Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Friday, 2 January 2009
Thursday, 31 July 2008
Josh was a stranger when we met. He was just someone who would lend a listening ear when I needed it. He would reassure me when necessary and offer a gentle rebuke when required and slowly this stranger became a great friend.
I still hardly knew him though. I would lean on him when I needed to but so often I’d ignore his calls, letting the answer machine get them and later, deleting them, tell myself that if it were important, he’d call back.
I grew confident and found that my need to lean on him became less and less and I found that I didn’t really need to lean on him anymore. I was my own man and had my own strength. I threw myself into life; busy with family, busy with work, busy with my music and my sport. There was no time for this man who was once a very close friend. I was so busy that I hardly ever heard my phone ring.
Every now and again I’d bump into him in the street or in the supermarket and we’d exchange a few pleasantries before I rushed off, with better things to do. He’d always say: “We must get together sometime…” I figured he was just being polite.
Now, the king of my nation was feared by all. Few, if any, had ever seen his face, and rumours of his anger were rife. It was known that if you broke the law then the law meant that you would be banished from the kingdom, never to return. Or worse…
As it turns out, the laws in my land were fairly difficult not to break and the only hope I had was to try not to get caught. I didn’t know anyone who had not broken the law at some point. Although, having said that, I can’t remember a time when my friend had broken the rules, but maybe I just hadn’t been paying attention.
I sometimes found all the rules a bit oppressive, although, deep down I knew that they were there to protect me and keep me safe. I just wanted to be free to do my own thing.
As it turns out, Josh must have broken the rules at some point because I remember hearing that he had been put to death in a horrible and very public execution. I remember wishing I had returned his calls but, within a few weeks, I didn’t give him that much thought.
That is, I didn’t give him much thought until I received the letter.
The letter came on headed paper, with the king’s crest in the top right hand corner. The letter read as follows:
It has been brought to Our attention that you have committed a multitude of criminal offences. On several occasions you have stolen. You have often lied to your wife, to your friends and to your family. You have lusted after people who are not your wife. You have been proud of your achievements when in fact, it is We who should be given the praise, for we lead this nation and there is nothing you can do that is not made possible without Our help. You have not paid your taxes and have not paid us what you owe.
Worse than these though, you have often told friends that you would rather live without Our laws. You have in fact, on more than one occasion, expressed your desire for our non-existence.
You are hereby summoned to attend the palace, for an audience with the King himself.
The Royal Family and Governing Officials”
I had never given much thought to my lies. I’d told myself that they were just little “white” lies and that lying was better than hurting people. I had never given much thought to the effect my lust would have on my relationships and had never considered the fact that taking the odd pile of CD-Rs and notebooks from work was actually stealing.
My shame was absolute. Seeing these crimes written down in black and white showed me I was no better than all those people I despised.; the murderers and thieves. Despite what I had told myself, made myself believe, I was, in fact, one of them. For the first time in years I saw myself for who I was and my heart broke.
I knew there was no hope for me, and decided to head to the palace straight away. I didn’t want to say goodbye, I just wanted to get it over and done with..
As I approached the palace I was trembling. I walked up to the main gate, expecting to see guards, but to my surprise there were none. Through the main gates was a garden. The most beautiful garden ever seen. The grass was soft and neat and the trees that lined it had the most beautiful, shiniest fruit growing on them. Bees and humming birds buzzed busily around the lilies and rose bushes. The fragrance that filled the air was heavenly.
I reached the palace door and still there were no guards. The marble floor shone, reflecting the walls and the beautifully arched ceiling. All around me was the sound of singing. Harmonies piled onto harmonies intertwined with melodies that made my heart beat with joy and yet, at the same time, filled me with yearning. The music made me long for something, I just didn’t know what.
I could have lost myself in that sound forever.
I carried on walking, remembering why I was there. The room at the end of the corridor had the biggest door, so I figured that must be the throne room.
I opened the door and stepped in to a room, filled with an astonishing light. The sun appeared to be shining in through all the windows, even though I knew that was impossible. How could the sun shine through the windows on three sides of the room?
The double doors swung shit behind me with a bang and the music stopped.
I stood there in the deafening silence, trembling.
I could see the throne, bathed in sunlight, the gold reflecting the sun’s rays in all directions, blinding me. I could only just make out a figure sat upon the throne.
I fell to my knees, filled with fear and shame. Cowering I bowed as low as I could, covering my head with my hands, wishing that the floor would open up and swallow me or that the king would just carry out the punishment I deserved so that I would no longer feel this way.
I had barely glimpsed the king, but in that moment I had seen that his power was far beyond anything I could imagine. His beauty filled the room and I knew I was not worthy even to be in his presence.
I tried not to breathe. Maybe he hadn’t noticed me come in and if I stayed quiet enough he would leave without seeing me and then I’d be able to run home and hide…
I heard footsteps. The guards must be on their way to remove me from this room, I thought; surely now they will kill me for violating this most perfect place with my presence.
I felt a hand on my shoulder. This was it.
Suddenly I felt his breath on my ear as his whisper filled the room: “Do not be afraid!” I heard the king say, in a voice I recognized but couldn’t quite place.
“Open your eyes!”
More out of fear than anything else, I did what the voice commanded. There by my side stood a familiar figure. My friend Josh was crouching next to me, his arms around my shoulders. He was wearing a white robe and a crown on his head. The crown appeared to be weighing him down and with his right hand he took it off and placed it on the floor. At that point he looked more majestic than ever. Tears were streaming down my face.
I wanted to explain to him how sorry I was. I wanted to tell him I’d meant to call him back and that I’d never meant any of the bad things I’d said about him. Instead, all I could do was kneel and let my tears fall.
He placed his right hand on my chest and my heart beat faster than it had ever done before. I was petrified.
“Don’t be afraid.” He said again, with that room filling whisper; “Get up.” Gently he helped me stand. My legs gave way and I fell to the floor again. Patiently and with tenderness I’d never experienced before, he took my hand and helped me stand again.
Wrapping his arms around me I felt warmth enveloping me. I looked into his face and could see he was smiling.
Josh’s lips did not move as the voice filled the room one last time:
“You are my son, whom I love. With you I am well pleased.”
Still smiling, Josh took me forward towards the throne, taking me up onto the actual ground on which the throne was sat. Folded on the throne was a white robe. He handed the garment to me and I knew to put it on.
I no longer felt ashamed.
As Josh walked me to the door, I asked him why he had given me the King’s clothes.
In a voice as human as my own he replied:
“I love you, my friend. I paid for them myself.”
Thursday, 13 March 2008
Saturday, 8 March 2008
The discussion we had went down the lines of: "When do we know we've reached the point in writing where the lyrics go beyond stretching people's minds and vocabulary and into the realms of confusion?"
I remember when I was about 14-15 years old I was reading through some of the hymns in "Hymns ancient and modern" (the irony of the title never ceases to amaze me!) and found that there were several hymns where I did not understand half the lyrics, yet these hymns are still considered great enough to be included in one of the most popular traditional hymn books.
There does seem to be a "traditional" set of words which we worship leaders seem to stick to, and I'm not talking simply of biblical language or simplicity of language. I am yet to see a worship song which includes modern words which we use in everyday speech. We're happy to sing about writing God a letter, yet emails do not get mentioned. We're happy to soar like an eagle, but aeroplanes are out of the question! (obviously I am half joking here, but you get my point!) The only songs that seem to mention modern things are children's songs, yet we can all relate to Him being higher than a skyscraper or deeper than a submarine!
The question is: Have we narrowed down our acceptable list of words to a point where before too long more and more phrases will become cliched? Should we, as songwriters, work on expanding not only our musical abilities but also our vocabulary and command of language, in order to add new perspective/insight to what we sing, or is that simply expecting too much from the people who we would like to be singing our songs?
I don't have an answer.
Thursday, 14 February 2008
Abram continues his journey to Caanan, and having been thrown out of Egypt by the Pharaoh following a misunderstanding about what exact relation Sarai was to Abram, he returned to a place where he had camped before. "and there he worshiped the Lord again." (Gen 13 v 4)
After a while a dispute broke out between Abram and Lot as the land could not support the number of people they had with them. Abram resolved the conflict in a very wise and godly manner. He allowed Lot to choose the land he wanted to keep.
I find this very interesting as it shows how close Abram was to God. Had Abram not been trusting God with everything then surely he would have done the very human thing of choosing the land he wanted for himself first or even fighting with Lot to keep the land he desired. Instead, he allowed Lot to choose and God rewarded him by again promising that all the land he could see to the North, South, East and West would belong to him and his descendants. (at this point I always wonder whether Abram thought God was pulling his leg, as he had no descendants and as such who would the land belong to?)
Abram responds in his usual manner: "...he built another altar to the Lord" (Gen 13 v 18)
The story continues with Abram saving Lot from the invaders of Sodom, where Lot was living at the time. Having defeated the invaders and rescued Lot, the king of Sodom offered Abram all the treasures he had recovered which rightfully belonged to Sodom. Abram refused the treasures, essentially stating that he would not want anyone to think that it was Sodom, not God, who had made him wealthy.
Some time later, Abram is talking to God, asking him what good are all the blessings if he has no son to inherit them. This is the point at which God puts the point across bluntly "...you will have a son of your own who will be your heir." (Gen 15 v 4) Again, had I been Abram at the time I would probably have said (or at least thought) "yeah right, I'll believe that when I see it!". Abram didn't. The next verse very simply says: "And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith."
How often do we find it easier to doubt the Lord than to simply believe in His promises? It can be very easy to simply remember the times of hardship and forget the times of harvest. It can be so easy to attribute bad circumstances to God and good circumstances to ourselves or simple coincidence. Abram shows that whatever circumstances we are in, God is with us. He will not leave us and His promises are reliable, therefore all we have to do is believe.