Thursday, 17 February 2011

Words words words

I regularly make promises that I can't keep, don't I?

I don't mean with the children, because I am, despite my early intentions, a firm believer in, 'We'll see...' and 'Mummy is going to have a think about it and decide later.' and things like that when petitioned on a subject that I haven't thought through. I've learned the hard way that small children have memories like elephants when it comes to, 'But you said we could...' and so now I'm cagey about what I say we can.

But that's just by the way.  What I mean is I'm forever promising you things and then not delivering. Or delivering half heartedly. I've been brought up to believe that saying you'll do something is the same as promising, and so I can't wriggle off the hook by claiming that 'I didn't promise.' 

It strikes me there are two ways I do this.  

First of all those sleepy prayers when I tell you that tomorrow will be different from today; that tomorrow I will be more *** (insert adjective of choice - eg positive, patient, energetic, prayerful, helpful, sensitive etc etc).  I do it so often.  I confess that today has been a washout in the prayer department and tell you earnestly that tomorrow will be better. 

I look at my beautiful sleeping children and wonder at the fact that an hour previously I might have sold them to a passing Ishmaelite at the drop of a hat, and then I promise that tomorrow I will be more attentive, less 'park 'em in front of the telly' oriented and less snappy. And then? Tomorrow comes and I either forget the promise or make excuses or just pick up where I left off without even making an effort. That's different from trying hard and inevitably failing.

The second way that I find to fall short in this area is all the times in church and out where I sing along to a worship song without paying attention to the words that I'm singing, or worse still, I don't mean them.

Rick Warren, very wise man, in his book, 'The Purpose Driven Life', says:
'"God is pleased when our worship is authentic....When Jesus said, 'You must love God with all your heart and soul' he meant that worship must be genuine and heartfelt. It's not just a matter of saying the right words; you must mean what you say. Heartless praise is not praise at all! It is worthless, an insult to God. 'When we worship, God looks past our words to see the attitude of our hearts. The Bible says, 'Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart'."

It's all too easy to get swept up in a beautiful song and fail to register exactly what I'm singing, or indeed to think, 'Ooer, that sounds a bit scary, not keen on that' yet carry on singing. Everyone else in the congregation might think I'm the most devout person on earth but you can see what's in my heart.  


It's also true to say that some songs make pretty bold claims, don't they?  I always think that whoever wrote them must be particularly holy to be able to make promises the way they do. Or they were having a real Moment while sitting at the piano with a pen behind their ear. It's all very well blaming the songwriter, though - maybe we should carefully select worship songs and hymns that don't commit us to anything we're not comfortable with.  That doesn't sound right.  

Anyway, take this for example - this afternoon on the way to pick up Katy from nursery they were playing something awful on the radio so I switched to CD and it was 'The Potter's Hand':

'Beautiful Lord, Wonderful Saviour
I know for sure, all of my days are held in your hands, crafted 
into your perfect plan
You gently call me into your presence guiding me by Your Holy Spirit
Teach me dear Lord to live all of my life through Your eyes
I'm captured by Your holy calling
Set me apart, I know you're drawing me to yourself
Lead me Lord I pray

Take me, mould me, use me, fill me
I give my life to the Potter's hand
Call me, guide me, lead me, walk beside me
I give my life to the Potter's hand'

Darlene Zschech

Lovely lovely song.  I love the tune, and the words are beautiful. A real prayer.

'Beautiful Lord, wonderful Saviour'

So far so good.  Absolutely agree with this, no problems.

'I know for sure, all of my days are held in your hands, crafted 
into your perfect plan'

Yep, I'm growing into this bit too. I understand what this means more every day and it fills me with wonder.

'You gently call me into your presence guiding me by Your Holy Spirit'

Well, yes, maybe - sometimes I feel your Holy Spirit, sometimes I don't. Are feelings reliable? Does your Holy Spirit always call me into your presence? Is this an occasional thing, or a daily thing?  Am I not in your presence all the time?  Are there special times when I sort of 'officially' enter your presence? Or am I reading far too much into it... I'm leaning towards the idea that I'm reading too much into it. Move on.

'Teach me dear Lord to live all of my life through Your eyes'

Whoa. This bit is scary if you think about it too much. How much of my life would I like the look of if I saw it through your eyes?  It sounds to me as if there'd be quite a lot of changes if I saw my life through your eyes.  The thing is:  Is it enough to want to live my life through your eyes? How about if you do honestly, mostly, much of the time, perhaps not always, but almost wholeheartedly want to live all of my life through your eyes?  Is that OK?  I mean, I know it's not ideal, but do you know what I mean?  

Or is it better not to sing it if you're not one hundred per cent on board?

But if you're not one hundred percent behind it, then how many of these lovely songs would you actually sing?  If we all waited till we had it sorted, then church would be a bit quiet at worship time, I reckon.  Surely you do want us to sing?

'I'm captured by Your holy calling
Set me apart, I know you're drawing me to yourself
Lead me Lord I pray'

I like this bit, but not entirely sure what it means...I know I'm definitely called for something: as your child you trust me to do a specific job that you have set aside for me and I know that it's a job made for me alone. So I guess that's the 'holy calling' bit. 

And I do feel that you're drawing me to yourself over these last few months/years, but from what I know of you there hasn't been a time when you didn't want me to be close to you, just times when I wasn't listening, or determinedly looking the other way.  Years, in fact; a good proportion of my life so far has been spent ignoring your efforts to draw me to yourself.  

So thankyou that I've got to the age I'm at now, and finally understanding and recognising that it's me who's moved, not you. If I feel you drawing me to you at this time in my life it'll be because at last I'm starting to tune into the right wavelength.  At least I'm facing you now, not standing with back turned and arms folded.  Though I do dig my heels in sometimes.

Which brings me to:

'Lead me Lord I pray'

Hmm.  I'm a reluctant follower, sometimes. I do want you to lead me. I do. But sometimes I'm afraid of where you might lead me. I imagine that as you hear me standing in church singing 'Lead me, Lord, I pray!' you might be saying, 'I'm trying! What do you think I'm doing?!  But you won't budge!' 

'Take me, mould me, use me, fill me
I give my life to the Potter's hand
Call me, guide me, lead me, walk beside me
I give my life to the Potter's hand'

Yes please, Lord.  As I write this I'm overwhelmed by a desire to be useful to you. I do want you to use me. Without any doubts I want you to fill me with your Spirit. I need you to guide me, to walk beside me. I don't know how I could function if I thought you weren't there.  The 'mould me' bit sounds as if it might be uncomfortable at times... I could sort of steel myself...

Here comes the punchline. 

'I give my life to the Potter's hand'

Do I?  

Does anyone?  Are we built to do that?  Is it just that I'm over-literal and a perfectionist and far too analytical that I think that to sing that with true conviction is beyond me? I do give you my life - I did in 1997 when I became a Christian at a big meeting at Cliff College and I have on several occasions since, including recently. 

It's just that I keep taking it back, bit by bit.

Some parts of my life are yours and always will be; they're earmarked 'God' and you hold them and I can leave them with you. But as you know, there are lots of bits that I keep for myself. I don't like the idea of your input in those areas as it might not fit in with my plans.  It might make life difficult.  So I sort of nudge them in your direction, occasionally, reluctantly, then snatch them back.  It's hard to leave the whole of my life at your feet.

But you can see into my heart.  I keep forgetting that.  And you're a loving God who isn't trying to catch me out, to find ways to slap me down, to make me feel inadequate.  As you can see, I'm great at that already. You want to hunt out the sparks, the little bits of light that you've planted in me and occasionally grow into something lovely. 

So if you can see my heart you can see that I love you. You can see all the selfishness and laziness and wordliness too, but I know that you can look past it to the glimmer of righteousness deep down there that I hold close because it's a gift from you. You can see my soul reaching for yours when the music stirs me. 

You know that you're in my mind each day, don't you? Even if nowhere near enough? 

Take what pleases you from my worship, Lord, whether it's at the acapella group on a Thursday night, church on Sunday, or me warbling along in the car or on my iPod. Take what pleases you and help me work on the rest.

Is it enough, do you think, to have the mindset 'right now, at the moment I'm singing, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I think that this is true for me - I can't guarantee what I'll feel in twenty minutes, but right now, I do offer you my life'

How do you feel about that? 

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