Never Failed

My husband is a big Tom Waits fan. Tom’s voice is unique; knarled and gravelly, true, raw, spinning elaborate and oblique musical tales. 

My husband is a big Tom Waits fan. Tom’s voice is unique; knarled and gravelly, true, raw, spinning elaborate and oblique musical tales.  He’s got some interesting songs out there (not for the faint of heart…some songs should come with a potty-mouth label); musical vanguard stuff. 

I’m not sure I’m cool enough to count him as part of my musical cache, but I’m glad I got a chance to listen.

But…one day I was forced to hear, against my will, a Tom Waits classic. Almost 20 minutes. One song. On repeat. No verses, just chorus.

Jesus’ blood never failed me yet
Never failed me yet
Jesus’ blood never failed me yet
This one thing I know
For he loves me so …

It was as if the length of the song was either proving or testing the assertion of the chorus.

Which intrigued me at first. Then annoyed me.

Then I just wanted to hurl the computer that was playing the song.

The vocals weren’t that good. The chorus never stopped.

Never stopped.

NEVER stopped.

And after all, I had other things to do and hear, thank you very much. We were already running late for a Chipotle run. Why stop to hear a…worship song?

I have to thank Tom Waits and Gavin Bryers (and my husband!). They taught me a lesson. The backstory is that a composer, Gavin Bryers, found a recording of a homeless man singing these words.

The composer gathered a symphony to play around the man’s vocals and then added Tom Waits’ vocals in the last 10 minutes. The simple song of a man in inauspicious circumstances became the singular focus and inspiration of master musicians. Ironically, the homeless man died before he heard the heightened version of his praise.

But one day, the chorus of gratitude to Jesus will indeed never stop. The voice of every single redeemed person will ring out in unending gratitude because of the endless potency of our Savior’s blood.

It will be the sweetest chorus I will ever hear, and nothing else will matter more.

I hope I get to stand next to the man who taught Tom Waits about the Never-Failing Blood.

Sharifa Stevens

Sharifa Stevens is a Manhattan-born, Bronx-raised child of the King, born to Jamaican immigrants, and currently living in Dallas. Sharifa's been singing since she was born. Her passion is to serve God's kingdom by leading His people in worship through music, speaking and writing, and relationships with people. Her heart is also unity, inspired by John. Sharifa hates exercise but likes Chipotle, bagels with a schmeer and lox, salmon sushi, chicken tikka, curried goat (yeah, it's good) with rice and peas, and chocolate lava cakes. She's been happily married to Jonathan since 2006...and he buys her Chipotle.


  • Avatar

    Gwynne Johnson

    Thanks for the reminder…
    Thanks for reminding me this morning of where my strength really comes from.

    • Avatar

      Sharifa Stevens

      Attention Span

      Gwynne, you’ve touched on something. I know that I have such a short attention span for anything, that I can’t be still and just soak in the moment. Masterfully multitasking is a coveted skill these days.

      But the art of contemplation suffers in the deluge of technological/social/media overstimulation. I struggle to appreciate one thing at a time.

      And boy has that affected the way I worship, because I put "production-value" timing on prayer, music, speaking. And if it’s not to my satisfaction, I tune out.

      I need the disicpline to sit and saturate. I need the Holy Spirit to teach me through patience and stillness and a diversity of worship-style exposures.

  • Avatar


    I am that man
    I can identify with more than the words. I am that man in many ways. I have nothing to offer, nothing to rely on, and no where to go.

    I can’t speak for this homeless brother of ours, but I know that the simplicity of truth shocks me – for I am a wretched mess, held together by grace. I deserve to be less than homeless…

    • Avatar

      Sharifa Stevens

      Thanks Be to God

      bleek, I totally get you. Feeling more needy of God’s grace now more than ever.

      Thanks be to God for being the lifter of my head when others come to accuse, or I accuse myself. Thanks be to God for allowing us to sing His praises, for making us fit to sing His praises.

      Our righteousness is as filthy rags, and so would our songs be, were it not for the healing power of God, and our adoption as sons and daughters through faith in Jesus. Wow.

      He makes our songs glimmer with hope.

  • Avatar


    What is it about our boys
    What is it about our boys and their music?? I love that it led you to a teachable moment! I love the thought of being led to worship even in something that just might not fit “our style.” Things have become so specialized in our day and age…almost fast-foodish? “I”ll take one Chris Tomlin, up-tempo, followed by a thoughtful Nicole C. Mullen, with a quick Wesley hymn, acoustic only.” Thank the Lord that He’s faithful to challenge us to remember that it’s about Him, regardless of our preferences!

    • Avatar

      Sharifa Stevens

      Amen, Sister! I love how

      Amen, Sister! I love how you "super-sized" it all up. :o)

      And yeah, what is it about our boys and their music?

    • Avatar

      Sharifa Stevens

      Definitely beauty in ashes. But God’s specialty is fashioning life from earth, isn’t it? No wonder Paul compares us to clay pots!

  • Avatar

    Brian Seagraves

    I am confused as to why a
    I am confused as to why a “christian” blog is linking to and seemingly promoting a foul-mouthed secular artist. I believe I understand the point of the entry, but I think it could have been made in a much better way. Just my two-cents…

    • Avatar

      Sharifa Stevens

      Response to Brian’s Comment


      Thanks for taking the time to read my post. I appreciate that you have an opinion about how I could have made my point better. I always have room for improvement! It would be really helpful though, if in the future, you could include in your critique ways to improve.

      • Avatar


        Perhaps he was commenting on the fact that instead of just referencing the artist you actually placed a link to Tom Waits web page. That would lead me to conclude, that although you stated otherwise, that you are in a way promoting this individual.

        The point of your post would have been just as clear without the support of creating an actual link to an artist that I would not permit my children to listen to due to the content of some of the songs.

        In today’s world adding a disclaimer like “Don’t say I didn’t warn ya!” isn’t enough when your link could be clicked by those who may not be as strong in the faith as you may be.

        1Co 8:9 But be careful that this liberty of yours does not become a hindrance to the weak.

        In 1 Thes chapter 5 we are also told to not even give the APPEARANCE of evil. We need to make sure that this is true in everything we do. Whether it is posting a link on a blog page or making gestures when someone cuts us off when we are driving. We are to BE as Christ to a lost and dying world, not linking to a site that clearly does not honor God.

        So my suggestion to improve your post would be to remove the link all together, if people want to google the artist that is between them and God, you however would not be promoting his site in any way.

        • Avatar

          Sharifa Stevens

          Thanks for the Constructive Criticism

          Thanks for the constructive criticism, Jennifer. I acknowledge your position and promise to weigh it carefully in writing future posts. I definitely don’t want to cause the weaker in the faith to stumble with any future links.

          My intention in writing is to be like Christ, in that He was usually hanging out in unexpected places and with unexpected people. The characters in His stories were unlikely heroes. He had a way of using irony, suspense, and rhetoric in His parables that left the listener at times uncomfortable, pensive, or angry, or changed.

          I don’t want to downplay the appearance of evil, or get carried away with the liberty I have in Christ. I take this work seriously. I’ve sought the counsel of trusted people to look over my work and give me honest feedback about whether it’s leading people astray. I don’t think this post does that. I think that we’re just going to have to (hopefully) respectfully disagree on this one.

          I wrote about a hymn, a song of worship, coming from an unexpected place. And in a lot of ways, I’m an unexpected hymn of God’s grace, totally undeserving and imperfect, but still singing. I am utterly dependent on God’s grace, the Holy Spirit’s leading, and the mind of Christ.

    • Avatar


      While I appreciate your perspective, I didn’t take it that way. I don’t think a link to something suggests endorsement, esp because the author of the post warned up front about the foul language. Part of what made it such a teachable moment, it seems, is precisely because she found grace in such an unexpected place and the “backstory” made something otherwise repetitous suddenly beauty-filled.

  • Avatar

    Waity Stuff


    Sharifa, as a brother who is weaker in the faith, I do appreciate how much concern other Christians have for my spiritual walk. However, the power of this article is the fact that God and his truth appears everywhere

  • Avatar


    not surprised…
    every once in a while I get reminded how silly and trite the ‘christian’ community is. I would quote a puritan at this point, but I fear that no one would recognize his work.

    I liked the post and it is true – going way back to Augustine, “all truth is God’s truth”. I am sure that if someones faith (the thing that was given to them by grace) was SO weak that they could not step out of the Christian box, then the Spirit would convict them in staying home and such. Certainly it is silliness to think that going to a ‘non-christians’ website would undo the very foundations of a persons justification before the Lord… that is “the faith” in which it is written that God is not only the author but perfecter of as well.

    it is my prayer that my church will never resemble the lyrics of Derek Webb’s song, T-Shirt’s:

    they’ll know us by the t-shirts that we wear
    they’ll know us by the way we point and stare
    at anyone whose sin looks worse than ours
    who cannot hide the scars of this curse that we all bare