The Light of a Clear Blue Morning

Dolly Parton arr. Craig Hella Johnson

Yes, you read that right. Dolly Parton. It felt somehow right this week to shake things up with something a little less directly sacred. I think there is something to be said for familiar things. Likely, many of the pieces shared here have been new to a number of you (although I am confident you are familiar with last week’s focus, “Come Thou Fount”), and so a return to something familiar musically seemed appropriate.

Familiarity is an interesting idea in these times. In so many ways, what we’re experiencing is unprecedented, unwelcome, unfamiliar. Ironically, perhaps the most significant action we can take to do our part is to spend time in the most familiar of places – our own home – with the most familiar of folks – our own family. Of course it’s not that simple, because though the place is the most familiar and the people are the most familiar does not mean the experience is at all familiar. We interact with these same people in different ways right now – parents are suddenly teachers, partners are suddenly office-mates, and family reunions are now Zoom calls.

There’s a lot of familiarity that we’re missing, too.

I think the trick may be in reinventing what familiar looks like. In his arrangement of this piece, Craig Hella Johnson reimagines what a Clear Blue Morning looks like for him. The tune stays pretty true to the Dolly Parton original, but he takes that tune and remolds it for the circumstance he finds himself in. In his case, he has a choir, not a country band. The differences between this arrangement and the original don’t make either worse, they just meet different needs.

Our current unfamiliar situation serves the very different set of needs in our community right now, but there are also ways we can lean into this unfamiliar circumstance to experience something new.

Scripture is rife with illustrations of the morning and the newness of the dawn. Each sunrise is new and different, but it rises the same every day. So it is with the gifts of God – familiar and new, all at once.

Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I put my trust in you.
Psalm 143:8


He wakens me morning by morning,
wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.
Isaiah 50:4b

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