Rev. John Farmer’s ‘Reflections’ column

by John Howard Farmer

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Singing Away

I’m almost always singing. Most of the time, it is an old hymn favorite, or a new infectious devotional, which tugs at my heartstrings. But there is a darker side to my music library. It is a side that started back in the forties with “toss-‘em-back” moments with family in beer-joints, around old south Richmond. Sometimes those old guitar-banjo-picking tunes hike me back to memories galore, albeit some of them dark.

Many times I have been captured by a contemporary ditty that just won’t go away. It wasn’t too many years back when I couldn’t go into Sal’s, Kilmarnock, when I didn’t have to plop quarters (many) into the juke box to hear “There’s a Tear in My Beer, When I am Crying for You Dear.” Imagine, and me a pastor… Folks, many of my youth after-war years were socialized by family members on bar stools.

“Take the Long Way Home” was a single which reached number 10 on the U.S. charts. The song radiates the frustrations of the emptiness of a man’s heart and his love for his woman whom he cannot protect from his own lostness. Know the words?

“Well, I stumbled in the darkness, I’m lost and alone; though I said I’d go before us and show the way back home.”

“There’s a light up ahead, I can’t hold onto her arm. Forgive me, pretty baby, but I always take the long way home.”

“Money’s just something you throw off the back of a train.”

“Got a head full of lightning, a hat full of rain, and I know that I said I’d never do it again.  …But I’d trade it all tomorrow for the highway instead.”

The song is about the shallowness of contemporary success, taking the long way home.

The movie story of the Jews’ Holocaust liberation in 1945, “The Long Way Home,” portrays the story of survivors during the period of 1945 to 1948. It begins at the liberation’s long-awaited day, when the survivors of the Nazi terror could go home. But to where? Home is not geographic, not only where the heart is, it is where God awaits our reunion.

I heard, and have sung, a parody of “Highway to Hell” which was recorded by AC/DC. Imagine Farmer and AC/DC — you will keep that a secret, eh? The lyrics, written by Stephen Starbuck, are predicated upon Proverbs 16:17, Romans 6:23, Isaiah 35:8: “And a highway will be there: it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that way, wicked fools will not go about on it.”

Here’s a sample: “It’s easy, it’s free; God’s the ticket, to a one-way ride, repent, see, you’ll be heavenly.

“It’s only for those who stride in the way—wicked people banned.

“Ain’t nowhere I would rather go, going up, heavenly time.

“Are you gonna go up there too?

“I’m on the Highway to Heaven, on the Highway to Heaven.

“Can’t stop me! And I’m goin… All the way!”

What highway are you on?

The Bible is our spiritual road map to heaven.

God tells us through the book of Isaiah: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth, and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall my word be which goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:6-11).

In those days, people knew that rain fell from heaven, bringing life and growth, then returned to heaven as vapor. God’s word does the same, coming down from him, accomplishing what he intends, and does not return to him empty. Truly God’s word returns to him, as the rains return to the skies.

Have our own words have ever returned to us? When we are careless in what we say, words can often come back to us later, with a vengeance. We should try to speak only Godly things to each other.

Paul tells about certain people who deliberately “exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures” (Romans 1:23). They did all sorts of unnatural and evil things, outlined in the remainder of the first chapter of Romans.

As we try to find the high road and take it, as we try to live God’s way, let’s remember that the high road, although straight and narrow, is the road that leads to eternal life in the resurrection.

Keeping our minds pointed heavenward, rather than down to the earth, lets us stay focused on doing Godly things.

The low road is the way that leaves us earthbound, hell-threatened, in our sinful nature. The high road is the way which takes our souls and minds heavenward, taking us closer to God.

Shall we all take the high road?

You choose…