Friday, January 31, 2014

My eyes have seen the King

Isaiah 6.  I preached a sermon on it once.  It was a stirring sermon and the truths I spoke many years ago are lodged in my heart.  I thought I had wrung the chapter thoroughly and extracted e very truth there was to find.  That’s never the way things are with God’s word.  There is always more treasure the Bible surrenders when you spend time soaking it up.

I remember Isaiah’s cry as he finds himself in the throne room of God.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.”

How had his unclean lips come about?  What did that mean exactly?  Some commentators would suggest that he made prolific use of swear words!  I don’t think that.  I think, perhaps, his unclean lips came about because he wasn’t giving God the glory He deserved.  Maybe it wasn’t so much about what he said, but what he didn’t say. 

Was it because he lived among the people of unclean lips that his own lips became unclean?  In rubbing shoulders with the world, Isaiah had picked up their bad habits.  He had lost his distinctiveness because he had allowed the world to seep into the cracks.

Or was it the other way around?  Did the people acquire their unclean lips because of the unclean lips of Isaiah? When those who know God live as if they didn’t, it’s not surprising that the world around them never gets to know who God is.

I was telling some of the young people I know that I don’t really swear.  I am aware than in my presence they keep a lid on swear words.  They slip out under stress.  But me – swearing is not something that I do.  I could boast that I don’t have an unclean tongue.

But then if I think about whether what I say gives glory to God – I am not so sure.  There is so much I could say about God, and I have the opportunity sometimes, and I use some of them, but often I keep quiet, and the world around me misses the opportunity to get to know something of God.

You know what?  Isaiah didn’t stop at saying he was a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips.  There is no hope for me in that.  He goes on to say,

“and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

How many of us know about the unclean lips and stop there? Isaiah moved from one confession to a better one – “and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

What a confession!

My eyes have also seen the King, the Lord Almighty.  Not quite the way Isaiah saw Him.  One day I will see Him like that, but for now it is with my heart and my spirit that I see God.  But make no mistake, I have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Parable of the Powerful

For I was hungry
and you pushed up food prices
looking for ever increasing profits
You pointed me to a food bank
and gave me vouchers
leaving me feeling inadequate

I was thirsty
and you offered me
flexible ways to pay my water bill
When I couldn’t pay
and didn’t meet the requirements of your help scheme
you sent in the bailiffs

I was a stranger
given a number rather than a name
You never asked the right questions
in all the interviews I attended
You kept a file on me
you didn’t read

I needed clothes
and you sneered because I wore no designer labels
I knew all about the sweatshops in Asia
and made guilt an accessory
I darned holes in my socks
but couldn’t repair the one in my conscience

I was sick
and you took away my disability pension
assessing me as fit for work
You did your test on a good day
ignoring the bad days
and the doctor’s letter

I was in prison
Where else did you think I would end up?


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Face to Face

This is my own tribute to Bob Dylan.  Folk singers apparently don't have any problems with other folk singers borrowing their tunes and adding their own lyrics. Here's my version of "Forever Young".

Face to Face

May you meet the God of Heaven
May you hear His gentle call
May you step into His kingdom
In surrender may you fall
May you know yourself forgiven
May you receive His grace
As you stand before His presence
May you meet Him face to face
Face to face, face to face
May you meet Him face to face

May your walk with Him be precious
May your fellowship be sweet
May you listen as He talks to you
Each cherished time you meet
May the world become less pressing
May it be a paler place
As you’re seated in the heavenlies
May you meet Him face to face
Face to face, face to face
May you meet Him face to face

May your hands be always open
May your songs be full of joy
May your prayers demolish strongholds
As His weapons you employ
May you be a generous sower
May the lost find your embrace
And carrying your harvest home
May you meet Him face to face
Face to face, face to face
May you meet Him face to face

Mel Kerr (c) 2014
In tribute to Bob Dylan
May you walk with mum

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Foerver Young

I’m a sucker for a singing man. One of my Christmas presents was the Alfie Boe CD “Trust”.  I’m not quite sure where Alfie and I met – not in the flesh you understand.  I think it might have been a morning interview – you know, the religious spot the BBC air on a Sunday morning.  I think he was being interviewed by Fern Britton.

I have played some of the CD, not in a careful way of listening to each song but as background noise while I am doing something else.  I love the timbre of his voice.

My husband picked up the CD sleeve and had a good look at the contents.  “Forever Young” was the ninth song on the list.  I hadn’t listened that far along.  The title meant nothing to me. I know – it’s hard to believe. Everybody knows “Forever Young”, don’t they?

“I hope he doesn’t murder it!” Unbeknown to me, Alfie had trespassed on the sacred ground of Bob Dylan songs.  I know everyone does covers of Bob Dylan songs – but, according to Joe, no one does them as well as Bob. Joe scorns those singers that have pure voices. He likes something with a scratch to it. Bob has the best scratch going.

So, this morning, while the husband was still in bed, I thought I would listen to the track.

It was love at first listen! 

Take away the music and what remains is a beautiful poem.  It’s a poem I wish I had written.  I f I had a child and if I knew the song well enough, and if I had a half decent voice that didn’t scare the birds away, I would have sang that song as a lullaby to my child. It’s a prayer that every mother would pray over her child.

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young

The final verse reminded me of a conversation I had with a young friend.  At the time she was thinking about subject choices she had to make for school. She had her whole future stretching out in front of her and was almost afraid to scupper it with a wrong decision.

I was at the other end of the spectrum.  After over thirty years of a very challenging career I was thinking about early retirement. It seemed as if the best of my life was behind me.

“If you do retire,” said my young friend, “it’s not really the end of something but the start of something new.”

Mum wasn’t one of the lucky ones physically as she got older. Things stopped working.  Her hands were always busy with knitting. The wool on the needle was in constant motion of being knitted, being taken back a dozen rows because of a dropped stitch, being knitted again.  Her feet were not so swift.  She moved around the sheltered housing flat with zimmer frame.  Outside the flat with the zimmer frame was too frightening.  The pavements were not smooth.  People were not patient with her as she crossed the road.  A group of young lads that stood at the corner of the road seemed threatening.

There is only so much a person can do to halt the passage of time. My only weapon so far has been a box of “Nice and Easy No 76 – Light Ash Brown”. 

There is another battle to be fought and won.

When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung

I would like to say that my mum’s heart was always joyful and there was always a song to be sung.  For much of the time that was true. But there were days when the joy was absent and the song was silenced.

My aim is to have a joyful heart.  Shifting winds of change are part of my daily life now. The habits I develop now, physical and spiritual, will all contribute to how I deal with those challenges to come.

Thanks, Bob, for a wonderful song. Sorry if Alfie didn’t do it justice.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

God Sings

Our Saturday routine usually begins with breakfast or brunch out somewhere.  OK so it’s decadent.  It is a luxury that we could do without.  There is nothing to stop me cleaning the grill pan some weekday night and buying all the breakfast ingredients for the Saturday – and sometimes I do.  We don’t have many vices and it’s nice to let someone else deal with the grill pan and the washing up afterwards.

This Saturday it was a late morning brunch…more like a lunch.  Yes, it was lunch.  Both the husband and I had not been well throughout the week.  His illness was more serious than mine.  He was prescribed a course of antibiotics.  I drank Lemsip.  He made it into work.  I dived beneath the duvet in the front room to watch re-runs of “Babylon 5”.

We went to a cafĂ© in town called Little Italy.  The “Little” part was apt.  It was a little space packed full of tables.  The walls were festooned with black and white framed pictures of what might have been Italian film stars, or possibly the Mafia.

We were coming to the end of our meal.  I was interrogating Joe about his meal – some kind of Italian sausage and mozzarella layered creation in tomato sauce.  It looked like something I could re-create at home.

Suddenly the waiter, a man called Alphonso, broke into song.  I looked around to see if a birthday cake was going to emerge from somewhere.  But no, this was just a song.  It was in Italian – what else?  We were in Little Italy.  Alphonso, not the youngest of waiters I have ever encountered, had the most glorious voice.  We are not talking opera – just an Italian Bring Crosby kind of voice.   There was no band playing, no accordion or guitar – just Alphonso.  Someone asked him afterwards if he did requests.  He confessed that he chooses his songs carefully to flatter his voice, paying careful attention to the key. 

It was so incredibly unexpected.  If breakfast out somewhere is not decadent enough, being serenaded while you eat it – In Inverness – is that much better!

It was kind of nice during my duvet days to spend quality time reading the Bible and, I would say meditating but the brain wasn’t capable of that kind of activity.  I read and I let the word just wash over me.  I am a Bible passage-dissector so it was nice not to do that. 

It says in Psalm 42:8 By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life.”

Listening to the radio one morning, the man doing word for the day talked about making New Year’s resolution and how it’s a silly idea because we all break them anyway.  He proposed making the whole year a year of something.  For him it was going to be a year of patience and a year of being kind to people. I liked the idea, gave it some thought and decided to make this year for myself to be “the year of singing”. 

Reading through different versions of the Bible I am not sure who is doing the singing in Psalm 42:8.  Some would say it is the writer of the psalm that is singing the songs given to him by God.  Other versions would say that it’s God doing the singing.  Both have their appeal but I like the picture of God singing.  A song at night makes me think of a lullaby.  There is surely nothing more comforting to a child than a parent singing a lullaby.

Of course the “night” referred to doesn’t have to be a literal night.  Dark times happen when we go through difficult times – the space we occupy long before we see the light at the end of the tunnel.  There are some that would still keep singing in the middle of the dark space and remind us that we are more than conquerors.  I think that God sings to us during those hard times when, perhaps, we just can’t sing. 

He gives me His songs in the night
When dark are the clouds and hard is the fight
The times when my soul is downcast
He sings of His love that is mighty and vast