Something lovely for the weekend (15.2.16)

 

Since I published on Thursday, this version of the song No longer Slaves, has been on my mind, along with the incredible idea that he split the sea so we could walk right through it.

I simply love those moments when we sense dry ground beneath our feet with the waters still raging to our right and our left. Still raging, but from a distance, near enough to hear, near enough to see but not near enough to even get me wet, let alone sweep me away.

I can sing this song on the most ordinary of days preparing my heart for worse days ahead when the storm will rage and the flood waters rise.

Just watch how Steffany Frizzell sing the lines,

You split the sea, so I could walk right through it
All my fears were drowned in perfect love
You rescued me, so I could stand and sing
I am a child of God

Those hand actions are nothing like the ones we do at rhyme time in toddler group. Something more profound is happening here, out of the abundance of the heart her hands speak (Luke 6.45) This is what prophetic delivery of a song looks like. Really beautiful!

Have a lovely weekend!

Advertisements

Protest song

 

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God
After a couple of repetitions the chorus has buried itself deep into my most needy places. Sometimes you feel as if you could sing an old truth into new being and it causes you to sing a little harder and a little louder.
The worship leader is young and he wears his guitar high on his chest. Between songs he shakes out his fingers as if the sheer pressure of strumming is causing him pain. With his eye tightly shut he’s reaching out into the invisible expanse beyond the four walls of this borrowed meeting room. We are parents, we are grandparents. We are married, divorced, abandoned and reconciled. We have failed and found our way back and we will fail again. There are friends here in this room and I watched them walk through difficult days; friends here who held my hand whilst I walked out my own.

Rage, rage! I think as I sing, rage against the terrors of this desperate world: hurt, despair and loss of hope. Cancer, depression and relationships gone awry. War, greed and bleeding poverty, refugees on the borders in distant lands and also closer to home.

We sing on and I know why I like this song so much: this song is a protest song.

A protest song is a song we might link to a political movement: an English song from the Levellers, an abolitionist song from the American folk tradition or an anti-war anthem from the Vietnam years. It is designed to attracts followers to a cause by perfectly expressing their moods of dissatisfaction. A protest song is a tool in the hands of an oppressed group who would otherwise have no voice. It begins as a rallying cry and ends as the anthem of a movement that has changed the world in some small way.

Mahalia Jackson, encouraged us that we shall overcome; Woody Guthrie insisted that this land was made for you and me; Marvin Gaye, believed that love can conquer hate and John Lennon asked us to give peace a chance. Bob Dylan always insisted that “Blowin’ in the Wind” was not a protest song, but he had borrowed the tune from a negro spiritual (surely the most significant of all the songs of protest) and so it was already invested with 200 years of liberation history before he took his guitar and strummed out those first chords. 1963; it became the anthem of a generation of anti-war protesters.

These voices wanted equality, basic human rights, fair pay and an end to war. But what are we, the church, God’s people, protesting against? What are we asking for when we sing?

In the beginning God created a universe and he did it with thought and purpose. The world we live in was never a random collection of chance happenings, it originated in the heart of God. It originated in an intimate relationship of Father, Son and Spirit, three persons and all that love, but no created time or space where it could be. Our creation blossomed out of his desire to love and to make his love known. Before anything existed, God envisaged a universe that would be fit to fill, over and over again, with multiplying expressions of himself. Every atom of our created world was born out of this willingness. God pouring himself into creation, one small piece at a time.
And humankind were made to be the high point, the pinnacle of all that God had made. More than anything else made by God, we were created to be like him. There is something about our nature, our potential, our very presence that is similar to God, we are always expressing God, always on the cusp of being more like him and then more like him again.

So this is what we protest: a world that is less than this, less in its love and less in its beauty. Less than obviously full of glory. And we do it from a position of strength. Jesus Christ came into the world, the perfect expression of God’s intent and our ‘not yet’ flowed seamlessly into a wonderful ‘now’, where the Son of God, has conquered sin and death and brought us resurrection life. We are the ones called to be like him, to fill the world with his glory. And we can.

When we arrive at the bridge in our song, passion increases with volume, and the worship leader strums all the harder.  We were the children of Israel sent to perish in the desert with pharaoh hot on our heels, but as we sing the deep waters of the sea open up before us and we walk right through it. If the first chorus was our rallying cry our anthem is now more sure.

No longer a slave to fear

I am a child of God.

Our protest song.

 

Something lovely for the weekend: It is well

 

In 1873 Horatio Spafford and his wife Anna planned a family trip to Europe. They had tickets to sail from Chicago on the SS Ville du Harve. Horatio was detained on business at the last minute and so his wife and 4 daughter sailed alone with a plan that he would follow.

Part way across the Atlantic ocean the SS Ville du Harve was in a collision with an iron hulled ship and it sunk in fifteen short minutes. Two hundred and twenty six lives were lost including the lives of Spafford’s 4 daughters; eleven-year-old Tanetta, nine-year-old Elizabeth “Bessie”, five-year-old Margaret Lee, and two-year-old Anna “Annie”.

When the survivors reached Europe Anna Spafford telegraphed her husband, “Saved alone. What shall I do? “

Spafford left Chicago and sailed to Europe to meet her. The story is that as his ship passed close to the place where the girls had died Spafford wrote the words of a hymn, “It is well with my soul”,

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know,a

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

I wear a little piece of this wonderful hymn on a chain around my neck because I have come to know that it really is possible in every circumstance of life to find a quiet and certain place within, where it is possible to say it is well. Despite outward circumstances and enemies, troubling thoughts or chaotic emotions there is a still place in the turning world and an inner certainty that God is love and all will be well.

itiswell

By the time he wrote the hymn Spafford had already known troubles. A wealthy business man and well known Christian philanthropist he supported the mission work of the great revivalist preacher Dwight Moody. Spafford had lost all his property and investments in the Great Chicago fire of 1870. Prior to this he and his wife had lost a dearly loved small son to scarlet fever. Spafford was to experience further trials when Christian brothers and sisters from his own church denomination pressured him that his suffering and losses were punishment for some sin in his own life.

Eventually Spafford and his family left America to do pioneering work in the Middle East amongst communities from opposing faith backgrounds. They lived with other Christians in community in Jerusalem and provided food, shelter and education for the poor regardless of their religious background. Their work was famously fictionalised by Nobel prize winning writer Selma Langerlof and the continues today through the outreach projects run by the Spafford Children’s Centre.

Something lovely for the weekend: Fullness

 

I’ve had the best ever first week back at school.  Three lovely classes to teach and so far so good.

Andy and I won’t be helping at the youth club this year. The truth is we really are getting a little old for such shenanigans on a Friday night. So he’s dropping the kids there now and picking up a bottle of wine on the way home. We have an episode of the West Wing to watch; last series, last episode. But before we watch that that we get to FaceTime with Peter all the way from sunny California.

Because I really do have that Friday feeling today,  I’m re-launching ‘Something lovely for the weekend’ with a great song that is on repeat here as a write.

The video I’m sharing features one of Pete’s friend, Liverpool based worship leader, Ian Yates and a song form his new Album DNA. This video comes with a number of personal mentions and gratitudes.

The video was made by Bara’ Creative a business venture belonging to Peter and his good friend Jack Cursham. Jack got married last Saturday and we all had such a lovely day celebrating with him and Fiona so I’m certainly pleased to be able to give them a little mention. I’d also like to give a little shout out for all my Liverpool friends, I love you very much and need to tell you that you did our Peter soooo much good. Thank you xxx

jackandfi

Finally, if you’ve ever been in a meeting where Ian was leading worship you will know he’s a natural. By that I mean there is no affectation, no personal agenda, no sense of performance or self promotion – just the endless possibilities of enjoying the presence of God with freedom and space for anyone and everyone whatever place they are in. Here is an open invitation to share in something precious from the heart of our Father God.

A Father God who pursued us in love, more than we will ever know.

 

The great adventure

Recently back from our church family camp and counting all the blessings – even though I’m not especially good with big numbers. 10, 000 reasons territory, to be sure!

withoutb

I love living in my tent. I love living without too many things, just getting by with the contents of my bag for a week or so: a hair brush, a tooth brush, some knitting and a really good book. I like to cook a less complicated dinner every night, using just one ring of the two ring gas stove, just one pan and getting everyone to help. Our juice is in jam jars, your food will be served on white enamel plates with a bright blue rim, as camp food should be. Under our canvas we fill the days with simple tasks: washing, collecting water, keeping the camp kitchen clean and doing dishes.

For most of the time our phones will be off, there is no wi-fi, we talk to each other much much more. On the way to the showers old friends pass by, people we have not seen since family camp last year. A smile and a hug. Good people sit with us around the porch of the tent, they tell us their family stories and we tell them ours. All of our children are growing up strong. We did a good job didn’t we? After all we went through? We parented these young people and they stand on our shoulders. You can not know how much I love to see your kids all grown up, how much I want to tell you it turned out well. When we turn in at night the stars are all out in the sky. We share a torch and it’s difficult to to find our pyjamas in the dark. Sunshine and outdoor living have made us tired. The dark slowed us down when the pink sun set. We will sleep soundly after such a good day.

In the morning looking out across the camp, the roof of all these canvas homes are a mass of waving flags. I’ve walked with these people for nearly thirty years. Bright sun and blue sky I’m thanking God for everything they are and all they will be. I’m simply stunned. The church is a wonderful thing, an awesome place and heaven’s gate (Genesis 28.17), chosen to proclaim (1Peter 2.9), called to make known the manifold abundant and never ending glories of God in Christ (Ephesians 3.10). All you people are God’s people, faithful people, lovers of God, you can and will change your worlds with words of astonishing grace and acts of tremendous faith.

We will gather for our evening meetings and we will sing our songs of praise to the God who has never ever let us down. We will know His presence and stand shoulder to shoulder with brothers and sisters, strangers and friends, young and old, the church who declare his praise as they were meant to do. And all around the meeting God is speaking and His Spirit is active. Hearts are changed, seeds of hope begin to grow, callings are heard for the very first time and old callings forgotten or abandoned spring to life.

Out on the platform the music from the band and the singers fades. There is a lull in this programme of well led worship and no one much cares for this pause is pregnant. We stand together waiting for a word and a new song is sung, a new song in a strange tongue. One man stands and sings unmistakably the song that God has given. All across the room, hands are raised, eyes turned heavenwards. Recognised by many longing hearts, though never heard before. Here is something more, deep calls to deep and the old familiar words fail.

There is always more. He is the God who promises blessings that are new every morning, new blessings as fresh as the day. On every day for all eternity there will be more, more of eternal God making all things new. No copies. No imitations. A new day presence of a new day God.

(photo credit: picture taken by my friend Rachael Ledgeway)

 

The close of the day

honeysuckle

We had an early tea last night. Five o’clock, children around the table with a plate of cold foods from the fridge and the usual clamour of chatter.

We had planned to go over to Liverpool but at the last moment I decided to stay at home with two of the children. It was a good decision; by saying no to something really good in favour of something that turned out better, an otherwise frantic evening, was transformed into a slow open space without any plans.

Lucy watched The Secret Garden and I watched most of it with her. I got started on the second sock (knitters amongst you know all about the second sock!). We got to talking about the film settings, the house, the furniture, the garden and the wild open moors. I recognised some of the places, lovely places where I have been, Fountains Abbey and the hotel stairway at the St Pancreas Renaissance hotel, where I once attended a rather swish Apple Education conference (that seems like a million years ago!). Lucy went up to bed when the film finished and I planned to do the same; cup of tea, early night and a book.

I pottered in the kitchen, tidying the clutter of the day, sorting laundry, putting things in order for the morning. Dusk fell, shadows and grainy gloom hanging around the kitchen like unwelcome guests, but with the patio doors still flung wide against the closing day I stood a while and watched the pale colours of the sky sink into the surprising peace of my own back yard. Tendrils of overgrown jasmine hung over the door lintel just where I stood, the tip of each turned upwards to face the last of the sun. I pulled a chair up and sat down to watch. There was very little movement, very little sound, an insect passing, a quiet bird call somewhere distant.

Some flowers give more scent as night falls. It was the honeysuckle that I could smell sitting there watching the evening filling up the yard. I wrote the words on my note pad, “Peace smells like honeysuckle and contentment looks like a bee, in the pocket of a foxglove flower”. I’m sitting on my own back step waiting for bats to take flight.

Outside it was still light but in the kitchen it was too dark to see. I sat on the door step in the in-between light and I remembered that my grandmother, my dad’s mum, would sit in the dark as the night fell. That she never got up to switch on the light and how we thought her excessively frugal or excessively sad, rather than content and restful alone with her thoughts and watching the close of the day. Sometimes she would knit, there in the dark, feeling the stitches on the needle with her thumbs, her sight failing from thick milky cataracts that covered her eyes. I wonder what it would be like to live without the power of the electric light? To rise when the sun rises and sleep when it sets? To do our work through the long days of summer and to stay home through winter keeping warm, telling stories and planning for the spring? To live without the false notion we are somehow in control of the very light of day or could order the comings and goings of weeks and years?

I have been busy, anxious and troubled by many things for more years of my life than I care to count. But sitting watching the night fall I wonder what there is to be afraid of. Time has slowed and I’m catching up. Tonight I could slip through the thinning places of the day and find myself on the other side of reality, like losing my cares to the inside of a prayer.

But the Lord answered her … you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing …

Luke 10.41.42

There is a time for us to rouse our souls and make them sing a song they don’t really feel like singing. There is a time for gratitude lists and inspiring quotes, for disciplines of prayer and an unrelenting pursuit of the never-give-up life.

But there is also a time (and it is a better time) when the soul, by its own devices rises up to meet God with an un-stoppable cry of thanks. A slow time, at the end of the day, as the sun slips away and a cool hush falls on the busy-ness of all the well spent hours.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits …
Psalm 103.1,2

Sunday morning

psalm95

Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.

Ecclesiastes 12.12

Despite all the books on the shelves and in the piles by my bedside, the sermons I have heard and the note books I have filled, the podcasts to be listened to and hours spent trailing the internet, quizzing close friends, conferences here and speakers there; I am more convinced than ever that, I can learn more in a minute in the presence of my God than could ever be learnt from a great author or in the lovely and terrible experiences of the school of life.