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Song of the Month #8 - “Shake the Dust Off Your Sandals”

(Track #2 on the Caught in the Middle CD)


                   Lyrics:  If your web browser does not support the Flash Player* included with the Lyrics, or you are uncomfortable allowing/downloading the plug-in/add-on, you can still listen to this song while you read.  Just go to our Downloads Page and click on the link, “Buy Caught in the Middle Songs from Napster”.  Then, click on "Shake the Dust Off Your Sandals."  You can listen to it for free (not available outside the USA).

                                 *Not being a techie, I use the term “Flash Player” loosely.




In the early 1970s, Mark and Katie Warfel, two friends of mine who now live in Clinton, New York, gave me a Braille copy of the New Testament.  At the time, I was a “recovering Catholic,” and I was not in the market for any religion of any kind.  I initially started reading the book to improve my Braille reading skills, but as time moved along, I found myself drawn to the book every day.  I only read about a page or two, and then I gave myself some time for reflection and meditation.  Well, it is now 2007, and I am still a “recovering Catholic.”  Also, I’m still not in the market for any religion of any kind.  The book is leaning against my computer desk, and I still read a page or two a day, reflect, and meditate.  So, go figure!


As I read these stories over the years, I would often find myself making connections with my life and the book’s episodes.  For example, in my classroom, whenever I would have to stop kids from selling candy for their fund-raisers, I would find myself chuckling, thinking about Christ turning over the tables of the money changers who sold their goods in the temple.  When I told the kids that my classroom was a house of prayer, not a den of thieves, no one got the allusion, and once again, I found myself laughing alone.


In addition to teaching, I also saw connections with the Bible and the music world.  Siobhan and I play a wide variety of venues, and some of these places have introduced us to some rather seedy characters.  I am very comfortable with these undesirables because I am just as much an outcast as they are.  The New Testament verifies this.  If you look closely, the stories of the Bible often lump the deaf, dumb, blind, crippled, prostitutes, tax collectors, and criminals into one group of rejects.  They’re all waiting around to be cured or saved.  Christ often gets criticized for spending time with these pariahs, but he responds by telling the Pharisees and Sadducees that he did not come to heal the healthy.  As a result, when I am with my outsider friends in some dive bar, I often look around to see if Christ has stopped by to spend some time with us.  Quite often he does, and when it happens, I usually hear his voice coming out of the mouth of one of my unsavory friends.


By now, you readers of the scriptures know where I am going, so I will quickly clear things up for you non readers.  In the New Testament Christ sends his disciples on their mission.  He tells them to go from town to town spreading their message.  If they are accepted, they should embrace the members of the community; however, if the people of the village reject the message, they should shake the dust off their sandals, and move on to the next town.


This simple story has inspired me for years.  Teaching and playing music have always subjected me to rejection, and this little tale has always restored my spirits and given me the confidence I needed to persevere.  As a result, the phrase, “Shake the dust off your sandals” has become a code by which I live.


“Shake the Dust Off Your Sandals” emerged into a song sometime in the mid ‘90s.  I don’t know where I was when it happened.  It could have been in this room, downstairs, on a walk, or riding in the car.  What I do remember is the song started with the chorus, so it probably got going shortly after one of my re-readings of the story.  Also, most likely I was rebounding from a defeating experience in either teaching or music.  The chorus developed as a code for living because that was what the phrase was for me.


Because this code or phrase, whatever you want to call it, played such an instrumental part in keeping my heart and soul spiritually free, I decided the verses would be a reflection of my own life’s experiences.  I created the verses into a ballad where I, the narrator, recount the trials and tribulations of my life.  At the conclusion of each verse, I indicate that my freedom has come from listening to my Friend.  In the final verse I reveal the identity of my friend.  It is my heart.  My heart has kept me free throughout my life, because whenever the message coming from it was rejected, my heart encouraged me to shake the dust off my sandals and move on to share the message with someone else.


The song, a folk song with spiritual nuances, moves along in a somewhat free flowing manner falling somewhere in the middle of a tender ballad and a hard driving tune.  With a guitar, a mandolin, a harmonica, a bass, drums, and backup harmonies, John and Joe Dady and Tim Chaapel help Siobhan and me in creating one of those songs for contemplation, reflection, and inspiration.  I like it, and I hope you do, too.


I dedicated this song to Luke and the boys.  The boys, of course, are Matthew, Mark, and John, and they, along with their sidekick Luke, are the writers of the gospels.  These guys have been part of my life for over thirty-five years, so it is about time I give them some credit for inspiring me when I need it.  Their writings have made me better at forgiving, respecting, understanding, being courageous, developing confidence, persevering, finding patience, having faith, accepting guidance, seeking wisdom, acquiescing, and loving.


I would also like to thank Mark and Katie Warfel for their powerful gift.  Little did they know how much their present would significantly impact the direction of my life!


We recorded this song in 1998 at The Garage, a little studio in Rochester, New York.  The Garage, as I have told you before, is owned and operated by John and Joe Dady, two quintessential musicians.  When you record with them, you can always count on great coffee, good stories, and an aching stomach from laughing.  I highly recommend John and Joe if you are interested in recording.  Also, The Dady Brothers, John and Joe’s group, have many recordings of their own, and they tour the United States and Ireland.  Check them out on the web at


Tim Chaapel owns Mobile Music, a great music store in Canandaigua.  If you think you might be interested in playing an instrument, stop in.  Tim will get you off to a great start!  He has guitars that make you look really sexy!  Also, if your instrument has fallen on hard times, Tim will get it sounding like new in no time.  Check him out on the web at


Well, there you have it.  I’ll have another song of the month for you next month.  If you have any comments or suggestions, please pass them on to me.  This is a work in progress, and I am always looking for new ways to improve it.



(E-Mailed 11/18/07)






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