Friday, 21 November 2014

The Story of My Life through The Best Songs Ever

An OHP - found on

Well, there's a title to get the twitter bots to follow me!

As anyone who has ever played or sung with me in a band will tell you, I can't remember lyrics. I wouldn't stand a chance on the X-Factor/American Idol/The Voice. It doesn't matter whether it's the fifth or the five hundredth time, or how passionately I sing, I still don't get the words to 'You're the Lion of Judah' right (I can just about manage 'Be still and know that I am God' - at least the first verse anyway)...

But that doesn't mean the words aren't important. In fact, one of the most helpful things I ever had to do was back in the late nineties, when I was responsible for leading worship at the Queen's University Belfast Christian Union. Thursday afternoons were spent in the Elmwood Building, pre-Google, copying song words from Songs of Fellowship 2 or Spring Harvest '98 into a word processor, resizing to at least 24pt, printing onto paper, then rushing to the basement of the Administration building (because I'm a last-minute kinda guy) to get the pages copied onto acetates for use on an overhead projector.

That practice cost me sweat and tears: sweat because it tended to be a Thursday afternoon when the fans in the computer lab would stop, the network would go down, the printer would seize up, or the nice people at reprographics would have a ten million page copy job under way and were about to go home for the day. The tears, however, were for a different reason. As I typed out 'And can it be' word for word, I engaged with that hymn in a way I never had when singing it. Simpler 'spiritual songs' resonated with me as my heart cried out, "Yes, Lord!"

As I look back over time, whole songs or simply phrases here and there from specifically Christian sources as well as the pop charts and random radio-listening have struck me powerfully. I've created a playlist of those tunes, the 'Soundtrack to My Life', and every now and again I remind myself of the selection. In the coming months (and let's face it, with my blogging track record, years) I hope to share some of those lyrics and the meaning they hold for me. I'll try to find a video on youtube so you can experience the songs too.

Meanwhile, are there any songs or portions thereof that are impacting your soul at the moment?

(PS - if you're ever responsible for operating words on a screen during sung worship, I found this article helpful over 15 years ago - it still works! -

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Gift of Still and Thankful Presence

I've been at JMC - the Junior Ministers Conference - for the last three days. It's fairly strange to realise that I'm now in my seventh year of ministry (at least, this sort of ministry anyway): it's like I'm in Upper Sixth of the school of post-college life already! 

The conference took the form of a teaching retreat this year, with an emphasis on centering prayer. Towards the end I could sense words forming in my mind that deserved to be recorded. I'm not sure whether they're a poem, a hymn, or something else - they probably don't work as either! - but here they are for your reading pleasure.

Transcendent and immanent God of power and love,
Set apart in holiness yet drawing close enough
To breathe upon your servant the words of liberation
That quiet down the soul and bring us life:
Receive our gift of still and thankful presence.

When anxious fears and memories of failures past and present
Appear to fill and flood the depths of my obsession,
Now pluck us from the muddy mire to join you in the dance of life,
Your people free to seek the peace that passes understanding:
Receive our gift of still and thankful presence.

Ignored God who courts and woos, tenderly calls my name,
Invites us dwell in One-in-Three, a union for all time.
We hear your call to live in Christ, in love, in peace, in joy;
Now sent in grace your people rest, empowered through grape and grain:
Receive our gift of still and thankful presence.