It was late August September 1979 I was completing my honours year at Glasgow University. Joe Houston who lectured in Systematic Theology was walking along South Park Avenue carrying the latest Dylan album entitled “Slow Train Coming”.
He was excited about the news that Dylan had professed faith and knowing that I was interested in his music, together we sat in his office listening to the tracks. I remember the shear delight and joy that was conveyed through this album but also the warnings and challenges thrown out to the church.
I’ve always had a sense of empathy with the song, "I believe in You”. Perhaps as a young Christian at school I knew what it felt like to be often ridiculed because I talked about my faith. Today people are more polite, I don’t experience the same dis-connection and I ask myself is it because I’ve lost the courage of a young believer? I hope its because I’m older and wiser. One thing I know when I hear these songs I’m reminded of my student days of questioning at Trinity College.
They ask me how I feel
And if my love is real
And how I know I'll make it through
And they, they look at me and frown
They'd like to drive me from this town
They don't want me around
'Cause I believe in you
They show me to the door
They say don't come back no more
'Cause I don't be like they'd like me to
And I, I walk out on my own
A thousand miles from home
But I don't feel alone
I believe in you even through the tears and the laughter
I believe in you even though we be apart
I believe in you even on the morning after
Oh, when the dawn is nearing
Oh, when the night is disappearing
Oh, this feeling is still here in my heart
Don't let me drift too far
Keep me where you are
Where I will always be renewed
And that which you've given me today
Is worth more than I could pay
And no matter what they say
I believe in you
I believe in you when wintertime turns to summer
I believe in you when white turn to black
I believe in you even though I be outnumbered
Oh, though the earth may shake me
Oh, though my friends forsake me
Oh, even that couldn't make me go back
Don't let me change my heart
Keep me set apart
From all the plans they do pursue
And I, I don't mind the pain
Don't mind the driving rain
I know I will sustain
By Albert Bogle
We recently saw the musical of Billy Elliot and once again I was struck by the energy and ‘feel good’ factor of the film.
It took me back to the first time I saw the film, on the recommendation of a friend who suggested that there was a message in it for me.
The story is of a boy from a mining community in the 1980’s overcoming grief, poverty and prejudice to fulfil his ‘hidden’ talent of dance. The message for me at the time, when I was exploring what God was calling me to do with my life, was so powerful that I left the cinema utterly speechless. Billy’s call was not an easy one but he knew that he had the talent and he had to work hard to make the most of it often in spite of opposition and prejudice. The climax of the film is seeing Billy, as an adult, perform Swan Lake at the theatre in front of family and friends. The theatre version uses the same music but has the adult and young Billy’s dancing together.
The message I took from this music, which I had known and loved since childhood, is that the power of God is within us and can be released when we let it. My call as a minister was certainly influenced by this music and story although I hope I’ll never be called to dance in public!
God has a plan for each of us as Jeremiah says in chapter 29:11. We need to have the courage to answer that call.
Loving God, I thank you today for my calling as a Christian, as a minister, as part of your Church in the world.
I thank you for all the ways you speak to me through music, art, words, people, nature and silence.
I pray for all those who are seeking the way ahead for them, for a call to use the talents you have given them.
I pray for strength and courage, commitment and perseverance for all who answer your call on their lives, especially for those who are struggling at this time.
May each of us know the power of your Holy Spirit fulfilling your plan for our lives today and every day as we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen
by Muriel Willoughby
In the early 1980s, while I was a student in Edinburgh, a friend let me hear an album of little known Norwegian jazz singer who had recently played in the city. One particular track of her vulnerable solo voice and liquid piano accompaniment caught me unawares and has stayed with me since. It talks of wanting a day to myself…locking the door… nobody asking for my time. Exquisitely beautiful but at that time, in my opinion, wishful and selfish thinking in contrast to the life I was leading and the life I expected to lead. Surely I was going to trailblaze my way through the years in whatever faith tasks or ventures I was called to?
However within a decade or so, in 1992, I had to leave fulltime work because of the gradual realisation that a diagnosis of ME , or chronic fatigue, was accurate. As a sign language interpreter on the cusp of qualifying, this was a professional death knell in my head. Yet from there, the deeper and more remarkable journey began, internal and external. The script within that we are only worth to God what we can do for Him had to be unwritten: the realisation that I was – and am – utterly loved by the Father, irrespective of what I can or can’t do for Him was something which took a lot of unpicking. I hadn’t heard a lot about that in church: now, in healthier days, I’m not sure that much has changed.
This song became an unexpected comfort in my new unbusy world. It gave permission to need this necessary space and, eventually, grow to want it too. I never quite wanted to talk to my flowers but I learned the slow days were not a failure. A new identity indeed.
Externally, what followed over the next two decades was a gradual return to “enough” strength for part-time work and also, with great support from friends and family, to have two sons. I am so aware that all of this is gift.
However now I choose to have a day on my own: the greater reality of God’s love for me is in that still place and I am richer for the enforced stillness my life has required.
“Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me.” Isaiah 30:15 (The Message)
Father, I have learned that You meet us in the silences, in our uselessness, and in our lack of worth which You transform into intimacy and assurance of Your love. /
Be with those whose lives have not turned out as they had hoped – and for those who feel second best because of this.
For those for whom age or health has diminished the person they believed themselves to be: Father, be close to them in their doubts.
You could not love us more. This is the reality of the grace of Your gift of Jesus. Amen.
I want to have a day on my own.
I would lock the door,
Let nobody in – except the sunshine.
Talk to my flowers, answer no phone calls
Read some nice poetry.
Nobody asking for my time,
It’s peace around me.
Do as I wish – all alone.
All alone. All alone. All alone.
By Louise Holden
The Hungarian composer Kodaly (say Kohdai) believed that music had its roots in the social life of ordinary people, and that any child could and should sing and be moved by the songs of their homeland. I had the privilege of attending rehearsals of the world-famous Kántus (say Kahntoosh) choir of the Hungarian Reformed College in Debrecen, and later twice organised a Scottish Tour for them. Esti Dal means ‘evening song’ and the choir would usually conclude their concerts with this song. It is a quiet and intensely moving melody which I hope will be played at my funeral.
God of organs and airwaves, we commend to you all who make music.
We remember the writers and composers, the artists and film-makers of our time,
praying for an art that is honest as well as beautiful,
and a music that will carry out your creative intention for humankind,
which is deeper and bigger than we recognise.
We remember those who are nearing the end of their lives,
that they may find a music in their hearts which will carry them through the cesura of death
to pick up a melody they have searched for all their lives,
through Jesus Christ, our wonderful Saviour who cleared his throat and ended silence,
This piece was played at my father-in-law’s funeral. He was a minister, still working in his charge of 24 years, and he died suddenly on a Saturday evening whilst preparing his service for the next day.
His sudden and unexpected death left a deep hole in our hearts and it was my first experience of real, raw, gaping grief and it hurt like hell.
My father-in-law loved this piece of music and when I heard it at his funeral I fell in love with it too. The first line- ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’ sums up for me what faith in Christ is all about. I know he lives, I can’t prove it to the sceptic with mathematical or scientific equation, I just know it’s truth in my heart and with every fibre of my being, and my father-in-law knew this too……….
There is no pain like the sudden and unexpected death of a loved one,
it is so stark, so final, so cutting,
it severs the connection in such a brutal way,
it causes us to howl, to rock, to rage,
or to remain silent in shock…..
People say following sudden death that ‘at least he didn’t suffer’,
‘that’s what he would have wanted,’
‘at least you didn’t need to see him wither away,’
but all the while they overlook the comfort and tenderness of a final good-bye,
In the dark abyss of sudden death,
as we all stood and stared into the black pit of velvety emptiness,
I just knew that my Redeemer liveth…..
That beyond all the sudden, jarring pain, sorrow and mourning,
lay a love which had overcome death,
a love which held my loved one safely in the palm of his hand,
a love which was so much deeper than my deepest pit of despair….
And so at the funeral,
when I heard this most sacred piece of music being played,
a piece which my father-in-law himself had loved,
I was hugely comforted,
because despite everything that had happened,
I too knew that my Redeemer liveth,
that one day there would be a brighter morning,
and somehow that was enough,
to give me the hope,
and to give us all the hope,
to carry on………
by Louise McClements
Lenzie Old Parish Church
This pop song of the 1950s reminds me of a primary school visit we made to Copenhagen then. I remember the adventure of it, some nervousness at being abroad for the first time in my life, and a sense of new horizons. It also makes me think of sailors, the risks they take, the glamour of discovering new countries and fresh harbours, and the number of people who ‘do business on the great waters’ (Psalm 107.23).
God of the oceans and the airways,
we commend to you all who today will travel globally or locally,
all who risk their lives in the service of others,
all who explore this extraordinary world in which we live.
We give thanks for great cities and small villages,
for inland waterways and great seas,
for the changing seasons,
and for all who write and paint and sing about our world in its beauty and variety.
Open our eyes to the wonder of what lies around us,
Spirit of surprise and joy,
one God blessed for ever,
by Jock Stein
The heavens are telling the glory of God
The wonder of his work displays the firmament.
I love singing in choirs. I began in our little church choir in Kirkmuirhill, learned the art of choral singing through school in Hamilton and the Glasgow Phoenix Choir, and have sung in choirs wherever we have lived over the years.
Haydn’s Creation is an inspiring oratorio from beginning to end, but for me it all hinges on the last chorus of part I The heavens are telling the glory of God. I still remember the thrill of singing it at school. Every time since, the words and music seem to flow through me, lifting me up in worship of God the Creator of all things.
Space adventures leave us astonished at the vastness of our universe as frail space craft make their way to the outlying planets or land on a speeding comet. Meanwhile beneath our feet the earth turns rhythmically on its axis, and we walk over rocks that were formed by sand and sediment, or volcanoes and glaciers in a slow-moving minuet of millennia of millennia.
As a younger Christian my focus was very much on Jesus and that personal relationship he offers us through the Cross and resurrection. (I still do and He still does!) But as I grow older, I find that vision of Christ stretched to include the mind-bending words of John: In the beginning was the Word......through him all things were made...... The Word embodied in Jesus is the Word embedded in Creation – telling the glory of God.
Step outside. Look and listen: The heavens are telling the glory of God......
by Peter Neilson, Anstruther
Jo Dee Messina's song, " Was that my life?" Is a powerful reminder to all of us that our lives are short. Too short to fuss and fret about things that in the end don't matter.Too precious not to tell friends and family they are adored. Too full of wonder not to be drawn into the presence of God. Too full of injustice not to want to seek a better life for all who are ignored.
It was Martha who first introduced me to this song. At time of change for us both, we were experiencing the empty nest syndrome and facing our own challenges. Getting older is a salutary experience you realise there is so much that needs to be done and so little time to complete the task.
I think it has become our song because we never want to be people who give up on all the joys and challenges of life or take friends and family knowingly for granted. Together we often listen to the song in the car reminding ourselves that there is still so much to do and see and experience in the world. And sometimes patiently reminding ourselves it's all right to be impatient on occasions - because time waits for no one.
This song never ceases to touch something deep within me. I seldom play it just the once. I think there is a silent cry that wells up from my heart every time it is playing. I'm identifying with the idea that I don't want to settle for less than what God has planned for my life.
Help me live
To make you smile
To do my best
To run my race
with grace and courage.
When discouragement comes
Circle me around with your angels
When I fall
Lift me up on eagles wings
Chase the cynic from my heart
Turn my eyes heavenward
To believe the impossible
Help me keep the child in me alive
Always full of expectation
Awaiting the next surprise
Give me strength and courage
To complete the task to hand
Thank you for the gift of life
For the joys of companionship
For the strong bonds of friendship
For songs of faith and laughter
For the enduring knowledge that justice will be done
And your Kingdom will come
By Albert Bogle
Long long time ago the song begins. American Pie is a tune that has been with me for five decades. In each era it has meant something different and seems to pop up at the most unexpected of times. In my teens it was the ultimate party sing-a-long with a chorus anyone can sing. In my 20s I loved rye whiskey and once drove an American Chevy (Chevrolet), my formative balladeer period. I visited the United States throughout my thirties and said goodbye many times to my eldest daughter. During my 40s I discovered the 8 minutes 33 second version and the music didn’t die but sounded just as good. Don Mclean has always refused to give an explanation to the lyrics only admitting that the song is a tribute to Buddy Holly. In the extended version the religious analogues are both obvious and obtuse. ‘And the three men I admire most, The Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost. They caught the last train for the coast. The day the music died, And they were singing…..’ – enjoy and sing.
Lord be with me all the days of my life and speak to me whatever age I am. Use the mental pictures, choruses, and the sense of enjoyment in song to bring us cheer and happiness. To energize us in ways that only music can. To offer us a perspective on life that enthuses, laments, makes us jig and causes a movement in the soul.
May the contrasts of each generation, the layers of experience, and the illumination of the Spirit- add to my understanding of You, Lord.
For in both tune and lyric I find a deeper path to life. A meaning of youthfulness that I have forgotten and maybe clarity of understanding that only experience brings.
How I long for the sensations of the musicality to build up a faith, with its many questions, doubts and needs. To feel Your presence gently prompting me into actions of love and commitment as we dance to the melodies of Your kingdom.
By Keith Ross, Balerno
This song is very evocative to me of my childhood. As a family we always sang in the car – no radios or CDs or whatever! This was a favourite, especially on a return journey, from holidays with our grandparents in Edinburgh to our home in a remote (in those days!) Highland glen.
My father, a Gaelic speaker, sang us a lot of Gaelic songs. To my everlasting regret we were not brought up to speak Gaelic and I am still trying to remedy this omission. Dad didn’t think much of English versions, but we sang them nevertheless, as my mother had no Gaelic, and they were so commonly sung at soirees and other gatherings.
Happy days !
Thank you for precious memories of long ago.
Thank you for words enhanced by music.
Thank you for the pleasure of singing,
of joining voices with others,
to make harmony,
to express love and longing,
to share feelings of connectedness
with our families and our communities,
and feelings of pride in our traditions.
Thank you for music –
voices and instruments –
with which to praise you, our God.
Thank you for the music that speaks when words can’t.
Thank you for the music that lingers in the memory
when almost all else is gone.
By Norah Summers, Falkirk Trinity Church
Do you remember where you were when 9/11 was happening? Or where you were when you heard about Princess Diana's death? Most people can recall where they were during important world/life changing moments.
In the wee small hours on the 31st August 1997 I was called into work and while driving into Edinburgh heard about Princess Dianna's death on the radio. A couple of days later U2 were playing at Murrayfield. Some people were critical about the concert being allowed to go ahead as they thought it was disrespectful, but at the concert Bono paid tribute to Princess Dianna and a single beam of light shone up into the night sky as he sang MLK and then One. 50,000 people joined in the singing of this song to remember Dianna. It was a very poignant moment and a reminder that life is fragile.
One love, one blood, one life, you got to do what you should.
One life with each other: sisters, brothers.
One life, but we're not the same.
We get to carry each other, carry each other.
Thank you for the gift of music.
Music can calm us, change our mood and inspire us.
Thank you that we can use music to remember those we have loved and lost.
Lord, we have just one life here on this earth, help us to live it well.
'Joan of Arc' is not a song of remembrance for me but it exudes nostalgia. I came across it the other day, trying to make sense of Leonard Cohen's death. While I was vaguely aware of the person, I couldn't name any of his songs. Scanning the airwaves on the car radio, I came across 'Joan of Arc'. Her story is tragic but the poignancy of Cohen's words and the ethereal beauty of Pauline Scanlon's music elevates it:
"I saw her wince, I saw her cry,
I saw the glory in her eyes.
Myself I long for love and light,
But must it come so cruel, and oh so bright?"
God of love and light,
be with those who are paying the price for their fierce commitment:
to do what is right, whatever the cost,
to stand up for the oppressed, scorning ridicule,
to keep the faith, in spite of doubts.
We could all do something of Joan of Arc:
her awareness of your terrible closeness,
her willingness to rise to the moment.
Instinctively we salute extraordinary lives
in extraordinary times, but might we recognise as noble too
those who defy terrible circumstances,
to live ordinary lives?
By Rory MacLeod, Strath & Sleat, Isle of Skye
In 1985 while serving with the Royal Engineers in the South Atlantic I found myself building a radio rebroadcast station on Bombilla Hill on East Falkland. It was a wet and miserable place 8000 miles from family and friends and even miles from what passed for busy on the Falkland Islands. We lived in conditions that would make a hovel seem grand; we couldn’t wash, food was meagre and the working day (7 days a week) in the wet and cold was long. I think probably one of the lowest most miserable times in my life. All we had for entertainment was one video cassette from the British Forces Broadcasting Service that had on it an episode of Eastenders, a couple of sitcoms and a Top of the Pops. One song on that was “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves. I think in that two month period that song was the only happy thing we had and was a great source of hope. It still brings a smile to my face today.
In the darkness You are our light.
When despair is all around us and hope has flown what can we do?
When all seems impossible;
When help and comfort rests beyond the horizon we come to You.
You bring warmth to our cold present;
You set hope loose upon a bleak future.
Let Your Spirit rest upon us and write Your words of certainty upon our hearts.
Help us to feel You as our Father through all our senses.
Be our God,
Be our friend,
Be our hope.
Walk with us through the sunshine.
By Robert Craig, Stow Brae Kirk
'You still believe in me' is both an expression of adolescent angst, "I know perfectly well I'm not where I should be", and an appreciation of the forbearance of nearest and dearest in putting up with the unreasonable behaviour this often evokes, "I've been very aware you've been patient with me."
What were the formative years like for you,
growing up in Galilee all those centuries ago?
Were they so different, or as we know them now?
Bless those who relish the struggle
from cocoon to freedom, laden though it is
with dangers as well as possibilities.
Guide those who are making heavier weather
of the transition, wrestling with issues
of identity, purpose and meaning.
Draw us into that serene but elusive haven,
where we embrace that truth at last:
only in losing ourselves do we find who we are
One thing I’ve always loved to do is sing and when I passed my driving test at 18 years of age I wasn’t only delighted to have my independence in travelling around but I was also so happy to have the ability at last to sing my heart out with nobody around to hear me. So I would put the radio up full bung in my car and sing away and one of those songs I remember singing in my first car, my green Ford Fiesta was this Guns N’ Roses Song Sweet Child of Mine.
She's got a smile it seems to me
Reminds me of childhood memories
Was as fresh as the bright blue sky
Now and then when I see her face
She takes me away to that special place
And if I'd stare too long
I'd probably break down and cry
At this time in my life my mum and dad had just separated, and with my mum I had moved to a new village away from the house and town I had been in all my life up until then. Life wasn’t the easiest but this song affirmed me, I cried whilst singing it sometimes, I smiled whilst singing it sometimes and it would be 3 years after the release of this song that I came to know my true and living God and so after that it became for me the song that God shouted out to me in my most painful time. I was, I am His sweet child.
Do you hear him cry out to you!
You are his sweet child and when we turn away from his love he calls,
“Where do you go, where do you go now, where do you go, sweet child of mine?”
Rev P Jill Clancy, Minister of Annbank l/w Tarbolton Parish Church
“If a picture paints a thousand words then why can’t I paint you”, sang Telly Savalas in the monster 1975 hit ‘If’.
Painting pictures with words, concepts, and notions has been my stock in trade as a preacher for over thirty years. During teen hood I used to listen to the charts every Sunday evening in the secrecy of my bedroom. I both loved, and hated this song. The words are the guilty gushy romanticism of youth and the talking song by the actor who played my favourite TV cop, Kojak, is a form of mystical fakery that defies logic. My singing along to it in different keys made it sound better!
Earlier this year I saw a tapestry of Jesus with such vivid colours, texture, shape, artistry, and depth that it formed a picture which expressed the many ‘if’s of our understanding of the woven nature the complexities of the relationship we have with the risen Christ.
Be with us Jesus. We don’t have a photo of you, but a picture.
An image, which is only an outline of who You may be and what You truly represent.
A scene where You can be centre stage, the object of our eyes. Where the focus and setting of our portrayal can alter constantly.
Lord don’t disappear from our panorama, lost in past horizons or crowded out by the demigods of multimedia.
May the deep love of our relationship reflect from the feelings, the vocabulary, and the subtitles we place on the parts of the picture we live by and bring to mind.
Christ, leap from the pages of our memory banks. Jesus, enrich our life’s experience today. Be the virtual living Lord who walks from one person’s montage into another’s - as we share our visual canvas with You, of You, and with each other. Amen.
By Keith W. Ross, Balerno, Edinburgh
I love music; it is the background, the sound track to my life…
And to choose just one song – impossible!
But one song that has woven itself through my story since my teens is this one.
As a teenager I was politically aware, and I was passionate about ending the Apartheid system in South Africa, I had read Biko and Donald Woods own story of leaving South Africa and I saw the film Cry Freedom and campaigned for the release of Nelson Mandela – and this song epitomises the Black peoples’ struggle.
It speaks of overcoming all that conspires to hold you down – it’s a song of hope, a statement of something, of strength within that will keep going, keep fighting for equality, and a voice that will keep singing until heard…
But those words haven’t just stayed in that time … there is something for me in them every time I hear them!
And I know that it speaks to me – even now
Of strength within …
Because life doesn’t always turn out as we want or expect – but we have to find the strength to keep on going, keep hoping, when the journey of life makes an unexpected turn.
That strength comes from God (Psalm 121: 2; Isaiah 40:31)
Knowing that there is a God who loves me and who has a plan for me and who works together all things for good for those who love Him (Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 8:28)
That’s what keeps me going … that’s what keeps me singing – even when the life around me conspires to steal my joy and sap my strength – still I find the strength I need to go on (Nehemiah 8:10); all because of Christ within me on whose strength I rely (Philippians 4:13).
Your hands created the heavens,
Threw the stars into space,
Sculpted the mountains, and carved out the river beds,
You breathed and life began.
You created me, knit me together in my mother’s womb,
Wrote the days of my life in your book – even before I was born,
Counted the hairs on my head,
And carved my name on the palm of your hand.
Those same hands that had nails driven into them.
All because you love me.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Your word promises that you will stay with me always,
Never leave me,
And that there is no need to be afraid,
That you have plans for me, plans which give me a future,
Promises which give me hope,
Promises that fill me with strength,
And give me the courage to go on.
Strengthen me in your Spirit,
Fill me with your courage,
Make me bold so that I can sing out and share my story
Of all that you have done in my life,
So that others might see the strength within
And recognise it as you.
In Jesus name,
By Amanda MacQuarrie
For Remembrance it has to be Elgar’s Nimrod from Enigma Variations. There is something about the sombre majesty of music which always brings me to tears and reminds me that, for many, this is time of great sorrow and the remembering of loss. Yet there is also great beauty and a hope that behind all of the horror, underneath all the tragedy are the everlasting, nail pierced hands.
Father, just as you gather every tear of sorrow, anguish and despair, every tear of remembrance, you also gather every single soul who puts their trust in you. For so many the gateway to paradise has been through the tragedy of war, and for so many in your world it is still true now. May the Prince of Peace, the Lion of Judah, the Lamb that was slain draw us deeper into the way, the truth and the life, so we might know that whilst we weep with those who weep, faith, hope and love remain and call us into the life worth living. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
By Mark Nicholas, Gorebridge Parish Church
When I left my home
And my family,
I was no more than a boy
In the company of strangers
In the quiet of the railway station,
Seeking out the poorer quarters
Where the ragged people go,
Looking for the places
Only they would know.
This song bring back memories of school summer holidays when a friend and I would hang out in each other's homes, listening to music and, in particular, singing the harmonies, one voice complementing the other.
I've lost touch with that particular friend but the memories are good.
God of times and seasons
we do not know what lies ahead
We know not where we will be
or who will be with us
But you are faithful
You who bring harmony
wherever you are
You who make yourself at home
wherever we are.
God in ever circumstance
make us aware of your presence
and help us to let others see
that you are all in all.
by Liz Crumlish
And suddenly images replay themselves in my mind.
Frozen forever in the album of memory;
Head tipped back,
Hair spilling onto shoulder,
Joy and laughter written on the faces of our younger, better, hope filled selves…
I remember the first time I heard it. Sitting on a bus on the way to Ayr to meet someone special – they made the tape for me playing on the personal stereo and this came on – no words – just music. Music which spoke of so much, of joy, of hope, of life...
And before you know it that moment becomes a day, a day a month, a month a year, and a year a life time.
A life-time of shared moments and days, a life-time of memories.
But what happens when for whatever reason the one who shared the moments is no longer there to share the memories with?
When the one who shared the music, and introduced you to some of it, is no longer there to dance with to it?
When the chords and words heard, only magnify the empty space beside you and bring tears to your eyes.
Regret, sorrow, and grief mingle with the joy of that first moment …
Matthew 5:4 ‘Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.’
Relationships end for all kinds of reasons –
Life happens and relationships break down, or a loved one dies –
And we find ourselves alone,
In a desert we never expected,
Picking up the pieces of life,
Sifting through memories;
Lord wherever we find ourselves
Remind us that you are not far away,
That you meet us there, in that moment, in that place;
Your heart breaking for us and with us;
You wipe the tears from our eyes,
And you promise that you will bring us through this,
Encircling and surrounding us with your love and concern
And providing for our every need.
Father let your love fill the empty space,
Let your touch be on our shoulder,
Let your voice whisper your love in our ear
Bringing us safe through the desert of tears,
Give us hope for the future,
And restore us gently in time to life …
Life in all its fullness with and through you.
This song takes me back to the early eighties when I met my husband who was a huge Glen Miller fan with an impressive vinyl collection.
The lyrics called out to me about the loneliness of the lineman's task of ensuring that others stay connected - at the expense of his own relationship.
It was good to be able to hear Glen live in Glasgow a couple of years ago on his farewell tour, as Alzheimer's made its presence felt in his life.
I am a lineman for the county
And I drive the main road
Searchin' in the sun for another overload
I hear you singin' in the wire
I can hear you through the whine
And the Wichita lineman is still on the line
God may we be aware of all that enhances our lives
Especially the people who,work behind the scenes
in all kinds of ways to ensure that life runs smoothly.
And, when there are hiccoughs, give us patience
and frequent reality checks
that keep us aware
of the blessedness we know.
The mercurial Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy probably wrote one of the most, if not the most, ironic pop songs ever written (sorry Alanis Morissette). Bad Ambassador is a soaring, bombastic ode… to struggling to express yourself. It is a suave croon… about feeling completely inadequate. Hannon fluidly and gracefully captures (with the aid of rich strings and a sumptuous production) the mismatch between the person we want to be and the person we find ourselves to be. This strikes me as an immensely biblical theme. So many of the people we meet in the Old and New Testaments are seriously flawed individuals trying to live up to a compelling version of themselves that God believes in, but that they often struggle to see themselves.
The final chorus goes, ‘I'm a bad ambassador for that elusive place you're searching for/I want to show you so much more/Yeah I could show you so much more/But I'm a bad ambassador.’ The song captures the irony and agony of only being able to express… that you can’t express yourself. This kind of disconnect between expectation and reality occurs throughout the Bible. The fact that uneasy soul searching keeps reoccurring reminds us that God cares about, and is deeply invested in, our emotional struggles. Your anxieties and hangups are not things you have to overcome to get to God. God is already with you in the midst of it all, helping you get from the bridge to the gutsy chorus.
We pray that we discover you in our midst
that we bring you all the insecurities and stress weighing us down
and that we might rest in your presence.
Written by James Cathcart
Last year The Bungalow (Crossreach) decided on a version of Strictly Come Dancing to raise funds. Among the few couples to dance in the ‘competition’ were my wife and I. While many years ago we had gone to dance classes for ballroom, we needed a refresher. So along with all the others we spent months at a dance class. We had the waltz. The music Moon River.
We now had a new discipline each week at class and moments grabbed to practice the steps at home in between. It was a joy to do this together and alongside others sharing the same sense of frustrations, stumbles and panic at times too. Yet learning to overcome all this and to help and encourage one another. It was a joy-filled journey. We learnt and experienced beyond the dance deepened relationships, as we found the movement and flow as one to the music. There were new disciplines, postures and listening skills as well as the new friendships.
It is now a Song of remembrance for us. Every time we hear it we can’t help but dance a few steps of our waltz in the kitchen. So we ‘Keep dancing!’
It is a fond memory not only of our time learning to dance, but of making new friends, having great fun with a great bunch of people at The Bungalow too.
for this time to dance.
For the joy of movement,
entering the flow and rhythm of the music,
drifting within it,
lost in the moment of the dance
for the joy,
for the laughter.
For all that is shared in fellowship
and the celebration of these good things.
Lord of the Dance,
teach me to dance with you.
To enter the flow and rhythm of Your life.
Let the joy of the dance I have daily with you
overflow in celebration and hope.
Amen, amen, amen.
Written by Rev Fyfe Blair,
Fetteresso Church of Scotland, Stonehaven
At this point in my life I was full of yearning. I was trying to work out what God wanted me to do with my life and I couldn’t seem to see the way ahead. I was fearful that I was going to waste my opportunities, doing something I didn’t like and wasn’t good at. It was a time of questioning and searching, as well as dreaming dreams and seeing visions. In some ways God was very real to me, and in others seemed very distant. This song spoke to my yearning, my doubts and anxieties, my longing for a clear sign from God and an indication of the way ahead. God, of course, took his own time and led me in small quiet ways that I didn’t even notice at the time.
Lord, our Lord,
you are always there
even when we don’t feel your presence;
you are always guiding
even when we don’t sense your love;
you are always in charge
even when we don’t know the way ahead.
Thank you for your patience
when we rail against you;
thank you for your faithfulness
when we turn up all sorts of blind alleys;
thank you for your love
when we get it wrong
and come back to you
downcast and sorrowful,
muddied and disheartened.
Thank you, that in a world of confusion,
you are the sure centre
and certain hope.
We praise you.
This song takes me back to the time when I was working as part of the Church Without Walls Group in the early naughties. We were all finding ourselves challenged to lay aside our preconceived ideas about each other and to embrace the gospel message of grace forgiveness and reconciliation.
I remember going to a Mike Scott Concert in the Glasgow Concert Hall at that time and being blown away with the message of this song. We have no right to restrict who hears the gospel. This song echoes the story that Jesus told about the King who instructed his servants to go out into the highways and the byways and bring them all into his banquet.
I’m sorry about he value judgements I make
Forgive me when I have neglected to invite
A work colleague
When I have decided
They would never fit in
They would only laugh
It’s not their thing
When I have decided
They don’t deserve another chance
To ignore your
I’m sorry about my mean heart
Please help me change
Your generous heart
Leaves me overwhelmed.
Written by Very Rev Albert Bogle
Whenever I hear this track I am transported back to a student room in Holland House Pollock Halls of Residence in Edinburgh in 1977. Sunny day and me listening to the cassette I made every week of the top 40 which was broadcast on a Sunday night. You had to sit with your finger hovering over the pause button to make sure you got the tracks you wanted and cut out the DJ talking.
Let ‘em in was a big hit for Paul McCartney and Wings, a cheerful piece of nonsense, but Billy Paul made it edgy and political and of course cut into it were some of those most famous speeches by Martin Luther King. King had been shot and killed nearly 10 years before, and yet there he was cut into a pop tune and still preaching civil rights. “we will be able to achieve this day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: "Free at last! Free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"”
My memory when I hear it is of happy carefree days. It was a good pop tune. But it was and is so much more.
Music channels hope, optimism, faith.
Loving Father God
Throughout History concerned for the justice
Which is the hall mark of living the kingdom of heaven.
Gracious Christ Jesus
Agent of justice and herald of love
Sly Spirit of God
Bringing us a message when we least expect it,
are least looking for it,
and are therefore most open to it.
We thank you for your song
Your eternal dance
We bless you for
The rhythm of your purpose
The beat of your intent
The remorselessness of your care
Your insistence on freedom.
Written by Rev Alec Shuttleworth,
Tulliallan and Kincardine Parish Church
I'm a GP and the great privilege and great burden of my life is to be privy to the deepest and most personal of human interaction and experience. It truly changes you.
Peter Gabriel wrote Mercy Street when I was a medical student, just starting on the wards, just getting what the reality of my life was to be.
This wasn't going to be a "job for Christmas" this would turn my life around forever.
The whole lyric opens up the "skyline view" - what alcoholics and all folk at the end their rope refer to as the moment of clarity.
He wrote the song based (in part) around the Poetry of Anne Sexton.
Anne was haunted woman, very plugged in to her feelings and her world, who tragically committed suicide way to young and way to soon (but aren't they all).
I think though, it's the stillness and redemption at the end of the song that has always moved me and given hope.
I think the prayer (at the end) clarifies my thinking.
Looking down on empty streets, all she can see
Are the dreams all made solid
Are the dreams all made real
All of the buildings, all of those cars
Were once just a dream
In somebody's head
She pictures the broken glass, she pictures the steam
She pictures a soul
With no leak at the seam
Let's take the boat out
Wait until darkness
Wait until darkness comes
Nowhere in the corridors of pale green and grey
Nowhere in the suburbs
In the cold light of day
There in the midst of it so alive and alone
Words support like bone
Dreaming of Mercy Street
Wear your inside out
Looking for mercy
In your daddy's arms again
'Swear they moved that sign
In your daddy's arms
Pulling out the papers from drawers that slide smooth
Tugging at the darkness, word upon word
Confessing all the secret things in the warm velvet box
To the priest, he's the doctor
He can handle the shocks
Dreaming of the tenderness, the tremble in the hips
Of kissing Mary's lips
Dreaming of mercy
Anne, with her father is out in the boat
Riding the water
Riding the waves on the sea
Sometimes it's just mercy.
And you and I riding the waves on the sea.
Written by Iain Jamieson, Largs
The teenage years are full of angst and mine were no exception but there was one summer, when I was 15, that was more light-hearted than most. The sun shone more than usual, and I’m sure that that helped. It was a moment in time when, unusually for a teenage girl, I felt more comfortable in my own skin than I had felt before, which is not to say that I was totally happy with myself – I was 15 after all! But I was happier with who I was and as a result felt better and more at peace with myself. Although I had no illusions about this state of mind lasting, nevertheless it was nice while it lasted to feel positive about myself and about my life. This song was my anthem that summer. The skies were literally blue and at that point in my life it did feel that the rain had gone, the obstacles had been removed, and the rainbow of hope had appeared in the heavens.
Father, I thank and praise you that you give us hope.
That you weep with us and rejoice with us.
That when we see no hope, no future, no resolution,
you see possibility, opportunity,
and a glorious resurrection out of dark and difficulty.
To say “thank you” that you understand our dark days,
that you walked the dark road of crucifixion for us
is more than inadequate;
There are no words.
The joy of resurrection does not nullify the pain that precedes it.
The glory of the new day
supersedes the dark of night
but does not eradicate it.
Such love for us demands our response
in wholehearted, glad and joyful
commitment to you.
Written by Rev Jane Denniston,
Campsie Parish Church
I was a miner
I was a docker
I was a railway man
Between the wars
I raised a family
In times of austerity
With sweat at the foundry
Between the wars
I paid the union and as times got harder
I looked to the government to help the working man
And they brought prosperity down at the armory
We're arming for peace, me boys
Between the wars
I kept the faith and I kept voting
Not for the iron fist but for the helping hand
For theirs is a land with a wall around it
And mine is a faith in my fellow man
Theirs is a land of hope and glory
Mine is the green field and the factory floor
Theirs are the skies all dark with bombers
And mine is the peace we know
Between the wars
Call up the craftsmen
Bring me the draftsmen
Build me a path from cradle to grave
And I'll give my consent
To any government
That does not deny a man a living wage
I have actually never listened to this song without tears in my eyes until the last note.
I was never a miner, nor a docker, nor a railwayman, nor any of the traditional "working class" jobs that Bragg mentions in his opening lines. What I was, was a wee lad from a perfectly respectable middle class family (a teacher and a bank accountant).
I was a doctor not a docker but every inch "working class" in that role - and have been all my professional life.
After an 80 hour working week, I would challenge anyone to say I wasn't part of a "working class". I, along with any number of "blue collar" workers, outside of the boardrooms and the hedge funds, put in the hours and sweat to support my own family "through times of austerity" .
I guess in 1980 whatever, I listened to this song and nailed my colours to the mast. Almost every line resonates with meaning. "Not for the iron fist but for the helping hand" "theirs is a land of hope and glory, mine is the green field and the factory floor".
I bought into that.
That's what Christ was all about - compassionate socialism.
I bought into Christ.
So, tonight as I listen to "Between the wars', I find this prayer:
Jesus, you never cared for titles or position or any of that nonsense we think is so important.
You were all about personal choice.
Loving and labouring until we can't.
And I ask for your strength
To care for my family
In this time of austerity
With sweat at my own foundry
Till there are no wars...
Written by Iain Jamieson, Largs
Most of us have a band or an album that immediately takes us back to the headlong hormone rush of adolescence. For me it is the Artic Monkeys and their blistering debut Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. I cannot listen to the jagged guitars, powerhouse stop/start drums and effortless wordplay without being taken back. The cryptic title is a quote from the book and film Saturday Night and Sunday Morning about a headstrong young man struggling to hold his life together. It is an appropriate title for an album that sounds youthful, defiant and vulnerable, especially because the subject matter of the songs loosely depict a Saturday night to Sunday morning.
Riot Van, comes midway through the album, as the late hours of Saturday are bleeding into the early hours of Sunday. On an album full of tenacious energy, the low key track about an altercation between some youths and the police reverberates immensely. Much like the film, the song is about young men caught in a system they don’t understand or appreciate, that in turn, doesn’t understand or appreciate them. It is a bittersweet comedy about being youthful, bored and misunderstood. One line goes, “Got a chase last night from men with truncheons dressed in hats/We didn't do that much wrong, still ran away though for the laugh, just for the laugh.” As a lyricist, Alex Turner’s gaze is sharp and satirical, but full of sympathy, keenly aware of the absurdity and missed opportunities of youth. Turner’s lament is a fond one, and I imagine God often looks at us with such a feeling of fond lament.
We pray for young people
feeling hurt, alone or misunderstood.
We pray for lives full of meaning and complexity
Written by James Cathcart
While this is a relatively new song it captures a memory of driving with my eldest daughter on a trip up to Wester Ross. She had completed University, was due to graduate and we took this time together - an adventure to a place we had not been before.
It was a wonderful trip exploring around Assynt - Lochinver, Stoer, Achiltibuie. There are of course the stories of things we saw and that happened. It became a place and a time of good memories that we still often speak about.
As we drove we played Runrig, which seemed to fit the setting. However while this new Runrig song ‘The Story’ gathers up this particular memory, it also gathers other places and times of significance like it. Those people, times and places that have significance as part of our family story and memory -
“And I can't help feeling it will always be
The story of the life inside of me.”
(The Story, Runrig)
Lord you weave my story and that of family together in wonderful ways.
Thank you for photographs that capture a moment,
for stories shared that cause laughter and tears,
that warm the heart again.
For songs of remembrance,
that cause memories to rise like the sun on my heart and mind,
that take me back to that time, that place with those dear to me.
The images that stay with me
and are a part of the story within me now.
And this story that is mine,
the remembrance that now runs so deep for me and between us,
is also woven into Your story Lord.
But now I'm climbing the high mountain of years
With each blemish and schism coming on the world
But the day of renewal will come with certainty
Just like the day when I first felt your love
Written by Fyfe Blair,
Fetteresso Church of Scotland, Stonehaven