Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Cold Ninevites (possible song for a Jonah musical)

Nobody liked those cold Ninevites
They we cruel, they were nasty and mean.
You’d know they were near
‘cause your veins froze with fear
And you’d wish that you couldn’t be seen.

Oh they’d think it a joy
to steal toys from a boy
and cut the arms off a dolly at night
And if Daddy complained
he’d end up just the same
Oh these merciless, cold Ninevites

These cold Ninevites
somebody should
beat them up good
give them a fright
These cold Ninevites

Jonah hated the sight of these cold Ninevites
And he thought God should make them all pay.
“The Lord is too kind
he should smash them all blind.
That’s what I’d do if I had my way.”

They’re so heartless and cold
If I was God, I’d be bold
and I’d teach them a lesson, that’s right!
Every cruel thing they’d done
I’d do back, just for fun

They’d deserve it, these cold Ninevites!

These cold Ninevites
somebody should
beat them up good
give them a fright
These cold Ninevites

sar 2014

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Unconsummated Love

I wrote this poem today, reflecting on the Vicky Beeching situation (VB is a high profile Christian songwriter, worship leader and performer who has just come out as gay and in favour of same sex marriage.) In contrast to our world that says that desire must be acted upon, I'm interested in capturing the sadness and beauty and hope of desire resisted for the sake of godliness. In this poem I've deliberately steered clear of painting the torridness of such attractions - that would be best done in a different poem.

unconsummated love

this song we’ve written
sits as sweetness on the page
as yet unsung
as yet unplayed
till it is heard
as a symphony
in another world.

sar 2014

Tuesday, August 12, 2014



who long
to eat fire
and not be burned

to climb the cliff
for the thrill of the fall
(knowing the bump at the bottom’s 
the best part of all) -

You who have tied yourself
to the galloping horse of tomorrow
whose heart ever races in the frantic chase to be there
whose soul cries ‘On, on, on!’ 
You for whom ‘Tomorrow!’ is the motivation for every breath
the flip side of every thought 
You for whom nostalgia is forward looking
whose eyes strain to see beyond horizons
and glimpse that place of All Good Things - 

Drink with me
to the impossible virtue 
of patience.

sar 2014

Saturday, August 9, 2014


When our kids were babies and toddlers, I remember speaking with other mums about 'First Time Obedience' and how it was a desirable thing that our children do as we ask first time, without question, complaint or delay. Fourteen and a half years into the parenting gig, the concept of FTO seems, well... odd. Do I want our kids to be obedient? Overall, yes. Do I want them to hop to my command just because I command it? No (Okay. Sometimes I do.) Looking back, I don't think that FTO was something that I ever really wanted. Or maybe it was appropriate when the kids were very small but I moved away from it gradually as they grew. For the last decade I think I've wanted them to be respectful of us, but also independent and thoughtful. I'm not sure I this is compatible with First Time Obedience.

Thoughts? Is FTO something ever spoken of now?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

On Mali and Love

[Inspired by our pup Mali who makes more mess in the house than the rest of us put together.]

On Mali and Love

I tell her ‘stop’ but she can’t comprehend
She chews my socks and rips apart the trees
I sew and sweep - it costs to have a friend
Can love be rich if it comes to us for free?

We sit outside and argue, sipping tea
Mali barks, you frown and I defend 
her right to talk and yell incessantly
(I’ve told her ‘stop’ but she can’t comprehend

the price of joy, so, like us, overspends.)
You turn and smile. I groan and yet agree.
Extend the loan. 
                                I hope to not offend -- 
She chews our socks and rips apart the trees

but you’re a cyclone to her gentle breeze!
I’ll soon be no more able to pretend
this love comes cheap. I’ll sort through the debris
and sew and sweep. It costs to have a friend

Or to have had,’ I’ll say as gloom descends 
and pay the bill and wonder at the fee.
Plants regrow and socks and hearts can mend
Can love be rich if it comes to us for free?

sar 2014

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Prayer for the unsteady

To stay stable at sea they say
you must look to the horizon.

But I am tossed,
jerked from agony to torture
anguish to fear! Fear!
I cannot silence the screaming in my ears!
Cannot catch my thoughts to pin them.
Devoured from without,
Erupting within,
Chest aching,
breath shallow,
eyes darting every way

Steady my gaze
Fix my eyes

on you.

sar 2014

Saturday, August 2, 2014

A prayer for healing

Father of mercies and God of all power. You are our only help in this time of need. You knit us together in our mothers’ wombs. You are sovereign over our every breath. Every cell in our body jumps at your command. Please heal S. Cure him of this tumor. Give him more days on earth to serve you. 

Father of mercies. You have showered S with your grace. Unworthy as he is, through Jesus you have fitted him for life eternal with you. Please also grant him this lesser blessing of a longer life on earth. Spare J and the children the grief of losing husband and father so soon. 

In the hours and days that come, give strength to S’s body. Guide the minds and hands of the doctors as they make decisions and carry out  surgeries. Comfort S, J and the children with a confidence in your goodness. Preserve them from the temptations of the enemy. Give them patience under this affliction. Above all, speed the day when this and all other trials are ended and we can live with you in the world that will know no more tears or crying or pain.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

This is?

Endearing, enduring
Nods and
Souls united,
Humanity at its richest,

sar 2014

Saturday, June 14, 2014

A second speaker's spot in church

Unless you've had your eyes shut and your ears blocked, you'll be aware that there's much conflict round the webs at the moment over the issue of whether it can be appropriate for women to sometimes give sermons in church. I don't want to join one side or another here. I'm looking for some common ground and I want to propose a possible way forward.

I think that most of us would agree that women ought to be able to pray and prophesy in church (1 Corinthians 11). All but the most extreme of us have no issues with the praying part. Theoretically we'd like to be okay with the prophecy part too, but the trouble comes in that we're not sure exactly what prophecy is. I'd want to say that it is speech for the purpose of building up God's people. It's able to be assessed as truthful and helpful or not but it is somehow not as authoritative as the 'teaching' role which Paul restricted to men in 1 Timothy 2.

So why don't we work into our meetings a second spot. A 10 minute slot in which someone (male or female) apart from the minister speaks. I'm not talking about an open mic time here (which many churches have tried and stopped trying pretty quickly!) I'm talking about a spot where a speaker gives considered reflection on the scriptures for the building up of the congregation. It could work alongside the sermon - complementing it in one way or another, or perhaps be something different, as decided by the church.

Some objections:

1. Church would go on for too long. For some reason, we are committed to short, one speaker services. Generally no one apart from the minister (and perhaps whoever does the kids' spot) gets a chance to say anything. This was not the case in the early church, nor is it the case in many other cultures. In Paul's day, it seems likely that more than one person spoke. Someone brought a prophecy (whatever that was), then another person, then another person. In our culture, if this happened we'd all be looking at our watches and fiddling. But we could change. Why shouldn't our Sunday services acknowledge that people apart from the preacher have good stuff to say? If the minister spoke for 25 minutes, the kids talk went for 5 minutes, there were 4 songs (15 minutes), 7 minutes of prayer, 8 minutes of bible reading, a 10 minute second speaker section - and the MC streamlined things, you could still be finished in well under an hour and a half.

2. The second speaking spot would be redundant. It would only be redundant if it was ill prepared, uninteresting and unedifying (which many sermons are!) It wouldn't need to be. It could be carefully planned months in advance along with the preaching program.

3. Women might accidentally 'teach' men during this spot. I don't think this is something we need to worry overly about. Paul allowed prophecy by women.

4. [Never stated, but sometimes strongly felt.] I don't like the sound of women's voices. I don't like to hear women say stuff about the bible (or anything) that I haven't thought of before. It makes me feel cross. Get over it.

People who have objections to Dickson's idea of women occasionally giving sermons - Would you do this? Why? Why not?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Ascension hymn

Our Lord’s enthroned
At God’s right hand
Let earth rejoice
And heaven sing
Earth’s foundations
Forever stable
All fears be gone 
For Christ is king

Our Lord’s enthroned
Now God and man
are joined as one
to rule and reign.
Oh child of dust
behold your glory
for Adam’s shame
has passed away.

Our Lord’s enthroned
Let not this world
of sin and death
cloud your sight.
The deepest darkness
heralds morning.
Soon trials will pass
and wrongs be right.

sar 2014

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

World's Most Precarious Job?

Old Testament Lecturer at a Reformed Theological College.


Monday, June 9, 2014

16 songs from nqcc

I got to pick the songs we sang at NQCC this weekend. It was fun choosing them. There were 7 sessions and we sang about 5 songs in each. In choosing them I was conscious of:

1. The fact that we were from a variety of churches and that an attendee's regular song diet could range from traditional, through scripture in song, to contemporary.
2. The passages on which David and Rick were preaching (Romans 8-10 and Genesis 37-50).
3. The fact that I hadn't worked with a few of the music team before and we only had one rehearsal the evening before the conference began. I wanted to keep it all pretty achievable.
4. My tastes (To be completely honest, I chose these songs because I like them. Except one of them. (I put it in because everyone else likes it.))

Here's what we sang.

  1. Come People Of The Risen King (Townend/Getty)
  2. How Deep The Father's Love For Us (Townend)
  3. This Life I Live (Morrow)
  4. No Other Name (Hodge)
  5. Grace Awaiting Me (Percival/Richardson)
  6. Who Would Have Thought (Percival/Richardson)
  7. Behold Our God (Meghan Baird, Jonathan Baird, Stephen Altrogge, Ryan Baird)
  8. Blessed Be Your Name (Redman)
  9. Glorious Day (Casting Crowns)
  10. Christ Has Risen (Maher)
  11. Ten Thousand Reasons (Redman)
  12. Be Thou My Vision
  13. How Great Thou Art
  14. Rock Of Ages (Ruth Buchanan tune)
  15. When I Survey
  16. Take My Life (Garage Hymnal tune)

North Queensland Christian Convention

What a fantastic weekend! Wish I could do it all over again.

Five great things:

1. Getting to make music with some excellent people and to see and hear the congregation enjoying singing so much.

2. Learning from Rick Lewers as he took us through the Joseph narratives. Good story telling. Solid theological applications.

3. Meeting, getting to know, listening to and learning from David Jones. His sermons on Romans 8-10 were the kind that I want to hear again and then again. (And DJ is a superb conversationalist as well. I was lucky enough to get two long car trips with him.)

4. Feeling so thankful to God for his grace and revved up to live for him.

5. Knowing that it's on again next year! Bigger and (maybe) even better!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I have got to stop reading this stuff...

... but since I seem to have no self-control when it comes to clicking on links, let me share my learnings with you. 

Main points:

- Misogyny is 'fiercely biblical'.
- Being the 'weaker vessels', wives are prone to provoke their husbands.
- The wife was asking for it.

Dear well meaning Australian conservative Christians.

Before you quote someone on wifedom or motherhood or marriage or anything, do some research. Find out exactly which camp they speak for. See what else they are saying. Ask yourself whether their ideas on this issue comes bundled with crazy theological or political convictions. See if there are allegations against them for molestation or adultery or wife bashing or covering up abuses. You may think twice before posting.


Someone who has followed far too many links.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Church abuse checklist.

I've been reading stories about long term sexual, emotional and spiritual abuse in Christian organisations.  It feels like every month Christianity Today (or the like) is reporting the fall from grace of a high profile church leader. I read the article and follow a couple of links and I'm confronted with dozens of authentic sounding stories of people who were abused by this trusted leader. The articles are always followed by many commenters saying how they were blessed by such-and-such's ministry and how they are praying for the leader as he spends time with his family in this 'reflection period' and how we must assume him innocent until the charges are proven and how great King David fell and how we mustn't take things to the secular courts and blah blah blah.


We need sack cloth and ashes and mass repentance for our idolatry and wilful naivety that makes it so easy for this kind of thing to happen and keep on happening for so long.

Here is a little checklist of features common to organisations that seem to get caught up in abuse scandals. I'd be asking questions if a church or organisation ticked more than one of the boxes.

Does your church or ministry....

1. have a single leader at the top who is not able to be sacked without the organisation being significantly impacted?

2. strongly emphasise authority and remaining under particular authorities?

3. have a culture where those further down the food chain are asked to confess their sins to those further up the food chain?

4. experience an unusual or inadequately explained turnover of staff or lay leaders.

5. have a lead teaching pastor who has not been trained at a theological college but is self taught?

6. feature prescriptive teaching about details of family life (contraception, school choices, family roles, child discipline, women's dress etc.)?

7. demand that its workers work very long hours and not take holidays?

What do you think?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Ten thoughts on doomsday preppers (as presented in National Geographic documentaries)

In the last couple of days I've been watching some 'prepper' documentaries on youtube. They're a fascinating mix of clever and stupid, inspiring and insane.

Here are some thoughts.

1. I think I'd prefer to spend my kitchen time doing prepper food prep than normal family meal prep. It would be cool to finish a session in the kitchen and have something to show for it ten minutes later - 20 large bottles of preserved beans or the like. Similarly with the grocery shopping. How good would it be to do your shopping, pack it away in crates in the well organised garage and say, "Well, that's 4 months supply of long life food." At the moment I pack my shopping away and hope it will last us for 2 days.

2. None of the preppers ever felt they had enough food. Those with 4 months supply really felt they needed to get to 6 months. Those who had 6 months supply thought they needed a year's supply. Those with one year supply aimed to double it. At what point would they be satisfied that they had enough?

3. Preppers have cool gear and make cool gadgets. Bug out bags, knives, weaponry, tools, dehydrated food, camouflaged tree houses, pimped up school buses, booby traps, solar power systems, self sustaining water purifying fish farms... Cross between MacGyver and boy scouts. It's must be a real buzz to make and have the gadgets and gear these guys have.

4. Preppers are afraid of many, many things. One guy thinks a lightening storm is going to bring down America. Another is afraid of foreign invasion, another of a solar somethingorother. A big theme is that when disaster comes, all hell will break loose, human decency will vanish and the government will not be able to help. All of the food hoarding and evacuation plans are expressions of this fear. Preppers want to be in control whatever happens.

5. The preppers on the TV documentaries have a very small circle of concern. They are concerned for their own families. Not for their neighbours or community. In the post apocalyptic world, they want to be full while everyone else is hungry. They want to be the one driving over everyone's collapsed houses in their tank-like buses. Makes me wonder if all this prepping is revenge for feelings of social inadequacy. Just wait till doomsday comes. Then you'll see how cool I am and you'll be sorry you didn't let me into the cool group in school... 

6. If you buy into the prepper world view, then (almost) everything they do makes sense. If a major disaster is coming, then preparing for it is a good use of your time and resources.

7. The prepper worldview is INSANE! A lightening storm is not going to bring down America! A hurricane isn't going to trigger doomsday! Weather events like storms and hurricanes can be bad but they are generally localised and as much as you hate Obama, the US government is competent enough to get the nation through these things. The chances of a cataclysmic event that wipes out 95% of the world's population happening in the next couple of years is slight. I'd imagine there's a much greater chance that a prepper would be killed in a prepping accident with a saw or gun than in an apocalyptic catastrophe.

8. With all this preparation, preppers have to be eagerly awaiting armageddon. Surely they want to see if all of their gadgets and plans succeed!

9. Christians need have no part in all this frantic 'prepping'. We have a heavenly Father who is in control of all things. We are not driven by fear. We are told to give not hoard.

10. We Christians know that there is a certain apocalypse approaching. We prepare for it not by accumulating stuff but by trusting in Jesus.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Talk on Psalm 131 and Anxiety

Who am I?

I’m the ill ease that you feel when you walk into a crowded room. You know, the hot and cold flushes that confuse you when you’re already confused enough.

I am the one that raises the whip to your already racing heart.

I am the tightening of your chest, the snowballing worries that feel like they might become an avalanche and just bury you in an instant.

My friend, I am the obsessive and compulsive. 

I’m the voice, you know the one, it’s always questioning questioning questioning everything you do, everything you think. 

And I am every single staring eye that watches you in every one of those places that you try so desperately to avoid. 

Who I am?

Do you know?

You might have seen this ad on TV. 

According to the stats, in any one year, 18% of Australian women will go to the doctor to get help with anxiety issues. 18%. That’s huge. It’s almost one in five. If this room was representative of Australian women - and it probably is - then it means that right now 15 of us are experiencing crippling levels of anxiety. It’s the shadow that follows us. Lurking around corners. Hovering over everything we do. Even talking about it like this can get our hearts racing. 15 of us in this room are currently getting professional help for our anxiety. Probably another 15 of us should be getting help. And then there’s many more who aren’t in treatment at the moment, but have been in the past. And more who will be in the future.

Anxiety’s a huge problem. A paper I was reading for school described this generation of adolescents as the most anxious ever. A news article said that anxiety’s the modern pandemic. It’s like the flu of the early 1900s and the plague in the middle ages. 

Even for those of us who aren’t affected so acutely - anxiety’s no stranger. We all know that feeling of worries bearing down upon us. The stress that there’s so much to do. So many expectations. We’re spread thin. Our lives are out of control. We feel inadequate. Overwhelmed. Sometimes we’re so overwhelmed we’re paralysed and can’t do anything at all.

Perhaps that’s where you are now. Maybe you were looking forward to today because craft is an escape - somewhere you go to block out the stress. Something you retreat into. Let the storms rage all around. I’ve got my head down over my patchwork and all is good! I love today’s vintage theme. It’s relaxing because it makes me think of a world where there are no computers or mobile phones or other things that stress me out. I think back to some imaginary good old days and rest there for a while. 

But the trouble is that at three o’clock I’ve got to go home and face reality. This is nice, but craft doesn’t really solve my problems. They’re all still waiting for me back home.

As I talk to you today, I want to give you something to take back home with you. Something that I hope will last longer than the craft you’re making. I want to give you a picture of the non-anxious life. A mental picture of how God wants us to live. Without the crippling worries. Without the knots in the chest. Without the racing heart. It’s painted for us in an ancient poem - a psalm - by king David. It’s a beautiful picture of calm and contentment. Even if you’re really familiar with the bible, I bet you’ve not discovered this Psalm before. It’s number 131. Just a few lines long. 

O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.

Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
From this time forth and forever.

It’s short, so let me read it again. 

O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.

Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
From this time forth and forever.

Isn’t it lovely. As I read it, I feel my heart slowing down. “Surely I have composed and quieted my soul.” 

Let’s spend a few minutes pulling it apart. Looking closely at this picture of the non-anxious life.

First up the writer says that his heart isn’t proud. He’s not self-important. He doesn’t think more of himself than he should. Next, he says that his eyes aren’t haughty - he’s not disdainful, arrogant. Looking down on others.

O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;

That’s sounds okay. But listen to the next bit...

Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.

This is interesting. The writer says that he doesn’t involve himself in ‘great matters’ or in things ‘too difficult’ for him. Could you say that of yourself?

When I first read this verse my reaction went something like - “Well good for you David! I’m glad you have the luxury of a straightforward and easy life! But I don’t - unless I block out everything else and live in a bubble where it’s just me and my stitching and no-one else can come in. (That would be nice, wouldn’t it!) But is that what the writer’s arguing for here? A life of denial where we shut the door on all the hard stuff? Is that what it means to not be involved in ‘great matters’ or things ‘too difficult’? Maybe David - the writer - doesn’t actually have anything to say to my stress and anxiety. Maybe he doesn’t get it.

No.  That’s not it. David gets it. Remember who he was - Israel’s great king. David was a man who knew pressure and stress and fear. In his early life, he was the shepherd boy who famously defeated Goliath. But after that, it wasn’t just one victory after another. David spent years and years on the run from jealous king Saul. He lost his best friend. He finally became king and then he had all the affairs of state to manage. It was a turbulent time and Israel was almost constantly at war. On the home front he had ambitious advisors to deal with. The loss of a baby. An adulterous affair that had huge consequences for his family and nation.  Feelings of guilt and failure. At times, he barely held on to sections of his own kingdom. Later in life his family was a complete mess. He had treacherous sons plotting against one another and against him. There was murder, there was mayhem. 

David’s life was not an extended craft day.

It was stressful and complicated. His responsibilities were huge. 

Yet he says he doesn’t concern himself with “great matters” and things “too difficult for him.”  What can he mean?

I think the answer comes in the picture of the next verse:

Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.

Can you see it? A child - maybe a two year old - resting against his mother. David says that that’s what his soul’s like. But notice how it’s specifically a ‘weaned’ child? Why ‘weaned’? Does that detail matter? 

When Nathan, my oldest, was a baby, he’d bump his head on something or hurt himself somehow and the easiest way to make it better was to feed him. He’d want that comfort. If anything bad happened in his little baby world, I’d try and just give him a cuddle, but it wasn’t enough. He’d stay agitated. Then I’d put him on my breast and he’d calm down. When it was time to wean him, I was worried. What would I do to comfort him if I wasn’t feeding him anymore? What other trick could I use?

Well - as any mum could tell you, it wasn’t a problem. There’s this lovely things that happens after you’ve weaned your baby. Your baby realises that it’s not your milk that they want, it’s you. When Nathan bumped his head he’d come to me and I’d cuddle him and that would make it right. I’d tell him it was okay and he’d believe me and it would be okay. He didn’t need my milk, he needed me! He’d rest against me, quiet. Content. No worrying. No fretting. 

David says that his soul is like a weaned child. It’s an amazing analogy for a man to use. 

Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child.

This picture makes sense of the statements in the first verse. A little child rests against his mother and doesn’t bother himself with big and difficult things. He doesn’t worry about how the mortgage is to be repaid. He isn’t thinking about where the next meal’s coming from. He’s not worried about the war in the middle east - or even the war next door. He doesn’t have to. Mum’s got those things sorted. He’s with her and that’s enough. The weaned child knows his place in the world. Nestled in to mum! Mum will sort things out.

My heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.

These are things the little child could say. Yet they are coming out of the pen of the great King David. 

Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child.

This is the picture of the non-anxious life. Contented, humble trust in another. Trust in another who is stronger than you. 

David was among the most powerful men in the world in his day. He was king, military commander, political strategist, husband, father, philosopher, poet, musician. 

Yet he says that at heart, he is a little child resting against another. He isn’t anxious about tomorrow, because he knows there’s someone else who’s got it sorted. Someone who’s strong and trustworthy. Who holds the strings on world events and who holds him and loves him.

Who is it? 

Who is it who is big enough to hold a king?

Look at verse three. 

O Israel, David says. 
hope in THE LORD
From this time forth and forever.

It is the Lord God who David’s resting against. This is the Lord who won the battle for him against huge Goliath. It’s the Lord who’s time and time again proved himself to be worthy to be leaned upon. He’s strong. He’s powerful. He’s reliable.

David doesn’t need to be anxious about tomorrow. To worry about it. His Lord is strong enough to hold him through whatever might happen. So he’s not anxious. Instead, he’s hopeful. And he encourages his people and us, to be hopeful too. See it there?

O Israel, he says. 
HOPE in the Lord
From this time forth and forever.

Anxiety is worry about tomorrow. About what’s going to happen. It’s an attitude towards the future - a negative attitude towards the future. But David tell us to have a different attitude. We’re not to worry, we’re to hope - and in particular, hope in the Lord. We’re not to wake up dreading the new day, but wake up hopeful. Confident that God’s got things sorted.  This isn’t just a positive thinking trick or a bit of wishful thinking. David says we’re to approach the future with a firm knowledge that there’s someone strong in charge. We rest against the Lord knowing that he has tomorrow sorted. We can count on him. 

This is what David did. And it’s what brought calmness and peace to him amidst all the pressure and chaos of his life. It was what allowed him to not collapse under the weight of responsibility. To not be paralysed by all that there was to do.

Do you know that peace?

If you don’t know the kind of peace in your own life that David writes of here, can I say that the way you get it is to get to know the Lord that you’re to rest against. There’s no way you can trust him if you don’t know him!

I’m not talking here about learning to trust your own vague notion of some grandfather figure in the sky. That’s actually not going to help you. The pressures of life are real and the Lord we lean upon needs to be real if he’s to hold us up. The real God revealed himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ. He proved his love for us by dying for us, he proved his power by rising from the dead and he promises to work all things for our good if we love him. 

Will you rest against this Lord? Against Jesus?

Many of us here today are Christians. A Christian is someone who’s admitted that they need help. We know that we’re not sufficient in ourselves. We’ve heard about Jesus, thought about all he’s done, weighed up the evidence and decided that he’s trustworthy. He’s strong enough for us to rest against. And we’re learning to live the non-anxious life that David wrote of. 

For some of us, this is really hard.

We can be like kids who grew up in neglectful or abusive homes, who weren’t looked after properly. Kids like that, even after they’re put in safe and caring homes, they still find trust really hard. They can know in their heads that they’ll be looked after, but underneath there’s still this instinct to depend only on themselves. So they’ll steal food from the pantry and hide it under their beds. Just in case. 

For many of us here who are Christians, that’s what we can be like. We know in our heads that Jesus reliable. That we can trust him. And we’ve decided to. But our hearts haven’t caught up yet, so we don’t rest against him. We nurture our worries - like a kid stashes food under her bed - imagining that we can stay in control of things that way. 

One great theologian said that Psalm 131 takes the shortest time to read but the longest time to learn. If you’re a Christian who’s finding trust hard, keep working at it. Anxiety’s a response that’s been hard wired into us. Perhaps it was modeled to us by our parents. A habit like that’s going to be hard to kick. It’s going to take some time. Some of us will need medical help to clear our heads and get started. But if you’re getting to know Jesus better, you can be sure that change will come. 

If you’re not a Christian, can I invite you to consider resting against the Lord too. This is a big step - because first up it means admitting that you’re not sufficient in yourself. I’m asking you to admit that you need someone stronger than yourself. And who wants to do that? But surely if David the great king and warrior wasn’t too big to rest against another, then we aren’t either. 

Jesus invites us

28 “Come to Me, he says  all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Jesus invites us to rest against him. To come to him. Cast our burdens on him. He is strong enough to take care of them. Psalm 131 is a picture of the non-anxious life that God has for us when we do that. 

Will you live like that?

O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.

Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
From this time forth and forever.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Hints for writing a hymn lyric (for MTC doctrine 2 students)

2nd year students at MTC get to write a hymn lyric for assessment. Can an assignment be any better than this? No. I don't think so.

I have a friend in second year and she asked for some hints on how to go about it. 

Here are the hints I gave her. 

10 hints for writing a hymn lyric.

1. The aim of a hymn is to teach a doctrine in a way that makes people feel the importance of it. If you are just stating the facts, then that isn’t enough. Before you start writing, think about why the doctrine is important to you. Why does it matter? What difference does it make in your life? How does it make you feel? Try and write that down (in prose at first).

2. Look at what you’ve written. Underline any theological jargon. Rewrite your ideas without using those words. Big words often mask a lack of understanding. If you can’t explain something without fat words, you probably don’t really get it. Theological jargon also makes a song boring. It clogs up the song and gets in the way of imagery -- and it is imagery that lifts your words off the page and transforms them into something else. So no fancy schmancy theological words. Okay?

3. Think about your subject again, but this time use all your senses. What does it look like? What does it smell like? What does it taste like? What does it sound like? How does it feel under your fingers or under your feet? Describe it, but avoid adjectives. You are on the hunt for a metaphor. The perfect metaphor will bring your song to life and make us see your topic with new eyes. A lyric without metaphor is just words on a page.

4. Now you are ready to start writing. Choose a meter that you’d like to work with - perhaps 8686 - 4 lines to a verse, first and third lines with 8 syllables each, second and fourth with 6 syllables. This is the meter that Amazing Grace uses. Just try to write words that fit that tune and you’ll be right. 8888 - When I survey. NOTE: Keep to the meter! If there is a syllable out of place, fix it! It does matter. Being disciplined with the syllable count actually forces you to be more creative and will lead to better ideas.

5. If you are trying to make people feel something, remember that the worst way to do this is to tell them how they should feel. You need to make them so understand the content that they feel it themselves. It is unhelpful to ask people to sing stuff like “Jesus I’m in awe of you, I’m so in awe of you...”. People will think that they should feel like that, then beat themselves up for not feeling like that. = guilt = bad. Make them feel in awe of Jesus by showing them how awesome Jesus is.

6. Make sure there’s a progression of logic or a story developing as the verses progress. The song has to go somewhere. 

7. Remember that your hymn needs a key line or a repeated couple of words to make it memorable. We call this a lyric hook. Make sure your hymn has something that will make it stick in people’s minds. Perhaps find a couple of words to start or finish each verse with.

8. Rhyme matters because it binds ideas together and helps make your lyric memorable. But obvious rhymes will ruin your song. Profound truths will seem trite and we’ll yawn. Most of the time an obvious rhyme is a sign that the writer doesn’t have anything to say. They are just retreating into cliche formulas. Do not rhyme love and above, cross and loss, treasure and measure... etc 

9. If you’re not happy with your hymn draft, pretend your lyric is a piece of pottery. Chuck it on the floor, smash it up, then get your glue and try to put it back together again - but differently. Turn the vase into a sugar pot. Change the meter. Change the voice (who you are addressing). Look at the subject from a different vantage point. See if that works any better. I will often look for the one good line in the lyric (most often there is only one!) and rewrite the whole hymn around that line.

10. It’s not unreasonable to spend 20+ hours working up a 16 line hymn lyric. Don’t expect to finish this task quickly!

Work hard and go well! I'm praying that this assignment will be really helpful for you.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

corporate repentance song

Today I attempted to write a corporate song of repentance. Lyrically it's still pretty rough and the meter is weird. The verse has two different sections which are quite different metrically. Then there's the chorus which is different again. Anyway... 

Repentance song

1. Jesus
You are holy
You are righteous
You are true.
Our heads
bow in sorrow
for we haven’t 
followed you

We have claimed your holy name 
But haven’t lived your word.
Cleanse and change us, let our lives bring 
honor to you, Lord.

Let us be the light that shines into the darkness
Let us cause our world to rise and sing your praise
Let us stand for love and holiness and mercy
Let us no more have to bow our heads in shame
Let us be the church that’s worthy of your name
2. Jesus
Ever patient
Your compassion
Never ends.
Our transgressions
Let your people
start again.

Fill our hearts with thankfulness
Let wisdom guide our way
Season all our words with grace

every hour and day

sar 2014

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Three more Easter songs for littlies

These ones are less annoying than the ones I posted yesterday

1. I’m a Little Chicken (Tune: I’m a little teapot - adapted from something I found online somewhere.)

I’m a little chicken ready to hatch
Peck at my shell and scratch scratch scratch
When I crack it open out I’ll peep
Fluff my feathers, cheep cheep cheep

2. Five Easter Buns (finger play almost exactly the same as 'Five Currant Buns')

Five easter buns in the bakers’ shop
round and fat with a cross on the top
along came a boy with a dollar one day
bought an easter bun and took it away

[How many are left? 1-2-3-4!]
Four easter buns...

3. Here is a Bunny (finger play - spoken. We did this in playgroup years ago. Just remembered it. Not sure where it comes from.)

Here is a bunny with ears so funny (make bunny ears out of two fingers bent over on your left hand)
And here is his whole in the ground (make a circle with your thumb and forefinger on your right hand)
When a noise he hears
He pricks up his ears (stand your two fingers up)
And hops into his whole in the ground (make your bunny (left hand) jump into your right hand whole)

Lord You Spoke - draft 3

Here's another draft - with a chorus this time. And I've killed verse 4.

Lord You Spoke

1. Lord you spoke
and light shone in the darkness.
The earth took form,
the stars in their array.
Creation born
in life and love and beauty.
Mighty word, speak to us today

Tune our ears, so we can hear you
Turn our hearts, so we obey
Breathe your power, move and change us,
Mighty Word, speak to us today.

2. Lord you spoke.
Your word brought hope and healing.
The lame could walk,
the blind could see the way.
At your command
the grave released its captives!
Mighty word, speak to us today!

Tune our ears, so we can hear you
Turn our hearts, so we obey
Breathe your power, move and change us,
Mighty Word, speak to us today.

3. Lord you speak.
Your word, a blade within us,
revealing hearts
and calling all who stray.
Proclaiming grace
A pardon for the guilty.
Mighty word, speak to us today!

Tune our ears, so we can hear you
Turn our hearts, so we obey
Breathe your power, move and change us,
Mighty Word, speak to us today.

sar 2014

Lord, You Spoke (draft 2)

Okay. I've collapsed this to 4 verses and made the last line consistent across the verses. I've tried to get a logical progression from God speaking creation to God speaking to us through his written word, but like many doctrinal songs, it feels too static. Maybe this is just the territory. Any thoughts?

Lord, You Spoke

1. Lord you spoke
and light shone in the darkness.
The earth took form,
the stars in their array.
Creation born
in life and love and beauty.
Mighty word, speak to us today!

2. Lord you spoke.
Your word brought hope and healing.
The lame could walk,
the blind could see the way.
At your command
the grave released its captives!
Mighty word, speak to us today!

3. Lord you spoke.
Your word, a blade within us,
revealing hearts
and calling all who stray.
Proclaiming grace
A pardon for the guilty.
Mighty word, speak to us today!

4. Lord you speak
so give us ears to hear you!
Renew our minds
and drive our doubts away.
Breathe out your power
and strengthen us to follow.
Mighty word, speak to us today!

sar 2014

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

If songs could be weighed...

... these would be very light.

Easter bonnet parades motivate the writing of some of the most vacuous of all children's songs. Last year at our easter parade we had a particularly fine selection, including Yankee Doodle Bunny.

This year I'm writing a set of easter songs, ranging from semi-inane to completely inane, that prep teachers could potentially use with their classes. At our easter bonnet parade, each prep class presents an item (there are 7 prep classes) then I conduct the whole group as a choir for a couple of songs. Jesus is strictly not allowed at this event and I'm kinda okay with that. There's something educative about seeing how little is left when the cross is removed from easter. But I do have some standards for what level of inanity I'm able to cope with. Yankee Doodle Bunny was the step too far last year.

I do have some standards, but my boys would argue that my standards have slipped dangerously low. These little songs that I've written today might not be quite as bad as Yankee Doodle Bunny, but they are certainly moving in that direction.

What do you think? Are these too awful even for an easter bonnet parade? (I'll try and write something a bit more significant for the whole group items. Last year I did this.)

Little Easter Bunny

Little Easter bunny
You look so funny
Short tail, long ears
And a chubby tummy!

Open up your basket
What do I see?
Yellow, orange, red and gold
Easter eggs for me!

Easter Bunny Hop Hop Hop

Easter bunny hop, hop, hop
Deliver all those eggs, oh don't you stop!
Chocolate, sweet and smooth and yum
Easter eggs for everyone!

Up in the tree

Up in the tree is a little nest
Built by the bird that I like best
She flies away now let's look and see
Three eggs, three eggs, one, two three!

Up in the tree is a little nest
Built by the bird that I like best
Three eggs are hatching
Let's look and see
Three chicks, three chicks, one, two, three!

Egg Song

Wiggle Jiggle
Yellow Middle
White around the shelly
Soft and tender
goey center
put it in your belly

eggy weggy
mummy wummy
cook 'em for my supper
crack 'em, beat 'em
fry 'em, eat 'em
eggs with toast and butter!

sar 2014