Start a 14 Day Free Trial Today

In Isolation: March 29, “I Am”

An introduction to this “In Isolation” blog series appears at the top of the March 22 post.

One of my long-time favourite titles among the pieces I’ve created with John Oldham is “I Am”. The music has a light bluesy feel to it which seemed to suit the text. The tune came very quickly and it is one I’ve continued to enjoy playing and singing for my own enjoyment late at night.

Concerning these days of confusion and uncertainty, I’ve heard and read a lot about people crying, “Where is God in this?”. This lyric is a fine reminder of the intimate and yet wildly various ways, places and times in which we can experience the wonder of of creation, the preciousness of everything human and the god potential within each of us.

John Oldham writes of his poem:

“I Am” was written while I was serving as United Church minister at Rama First Nations near Orillia, Ontario. I was moved to jot down the words on a piece of bedside paper early in the morning. It was inspired by Exodus 3: 11-15.

While in conversation with God, a reluctant Moses is told “I will be with you.”

Anticipating his return to the Israelites, Moses is concerned that they will ask him, “What’s his name?”

Moses asks God, “So what can I tell them?”

God responds, “I am who I am. You must tell them that the one who is called I AM has sent you to them… This is my name forever; this is what the future generations are to call me.”

The poetry flowed onto the page effortlessly, as if by automatic writing (or spiritual dictation!). For me “I Am” has a mystical quality, beyond the confines of religious orthodoxy, and creedal propriety, rooted in nature and relationships. It is a psalm of reassurance concluding with “I am and I will be with you” which is the promise that Moses received from I AM. We need to trust that same reassurance today in dealing with the crisis of the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Ron set music to the lyrics in 1997, fairly soon after he moved from Cambridge, Ontario to Vancouver Island. In May of 1998 it was sung at various concerts in Vancouver, Parksville and Naramata. Ron included it in his “Song Circling All the Earth” anthology concerts in Victoria BC and Halifax NS in 2005 and on his 2006 Cross-Canada Tour.

It is my favourite of approximately 25 songs Ron has crafted from the pile of poems I have dumped on him over the decades, our first being “Sweetgrass and Candle” in 1992 and the most recent being “I Wish You the Blessing.”

I am the sunshine in the morn.
I am the cry of love’s new born.
I am the rain upon the lawn.
I am the mourning dove at dawn.

I am a friendship warm and close.
I am the banquet guest and host.
I am the presence you can’t see.
I am the voice of harmony.

I am the holy; sacred one.
I am the light of noon-day sun.
I am the wonder of the stars.
I am the spirit near, yet far.

I am a friendship warm and close.
I am the banquet guest and host.
I am the presence you can’t see.
I am the voice of harmony.

I am the call deep in your soul.
I am the voice that says be whole.
I am and I will be with you;
I am a guiding hand for you.

Words copyright © 1996 by John Oldham.