#Song4Lent · Bible Study · Church of England · Churches Together in Britain · Felixstowe · Lent · Movie · Musical Theatre

A Song for Lent – Day 17 – Learning to say ‘no’ by saying ‘yes’

To Read: Click on song title to watch a video

I Cain’t Say No

from ‘Oklahoma!’

I’m just a girl who cain’t say ‘No’
I’m in a terrible fix!
I always say ‘Come on, let’s go’ just when I oughta say ‘Nix.’
When a person tries to kiss a girl
I know she oughta give his face a smack!
But as soon as someone kisses me
I somehow sorta wanna kiss him back!
I’m just a fool when lights are low. I cain’t be prissy an’ quaint
I ain’t the type that can faint. How can I be what I ain’t?
I cain’t say ‘No!’

Whatcha gonna do when a feller gets flirty
An’ starts to talk purty. Whatcha gonna do?
Sposin’ that he says that your lips are like cherries,
Or roses, or berries? Whatcha gonna do?
Sposin’ that he says that yer sweeter ‘n cream
and he’s gotta have cream or die?
Whatcha gonna do when he talks that way?
Spit in his eye?

I’m jist a girl who cain’t say ‘No’, cain’t seem to say it at all
I hate to disserpoint a beau when he is payin’ a call!
Fer a while I ack refined and cool,
A settin on the velveteen setee
Nen I think of thet ol’ Golden Rule,
And do fer him what he would do fer me!
I cain’t resist a Romeo in a sombrero and chaps
Soon as I sit on their laps, Somethin’ inside of me snaps
I cain’t say ‘No’!

I’m jist a girl who cain’t say ‘No’
Kissin’s my favorite food!
With or without the mistletoe I’m in a holiday mood!
Other girls are coy an’ hard to catch
But other girls ain’t havin’ any fun!
Ev’ry time I lose a wrastlin’ match
I have a funny feelin’ that I won!
Though I can feel the underto I never make a complaint
Till it’s too late for restraint, then when I want to, I cain’t
I cain’t say ‘No!


From the Scriptures:

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Romans 7.21-25


To Reflect: 

The Musical ‘Oklahoma!’ is permanently engraved in the hearts and minds of boys who were at The Royal Hospital School in the late 1960’s because we ‘couldn’t say no’. 

At School the Saturday movie was the highlight of the week.  Each of us was docked 6d from our pocket money so that the Head of Geography could hire a movie, along with a cartoon by Good Old Fred Quimby, for our delectation on the only free evening we had.  We grew up on a feast of John Wayne and War movies and we often looked forward to something, anything to be honest, which would make our serge-blue lives a little brighter.  Then ‘Oklahoma’ makes its appearance…

Needless to say we were not impressed and so began to chat amongst Oklahamaourselves. The movie was abruptly stopped and a magisterial voice from the Projector Room boomed, ‘If you boys don’t stop talking, I will cancel the movie and you will be sent back to your boarding houses’.  We did not need another invitation to put Ado Annie’s song into deeds and started talking even louder!  The next week there was no movie and 700 boys found themselves in detention.

Ado Annie’s song in ‘Oklahoma!’ and my schoolmates and my ‘rebellion’, is a perfect illustration of the words from Romans.

I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.

Romans 7v19 

Now when I was a testosterone driven teenager, overflowing with all the passions that come with the wonderful adventure of adolescence, I almost expected frequent failings and fallings, after all growing in faith takes time. I would have hoped that, now I am in my 60’s, they would have died down just a little bit.  Again and again I kick myself for ‘not doing the good I ‘want to do’ and turning instead to do evil. ‘Wretched man that I am!’

Subduing passions, the suppression of the sins of the ‘flesh’, is hard work.  More especially so when the church down the centuries has confused physical acts of wrongdoing (the sins of the body) with misplaced desires (the sins of the flesh). For me this has meant I have spent too much time weighing up how ‘holy’ I am against a checklist of sins instead of trying to rid myself of what it is within me that drives me to live a disordered life.

When Augustine of Hippo spoke of a restless heart trying to find a resting place inside the heart of The One Who Loves us Best he had made a few other stops along the way!  Just as I have done, and continue to do, in my continual battle to learn to say ‘no’.

René Girard[1] and his disciple James Alison[2] have helped me to understand to look for the ‘end of desire’.  Not an empty passionless stoic place wherein our personalities and distinctiveness have been neutered, but a place of fulfilment and certainty which proclaims that we no longer need to struggle and we are safe.

The Good News Bible version of Psalm 46v10, usually translated ‘Be still, and know that I am God’ perhaps expresses this place well: 

‘Stop fighting,” he says, “and know that I am God,

supreme among the nations, supreme over the world.’


I have always known that God is in charge of everything and all are called to come home into the loving arms of the One who ‘was pleased to reconcile to himself all things’ (Colossians 1.19) but, to be honest, I have not always believed that I am worthy of such a great love.

Like Ado Annie, I know I should but ‘I Cain’t Say No’ not so much to the siren call of sin but to the desire within myself.  Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

To Pray: 

O God, in Jesus Christ you fell, for love,
into the dark earth and died:
give us grace to wait in patient hope and love
for the rich harvest you have promised,
that will blossom in our hearts
with abundant life and love for all the world:
through Jesus Christ we pray
who is the promise of your love
restored, renewed and multiplied.

Simon Bailey, England
(written. when approaching death)


To Do:

1)  Sing a love song today.
2)  Next time you give in to a sin, and the guilt which accompanies it, try also to ‘give in’ to the love of the One who loves you more than you do yourself.

Encore: Click on song title to watch a video

In the long running courtship between Ado Annie and Will Parker, Annie finally manages to put the glittering attractions offered by Ali Hakim to one side and proclaims that she is an All ‘er Nothing kind of girl. One of the ways to find ‘The End of Desire’ is to give ourselves completely to One Perfect Love.  May you fall in love today.


Prayers are from ‘Prayers Encircling the World’ and are copyright © SPCK: 1998.
Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
These Reflections, ‘A Song for Lent – 40 Days in the West End’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2018

[1] For a short biography of Girard visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/René_Girard
[2] Some of James Alison’s talks can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/René_Girard

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