Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Music and Words

When did I stop reading things properly? I pick up one or two words and make a connection that isn’t there.

Last night I was all geared up for writing a song. Words and Music – I just presumed that the words written would fit a melody. I presumed someone would be there with a guitar or a keyboard or some other musical producing object. There would be a short talk, perhaps, outlining five key essentials to a good song. There would be a simply melody, perhaps, and ten or fifteen minutes working on possible lyrics.

This is where the mind goes when one doesn’t read the information properly!

In a book about walking I came across the term “desire paths” or "desire lines”. We’ve all been there. Rather than follow the flagstone path around a corner, we just cut across the grass. Backwards, forwards, everyone does it and before you know it there is a well-established path. When it comes to the arts – the paintings, the books, the poetry, the music and other creative acts – there’s a lot of backwards and forwards between them – desire paths. A piece of artwork inspires a poem. A poem inspires a piece of music. Last night was about following the path from music to poetry.

It doesn’t appear to be a very well-established path, but it was one that we found ourselves upon last night. Some of the poems we read emulated the structure of music trying the capture the movement of notes, the breaks, the rests and the melody of carefully chosen words. A prose piece tapped into the memory associated with a piece of music.

Once upon a time I went to a creative writing workshop where a lady improvised on a piano and we writers were encouraged to produce something provoked by the music. I don’t know that I am wired that way. The desire path between music and poetry, for me, is blocked by a bramble bush or something. I just can’t do it. I can’t write to order. I need a few days to mull things over, to marinate a little bit.

I don’t really have that much experience of classical music. I seem to remember some of our music lessons at school focussing on music appreciation – listening to the works of great composers. This was in the days before everyone had a keyboard and a set of headphones. I don’t remember the music stirring me to tears, or stirring me at all. I can’t think of a piece of classical music that I would be able to claim as a favourite. Debussy's Clair de Lune perhaps. Music for me was all about Donny Osmond. 

Last night we listened to the finale of Mahler’s 10th Symphony. It brought to mind a scene from the film “Pride and Prejudice” with Kiera Knightly, the just before dawn scene where she is tramping around in a coat over her nightdress, and there coming over the horizon is Mr Darcy. They kiss as the sun climbs over the horizon. I wasn’t the only one thinking that way, apparently. Oh yes, there’s a lot of films out there with a musical score that builds up to a crescendo as star-crossed lovers declare their undying love.

A friend of mine was very clear about what the music evoked in her - a sense of leaving on the one part and returning on the other.  Perhaps we have been away from a place with so many memories, that when we return, as the music reaches its crescendo, the joy, rather than any sorrow crowds in.

I have, thankfully, lost the piece of paper I wrote on.  A line or two that I liked, but far too much that I didn’t like, I’m not even going to try to reconstruct the poem.

Here’s one I wrote later, after having listened again to Mahler.

it begins
with nothing
no form, no filling
empty and
nothing moves
nothing stirs
only silence and waiting

something hovers
anticipation, expectation

a voice
“Let there be light”

and then
nothing becomes
something and
takes up its position
in obedience to
the Creator’s

…and there was radiant light

Sunday, August 12, 2018


“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[c] from Your Majesty’s hand.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:18-19}

The words were spoken by Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to Nebuchadnezzar when they refused to serve his gods or worship the image of gold he had set up. I have always loved the “but-if-not” phrase, giving God the freedom to save them or not. Rescued or not, pulled alive and not even smelling of smoke or being burnt to a crisp didn’t matter. They were not about to waver.

The other day I was watching a clip posted on Facebook of a father’s response to his daughter’s tantrum. I don’t know what it was that she wasn’t getting. She was sat outside the supermarket carpark, on the bonnet of a car, wailing. The father was sat next to her, eyes rolling in his head. He didn’t shout at her, or smack her or tell her she was a bad girl. He just talked, not to her, but to the camera in his phone. He said that if he gave in it wouldn’t do either of them any good in the long run. He wouldn’t be being a responsible parent. She wouldn’t be learning essential lessons for the years ahead. He talked about his own upbringing which wasn’t good. He got shouted at and smacked. He didn’t want to do that to his daughter. He wasn’t going to enter into negotiations or bargain with her. He was quite happy to explain why this or that was better. If she chose the option that wasn’t better she needed to know the consequences, which were not open for discussion. He told her all of this, after insisting that she stopped crying and listened. He went on to say they would go back into the shop if she wanted to, but if she started crying again, they would just come back out. Was she ready to go back in now? She nodded.

The preacher this morning was talked about just getting on with being Christians and to stop with the tantrums. If we didn’t like a word preached we were not to gather our stuff and storm out of the door. If we didn’t like the music, or the particular worship leader on today, or the spelling mistakes in the screen, or the tea or the lack of any heartfelt welcome – that was not permission granted to leave. We were not immature toddlers in the faith and tantrums were just not allowed. We need not to pick at the word and snip here and there to get a comfortable fit. We were the ones that had to fit ourselves to the word. We were the changing ones – not the word. I liked that!

He talked about Job and all the troubles Job had to deal with because God had boasted about him to the enemy. The devil was granted permission to wreck Job’s life. I have a feeling that now, when God boasts about a chid of his, and the righteous life they live, the devil says nothing. The little voice in his head warns him to remember Job and how that turned out.

But Job’s wife was a different kettle of fish. Job didn’t know about the conversation between God and the devil. Job’s wife didn’t know either but their reactions were so different.

“Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” Job 12:15

His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”” Job 2:9

I think of the vows that I made at our wedding – the “in sickness and in health” bit. For most of us most of the time it is the “in health” bit that we enjoy. We deal with the “in sickness” in small doses of man flu and the occasional toothache. Job’s wife’s “in sickness” was really bad. Following God did not seem to be bringing much blessing.

I’m reminded of my own “in sickness” issues. Some surprised me in their swiftness and cruelty. Others I knew were headed my way. I never vowed to stay with my husband while the going was good. I never said I’d walk away when things got really bad. “But-if-not” – if there isn’t a complete restoration of all working part – I’m not being given permission to walk away and find an easier life.

“But look!” he said (Nebuchadnezzar). “I see four men, walking around freely in the fire, completely unharmed! And the fourth man looks like a son of the gods!”

When we walk away, or we fall on our knees before the golden statue to keep the king happy and ourselves out of the fiery furnace; when we gather up our stuff and storm out of the church meeting; when we live with someone’s harmful words echoing in our head: We don’t get to find the man that looks like the Son of God, walking in the furnace with us. All the resources I need to meet the challenge – I possess them.

Who wouldn’t rather be in a furnace with Jesus than in some other safe place where Jesus isn’t there?

A Time to Walk

You never promised
That the path beneath my feet
Would always be level
I just never anticipated the climb
Scrambling for handholds
With my feet slipping

You never promised
That the sky above my head
Would always be blue
I just never anticipated the clouds
Dark and forbidding
With the rain falling

You never promised
That the spirit burning inside
Would never be tested
I just never anticipated the trials
The heat of the fire
With the ashes drifting

I find that I have waited too long
To walk away
You and I are knitted together
Shared laughter and
Shared sorrows
Have woven our hearts

I will look for the
The hand outstretched
To lift
And the sun that
Breaks through the cloud
To shine
And the man
In the furnace
With me

Monday, August 06, 2018


They tell me peace is all that isn’t there
No conflict, no disorder and no war
But I peel back peace, lay its heart bare
See wellness and wholeness and so much more
His shalom fractures when I step away
From His comfort, His favour, His power
God’s peace in my mutiny cannot stay
Without His Kingdom love I will not flower

He sends His Son, the Prince of Peace, to me
Breaks down the wall of my hostility
He writes His timeless covenant of peace
With promise to establish and increase
His child, I now pursue His harmony
And shape the world the way it’s meant to be