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Plodding through Life

Sunday, August 7, 2011, 21:52 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said, “I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish He didn’t trust me so much.” The woman had a sense of humor, which should be a prerequisite for any job that involves taking care of the very poorest of the world’s poor.

Sometimes, life’s trials are more personal. After folk legend Woody Guthrie found out he had Huntington’s Chorea, the fatal genetic disorder that ended his life at age 55, he wrote what he imagined God might say to someone who faced such tribulations. What he imagined doesn’t begin to answer the question most people in crisis ask—Why?—but it reaches the same conclusion that Mother Teresa did: life might suck, but God is there nonetheless.

I didn’t promise you skies painted blue
Nor all colored flowers all your days through
I didn’t promise you sun with no rain
Joys without sorrows, peace without pain

All that I promise is strength for this day
Rest for my worker, and light on your way
I give you truth when you need it, my help from above
Undying friendship, my unfailing love

I never did promise you crowns without trials
Food with no hard sweat, your tears without smiles
Hot sunny days without cold wintry snows
No vict’ry without fightin’, no laughs without woes

All that I promise is strength for this day
Rest for my worker, my light on your way
I give you truth when you need it, my help from above
Undying friendship, my unfailing love

I sure didn’t say I’d give you heaven on earth
A life with no labor, no struggles, no deaths
No earthquakes, no dryspells, no fire flames, no droughts
No slaving, no hungers, no blizzards, no blights

All that I promise is strength for this day
Rest for my worker, my light on your way
I give you truth when you need it, my help from above
Undying friendship, my unfailing love

I promise you power, this minute this hour
The power you need when you fall down to bleed
I give you my peace, and my strength to pull home
My love for all races all creeds and all kinds

My flavors, my saviors, my creeds of all kinds
My love for my saviors, all colors, all kinds
My love for my races, all creeders, all kinds
My saviors, my flavors, my dancers all kinds
My dancers, my prancers, my singers all kinds
My flavors, my saviors, my dancers all kinds.

Decades after Guthrie’s death, contemporary folk artist Ellis Paul wrote music for these lyrics and recorded the song. Here’s a YouTube video clip from an episode of my friend Monica’s television series, Mostly Rock n Roll, in which Ellis talks about the song and then performs it at a coffeehouse in Franklin, Massachusetts. (I was the camera operator for the interview.)

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Categories: faith/religion, life, music
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