Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hard Times: The Gospel According to William Elliott Whitmore

William Elliott Whitmore has written a lot of great music over the years. His voice is gravely yet soulful. His style is bluesy yet earthy. His lyrics are brooding yet hopeful. Plus, he's a good old fashion Iowa-farm-boy-turned-rock-star. Seriously good stuff.

Whitmore wrote a song called "Hard Times" that explores the idea that the difficulties we face in life actually make us who we are. Instead of letting the tough times break us down, we can try to emerge from them as resilient as possible. In life we can't always choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we respond to those things. And for that reason there is always hope. The hard times we face might not be optimal, but we can choose to use those expereinces to better our lives and the lives of others. In an interview, Whitmore says: "Sometimes it takes a little difficulty to squeeze the creativity out of people. To help people reprioritize their lives. To look at things a little differently." Hard times can be defining times.

We thought the theme of Whitmore's song "Hard Times" described the hard times that Jesus faced in the wilderness (Mark 1:12; Matthew 4:1-8; Luke 4:1-13). This song could easily be playing as a soundtrack while reading this story. So, I wrote an additional verse to the song that tied in Jesus' story of hard times with the other stories of hard times in the song. Then Sara recorded this "collaboration" between Whitmore and myself. Here are the lyrics and video:

My Grandma's Grandpa
Came over across the sea
In the boiler room of a steam ship
On his way from Germany

He was running from the Kaiser
Who was putting the hammer down
And the cries of the dying men
Were such an awful sound
They were such an awful sound

Hard times
Hard times
Hard times made us

And my father was a railroad man
A mechanic, and son of the soil
His back was busted
And his hands were cut and sore
His hands were cut and sore

But he swore that hard times
Hard times
Hard times made us

You know that hard times
Hard times
Hard times made us
And I would not trade them all for anything

Uncle Sam
Well he aint no kin to me
And what we have
Is a crisis of authority
Its a crisis of authority

Hard times
Hard times
Hard times made us

You know that hard times
Hard times
Hard times made us
And I would not trade them all for anything

[Extra "Jesusy" lyrics by Brian]

My savior Jesus
Went into the wilderness
And he faced many difficulties
As he overcame his distress

And those forty long days of temptation
Were breaking his spirit down
But the Lord was with him then
Making hope out of hopelessness
Oh, making hope out of hopelessness

Lord, you know that hard times
Hard times
Hard times made us

You know that hard times
Hard times
Hard times made us
And I would not trade them all for anything

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