That Strong Hand


This is a break from the “Hidden Messages of American Christianity” series.

I’m at that age where I think about mortality more readily. There’s something about reaching your forties that the aura of invincibility has totally worn off. I turned 43 a few weeks ago and my middle brother joins me in that fifth decade this weekend.

I seem to like a lot of dead authors and musicians, especially those that shuffled off this mortal coil before their time. Keith Green has long occupied my pantheon of greats, Rich Mullins and I attended the same church for a while, and Mark Heard penned the one Christian song that I wish I had written. Dry Bones DanceGreen never made it to 30 and Mullins and Heard were barely into their 40s.

After a long while searching for a pristine example of Heard’s Dry Bones Dance, I was able to find an unopened copy. Evidently it’s in print again—lucky me. This makes the second CD I’ve purchased in the last three years. (Note to young guys: You won’t believe me, but you start getting burned out on music. Somewhere along the line you’ll be fifty and playing nothing but old Coldplay albums, harkening back to your youth. Trust me on this one. I’m still stuck in that era from 1976-1991. I hear “More Than a Feeling” or “Wheel in the Sky” and start getting all misty-eyed.)

My copy of this outstanding zydeco/country/pop/folk album from 1990 arrived today and I can’t stop playing it. I never got into all of Heard’s stuff, but this collection is superior. My hard drive is just about fried from looping through it all day—I burned it to iTunes almost immediately.

Why such passion? Like I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, this album contains what I consider to be the best lyrics ever written in a CCM song. That song is “Strong Hand of Love”:

Down peppers the rain from a clear blue sky
Down trickles a tear on a youthful face
Feeling in haste and wondering why
Up struggles the sun from a wounded night
Out venture our hearts from their silent shrouds
Trying to ignite but wondering how

We can laugh and we can cry
And never see the strong hand of love hidden in the shadows
We can dance and we can sigh
And never see the strong hand of love hidden in the shadows

Young dreamers explode like popped balloons
Some kind of emotional rodeo
Learning too slow and acting too soon
Time marches away like a lost platoon
We gracefully age as we feel the weight
Of loving too late and leaving too soon

We can laugh and we can cry
And never see the strong hand of love hidden in the shadows
We can dance and we can sigh
And never see the strong hand of love hidden in the shadows

Mark Heard – 1990 Ideola Music

I told my wife that I want this song played at my funeral. I can promise you that even if I go at 109, I would still want to have others know that the Father’s Strong Hand of Love is always there, even in the shadows.

Too many of us love too late and leave too soon. God knows how much of my life has been lived with regrets. All those years consumed by the locusts and still I’m picking them off me.

Far too maudlin for the Christmas season? Jesus was born to die and so are we. What gets us through to the end is seeing the Strong Hand of Love hidden in the shadows.

May this season be filled with us noticing that Strong Hand more than we ever have before.

Have a great weekend.

3 thoughts on “That Strong Hand

  1. Bob

    Dan, it is so good to find somebody else who likes Mark Heard. I believe the man was one of the best rock lyricists of our time, Christian or not. And Strong Hand is one of his best efforts. If you can ever get the postjumous tribute album, do so. It’s wonderful.

  2. Susan

    Wow!! I had to rent a car this week and it had a CD Player and super-speakers in it and so I grabbed a few choice CD’s for my commute to work..and one was Mark Heard’s High Noon! “Strong Hand of Love” is one of my favorites on the album.

  3. candleman

    Hi Dan,

    Great post, and I concur about the age thing, and I have one more year on ya. Keith Green’s music still has a special place in my heart after all these years. I saw him in concert in Lancaster PA., and he asked me and my buddies to help him set up. I blog about it here. I remember the concert like it was yesterday.


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