.

The worst part of all this? Yesterday’s shooting in Texas wasn’t the only public shooting yesterday. And the shooting in the church wasn’t the only disruption in a church. And today there will be more news, another death, another eruption of violence, another decision to impinge upon the rights of humans, another woman abused, another woman raped, another child trafficked, another glacier melting, another overdose taking a life, another…another… another.. another…

And then it all becomes too much. We are not made for this kind of onslaught. Our brains are not made for this. Our hearts are not made for this. There is too much, too much, too much tragedy, trauma, and horror to bear. And it comes barreling down like that thing that chased Indiana Jones, only we’re not in an action film and no one is editing for a triumphant hero and I’m not even certain who the heroes are anymore, because this stopped feeling heroic a long time ago.


I have no answers today. I have no sense of joy today. I have only anger and tears and a need to name it.

And a hymn that wants me to find joy and hope.

Ooof. Okay. Hymn info after the lyrics.

What gift can we bring, what present, what token?
What words can convey it, the joy of this day?
When grateful we come, remembering, rejoicing,
what song can we offer in honor and praise?

Give thanks for the past, for those who had vision,
who planted and watered so dreams could come true.
Give thanks for the now, for study, for worship,
for mission that bids us turn prayer into deed.

This gift we now bring, this present, this token,
these words can convey it, the joy of this day!
When grateful we come, remembering, rejoicing,
this song we now offer in honor and praise!

This hymn, by Methodist composer Jane Marshall, is intended to be a hymn of pure gratitude, as her lyrics show – even the third verse, which we omitted:

Give thanks for tomorrow, full of surprises,
for knowing whatever tomorrow may bring,
we’re given God’s word that always, forever,
we rest in God’s keeping and live in God’s love.

Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. Set to a lilting tune, also by Marshall. Joy, praise, honor, thanks!