For What It’s Worth

Remember how I often mention my difficulty with paying attention?  Well, this post is a direct result of my being distracted for a moment.  Last week, while cutting back a ditch bank in the South Carolina summer heat, plugged into some great oldies, I had a thought that could be applicable for the blog.  The heat could have been responsible, but I rather prefer to believe my fascination with God’s providence in all things brought me to this topic.

Does anyone remember the band Buffalo Springfield?  In 1966 they were the house band at the Whiskey a Go Go, a night club on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles.  This area was home to the music and club scene, and the gathering place for a generation that would soon be in turmoil as their government was making war on the other side of the world, in a place they had never heard of.   In November of ’66 the city of LA passed a 10:00 curfew ordinance for the Sunset Strip area because of traffic and pedestrian congestion, or so they said, basically shutting down the popular club scene there.  On November 12 as many as 1000 young people staged a protest which became violent. According to witnesses, a fight broke out when the occupants of a car stuck in the traffic started a fight with protesters.  You know what happened next.  The police interpreted the fight to be protester violence and it all went south.  In the days following the riots Stephen Stills, vocalist and guitarist for Buffalo Springfield, and later would be famous as a member of the folk rock supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, wrote the song “For What It’s Worth,” also known as “Stop, Hey What’s that Sound.”  The lyrics were inspired by the Sunset strip riots, which deeply affected Stills.  He saw the pent up anger from both the youth culture and the civil government collide on the streets of LA, where no side was a winner.  A few weeks later Stills contacted an Atlantic Records producer and said something to the effect,  “I have this song here, for what it’s worth, if you want it.”  On December 6, “For What It’s Worth,” the title given in jest, was recorded. This solidified the theme song for a generation in turmoil.  While only peaking at #7 on the 1967 Billboard Charts,  today it sits at #63 of Rolling Stone Magazine’s top 500.

Obviously when Stills arranged and recorded these lyrics he nor his mates ever considered what an impact they would make.  In the turbulent decade that would follow, these lyrics would inspire young baby boomers who were voicing their desire for cultural freedom, African Americans struggling for social equality, and soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines trying not to die in foreign political campaigns.  Even Forrest Gump would tell his story set to the music of Buffalo Springfield.

There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind
It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side
It’s s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away
We better stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, now, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

Understand, I am no free love hippie and am not promoting civil disobedience.  Nor am I seeking to glorify a musical artist.  What I am highlighting is how in God’s sovereign providence something seemingly benign can work for change, and always for our good and his glory.  Whether you believe that some of the changes brought about by those who were inspired by this song were good, God says that they were. Rom. 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for GOOD…”  For if one of God’s attributes is goodness, then all he does must be good.

You never know how God will use even the most seemingly small event in your life.  The butterfly effect is God’s trademark.  Always remember that behind all you do is an all powerful, all knowing, and everywhere present God, who will direct your path with or without your help.  When you speak a small word to a stranger, do the anonymous good deed, or even write a song,  you have started a wave of providence that will have impact on some shore.  Don’t become discouraged that your role as a member of the body of Christ is insignificant.  Even if you doubt your fulfilment of Paul’s instruction to the Romans (12:1), to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, as if anyone does, you can offer your service through your daily walk before men, and trust that God will provide the affect.  Always remember that your efforts are worthy because Christ makes them so.


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