Friday, January 28, 2011

To burning, walk (not lukewarm, stand)

A poem that came out of meditating on Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane where he told his father, "not my will, but yours". This poem is one man's choice to live it out, and its consequences.

To burning, walk, not lukewarm, stand

"Have your way," I heard him say
though half-heartedly at first.
Then gradually, increasingly,
he began to realise and see
that saying "have your way" was not
a solemn walk of drudgery,
but rather better that he'd panned,
to burning, walk, not lukewarm, stand.

His older ways now faded past,
their appeal lost to new desire
to kindle flames of dangerous fire,
to follow close the narrow trail
and down this pathway, oft' unmanned
to burning, walk, not lukewarm, stand.

Growing to live in sacrifice,
your way became his better best
and slings and arrows mattered not,
a simpler life, he would attest,
and choosing first your greatest good,
he burning walked, not lukewarm, stood.

And at the end, he turned to me and shared
"A life better lived, I can't compare.
I thought I knew, but his way was better
free from all my self-made fetters.
He taught me to walk, and now I'll run,
his arms are waiting, my journey's done."

With that, he left me there beside his bed
all he'd been no longer stayed.
Simpler trust to live out "have your way"
I've not seen to this very day.
A life lived fearless, bright as sunlit sand,
a man who chose to burning, walk, not lukewarm, stand.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New song: Entirely by your grace

Entirely by your grace

Beautiful grace,
what can compare to the risen son
to your holy one, Jesus?
Marvellous grace,
more than I ever can comprehend
the depth of your love is without end, Jesus.
Freely yours to give
and joyfully we receive!

Jesus, all of creation is by your making,
Jesus, powers and authorities you are shaking.
All of us, forgiven and welcomed to your fold.
Captives no more, we stand before you, entirely by your grace.

Scandelous grace,
you make this filthy sinner clean
at the greatest cost there could ever be, Jesus.
Perfect grace,
enough for my past and present sin,
even my future's been forgiven, Jesus.
Freely yours to give
and joyfully we receive.


And oh, I once was lost but now am found by you,
no more a slave, but now your own,
and nothing that I do can change the fact
that I'm accepted through your chosen one.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Better is one day

A reflection that came out of the worship this morning at Waterfront. There really is no better place that I can be, than in God's courts, God's house, God's presence - and that is perfectly possible through Jesus.

Better is one day

Better is one day in your courts,
better is one day in your house,
than a thousand elsewhere,
away from your love.

Better the crumbs from your table
or the echo of your voice,
than the choicest of meals
or the world's 'wisest' choice.

Better the shelter of your shadow
or the peace of your touch,
than the greatest of wealth
or a lover's touch.

Better the love of the Father,
better the freedom of grace
than the closest of brothers
or a loved one's embrace.

Lord, I count it all nothing,
all the world bids me count dear,
next to living and knowing
your grace now and here.

'Better is one day in your courts
Better is one day in your house
than a thousand elsewhere.'


Monday, January 17, 2011

Passion in performance

Stumbling across this picture today, I was reminded about an article I read a while ago about a computer program that was created to play piano music. More than just play it note for note though, it was designed to play like a pianist. It was programmed to 'feel' the piece, judge the tempo, read the notes and attempt to read between the lines of the music. More than that, it was also programmed to compose its own musical scores.

They brought in a music critic to listen to a piece of music the software had composed and played, without telling him it was composed and played by a computer. The critic made a very poignant comment afterwards. He noted that the piece was complex, had wide variations in tempo (speed), harmonies and running themes, but that the piece had been played by someone who must have read it literally note for note. He said that the performance he'd just heard had been played immaculately, not a note out of place, every dynamic played to the letter, but the piece itself had no feeling, no soul.

This made me reflect on what a critic might see looking in at the Christian life. Do they see a dryly lived, legalistic life filled with rules, regulations and heartless traditions (by which I mean, traditions followed with no heart in them)? Or do they see a life that's made simple by the beauty of grace? So simple in fact, that which our eye not having to be 'on the ball' the whole time with following rules, that we show real joy in serving God - joy that is evident in the smallest of things like fixing a cup of coffee or doing the dishes, to giving up time and what we have for others. And with this joy in our service, our satisfaction in grace through Christ, the performance the critic hears is not one of dry precise notes, but one of colourful expression, sweeping the critic along on the journey of the piece, full of accidentals (incorrect notes) but sounding all the more beautiful because of them, the musician knowing that he has the freedom to make them and to enjoy the piece to its fullest.

When you watch a musician who's played for many years, who's come to know a piece of music by heart, you cannot help but get swept along in the performance. You can see how they feel the music, raise a hand here and there, knowing the lulls in the music. It can take your breath away. As Christians, as we walk closer with God each day, we grow to know his character, and as we know the reality of Jesus' death on the cross and his grace more fully, our lives take on more colour and vibrance. The accidentals of our lives now spur us onward into the piece, where once we would have stopped and maybe tried to backtracked in order to correct them and have the 'perfect' performance in our repertoire.

The glorious truth is this, that the piece we are expected to play has been performed perfectly by Christ. We now have the immense privilege of being able to have that as the crowning glory of our repertoire, and to play the piece we are playing now to the glory of the composer. No longer are we constrained by the rules of the piece, we can play it with joy and a real sense of freedom.

The 3rd movement of Beethoven's 'Moonlight' Sonata is one of my favourite pieces of music. Wilhelm Kempff (20th Century pianist/composer) plays it in this video. Enjoy :)


Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Storms and eyes

It's strange to think that the safest place to be in the midst of a roaring storm is in the centre of it. You'd think that the most sensible thing to do would be to distance yourself as far as possible away from it. But powerful storms often move at tremendous speeds, way faster than you or I could move. But instead, pushing into the storm, pushing through it, you reach the eye. An area of total calm. An place where you can watch the crazy swirling madness of the storm moving around you. A place of safety. A place of peace.

I find the beginning of term always feels like a bit of a storm to me. I take one look at my classroom, usually in a semi-abandoned state from the end of last term, and always I can feel the storm brewing. A look at the paperwork that needs to be seen to, and the storm's intensity grows stronger. Throw in the displays that need to be changed and the first day back around the corner and before you know it, the storm reaches critical intensity and you can feel yourself being swept off your feet.

The beginning of term reminds me how easy it is to let yourself get lifted off your feet by what's going on around you. It's so easy to let what needs to be done take your eyes off the goal, isn't it? Our work, a close relationship, preparation or big plans, all can sweep us away into the storm and leave us panicking and without a foundation to hold onto.

But along comes Jesus, who says to me in the midst of the storm, "I am sufficient for you." The storm doesn't lessen, but its hold on me does. I grab hold of the branch of a nearby tree. He takes a step into the storm and says, "I am your shelter and strength." I get both feet on the ground and start to look at him. Finally he steps next to me and says, "I am your shepherd. You lack nothing. Even though you walk through the darkest storm, you don't need to worry. I am with you." In the midst of the wind and rain, I begin to breath more easily. I firmly plant my feet on the ground and cling to him. Then he begins to whisper to me.

The storm rages, but I don't hear it anymore. The more I listen to his words, the less I hear of the storm. My heartbeat slows, and I realise that the ground that I'm standing on is firm. It won't be moved. And I can weather the storm.

So often, this is what goes on in my head when a lot is going on. I tend to get overwhelmed by many things coming together at once, and easily lose sight of Jesus. But stopping and getting my eyes fixed on the cross reminds me that I am his, because he chose me. I am accepted, not by being a teacher, future husband, son or friend, but because of Jesus alone. I am loved 'with an everlasting' love, because he loved me first. And if He put me here in the first place to teach, then he'll make a way to get the job done. He always does.

Bring on the new term!