Posts Tagged 'worship'


“Oh listen to me,

I’m on the stereo.


From “Stereo” by Pavement.


This week a friend passed me a CD version of the only E.P. I ever recorded in a proper recording studio.  It’s been funny listening to it after all these years.  Fond memories of the sounds of a different period of my life.

In 1991 whilst at Uni, I met someone who has become like a brother to me ever since.  We were two long haired guys who shared a love of music (everything at that stage from All About Eve to Pop Will Eat Itself, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Wonder Stuff, NMA, The Mission, Nirvana, The Pixies, Mudhoney, etc) and who also shared a Christian faith.  We wanted to push the boundaries and harness that power of music and message and take it into the pubs and clubs.

It was a dream I have had since a very young age.  We played very loud music and tried to challenge preconceptions wherever we went between 1991 and 1994.  We recorded one EP and also have a couple of decent quality videos of us playing live.  The highlight was touring with Eden Burning on half of their UK tour in 1992.

It was such a laugh lugging our gear around the country, playing in student unions, music venues and churches, sleeping on floors and loving the music and the scene.  I have really fond memories of those days.  Our long hair, big boots, walls of feedback.

Here’s a review from Cross Rhythms magazine that someone emailed to me a few months back:

Tuesday 1st June 1993

RATING 7 7 7 7 7 7 7
FORMAT:Cassette EP

This product is currently not available from Cross Rhythms Direct

Reviewed by Tony CummingsAn EP from an Aberdeen team who toured with Eden Burning on about half of their Vinegar And Brown Paper tour and despite the relative production crudity of this 4-song EP a band definitely to tip for the top. They possess in Kathy Garden a distinctive lead vocalist while the band show a nice line in ringing some changes out of all those recycled indie riffs. Not sure if the band have truly settled on a distinctive style yet both “Home”, a song about Kathy’s homeland of Orkney, and “The Search”, a song of righteous anger and conviction would be great with a big studio production. So the grassroots scene is still throwing up bags of talent. Encouraging, isn’t it? 
My wife was smiling to herself a while back in church when she thought about those times whilst myself and Missing Jane’s old guitarist lead the worship time.  The truth is, I used to always think playing in church and “worship” music was so second rate to gigging.  More recently I’ve found myself blessed enough to be in  a place where I can lead the music section of the service from behind my drums, share stories and thoughts and try to be relevant in a post-post-modern day.  To try to create time and space for people to reflect on life, God and how close or how far apart those things can seem at any given point in time.

I am so lucky, if that’s the right word, to have a fluid group of like minded folks around me.  Those who want to lose themselves in music and expression and who don’t want music to get in the way.  Those who don’t want to be on a stage or performing, but who want to make a glorious sound.  Those who don’t get hung up on quavers and semi-crochets.  Those who see something much bigger.  Rock ‘n’ roll and amazing grace…

Yet, despite all of that I am wondering if that particular season is coming to an end for me…



So following on from my last post, when do I feel closest to God?

Truth be told, in lots of places and ways.  Often when our church is gathered together to listen and learn through teaching and music.  Often in the stillness and in solitude.  Often outdoors – particularly when surfing or snowboarding.  Often through music – often loudly.

I’m dreadful at getting sucked into music channels if they are on TV somewhere.  I can often zone out of a meeting with a work client over lunch if there is a TV behind them…Whilst this song may not be typical of stuff on my iPod, it remains one of my favourite videos due to the collision of images, words and sounds.  I connect in this way in a very real way…Enjoy!

Video link is here.

Wonder (part 9)

This is the final post in a series of  posts exploring lyrics touching upon the notions of “Church” and “State” written during the eighties.

Post 1 can be linked to here.  Post 2 is accessed here.  Post 3 is connected here.  Post 4 is here.  Post 5 can be found by clicking here.  Post 6 is here, Post 7 is here and Post 8 is here.

Since the time of the song being penned we have lived through the terms of office of George Bush Senior, Bill Clinton and George W Bush.  As we crawl out of 2008 into a new year, we also sit on the cusp of a new presidency in Barack Obama.  There is a quote that seemed to be everywhere toward the latter months of the year:

“Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther King could walk. Martin Luther King walked so Barack Obama could run. Barack Obama is running so our children can fly.”

Yet, as I learned of the Civil Rights Movements and Martin Luther King at school, it seemed like ancient history rather than something that occurred within the past 50 years or so.  What fast progress to now witness America’s first Black president about to take the reigns.  Whilst there seems to be a sense of a new dawn, he inherits a financial mess, an economic mess, an environmental mess in our ever shrinking global village.  If ever we need to pray for our leaders it is now.

These posts have sought to return to ancient truths whilst looking at issues we see around ourselves today; church and state; war and peace; God and politics; faith and action.  It reminds me of lyrics penned by Woodie Guthrie and put to music by Billy Bragg and Wilco.  Woodie Gothrie’s recording career was over by 1947, however, he kept on writing hundreds of unrecorded songs and these set of lyrics do not have a specifc date, but seem just as relevant to me today as they would have been when dreamt up by Guthrie:


“Let’s have Christ our President
Let us have him for our king
Cast your vote for the Carpenter
That they call the Nazarene

The only way
We could ever beat
These crooked politician men

Is to cast the moneychangers
Out of the temple
Put the Carpenter in

Oh it’s Jesus Christ our President
God above our king
With a job and pension for young and old
We will make hallelujah ring

Every year we waste enough
To feed the ones who starve
We build our civilization up
And we shoot it down with wars

But with the Carpenter
On the seat
Way up in the capitol town

Be on the way
Prosperity bound”

From “Christ For President” – lyrics written by Woodie Guthrie

I guess that I am learning that Christ is my Saviour and My King.  If that is true, then He governs not just where I place my “X” on a voting slip, but how I vote in terms of what I consume, what I re-use, reduce and recycle.  It should determine how I vote with how I invest my time.  It should influence how I use my consumer vote with my money in terms of how ethical or otherwise my purchasing habits are – how are the goods I buy made?  What shops or manufacturers should I avoid (Naomi Klein’s “No Logo” might be slightly dated now, but still serves as an excellent manifesto and call to arms).  How many food miles have been involved in my food?  Do I buy fair=trade wherever possible?  Should I buy organic as often as possible?  Is my home properly insulated?  Do I use low energy light bulbs and do I switch them off when they are not needed?  Do I leave the TV on standby?  Do I take the plane when I could take the train?  Do I drive when I could walk or cycle?  Justice is a big thing.  Worship is a big thing.

Hopefully, this little series of posts have got you and I both thinking…

There was an old skateboarding sticker back in day with the slogan, “Don’t die wondering.”  Sometimes we need to stop procrastinating, to just act upon things or try them out.  At other times it’s good to challenge our beliefs or perceptions.  I think it’s good to grapple with how to really apply our faith in a myriad of situations we find around us – surely, that is what we are called to do?  The danger is that we just muse and talk and hypothesise. 

Whether you have found these posts helpful, interesting or irritating – then I would still recommend the following three books to you:

irresistable-revolution1a)  “The Irresistible Revolution – Living As An Ordinary Radical” by Shane Claiborne.



jesus-for-presidentb)  “Jesus For President” by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw.





biblec)  The Bible.


Peace be with you all.

Wonder (part 8)

This the penultimate post in a wee series of musings I have posted up during December inspired by some lyrics that have stuck with me longer than many.  Post 1 can be accessed here.  Post 2 can be linked to by clicking here.  Post 3 is connected here.  Post 4 is here , post 5 is here  , post 6 is here and post 7 is here.p7260034

The closing lines of the song that generated all these posts goes:

“This is Church.

This is State.

Rock ‘n’ Roll.  Amazing Grace.

It makes me think, it makes me deal

With the situation – how do I feel?”

from “Wonder” by King’s X

I love that phrase “Rock ‘n’ Roll. Amazing Grace”  I have found so much of God and so much that has shaped my world view in both of those things – rock ‘n’ roll and old hymnals.  I love playing my heart out on my drum kit and making a joyful noise.  I relish the fact that some folks in our church have permissioned us to do that once a month and I am so grateful to the little fluid collective of friends who are musicians and singers who join me in that.  We are all on the same wavelength and the music is so secondary.  It’s just about creating a time and space where we can set everything else aside and regain our focus and actually begin to engage and ask questions.

Sometimes I wonder if we elevate music in our services?  I mean that as a generalisation across the church rather than as a specific criticism of our congregation.  As someone involved in that side of things, I struggle with the notion that all we do is create a holy “knees up” or “feel good” session through swells of sound and music and then kid ourselves that we have “met with God”.  At the end of the day, if we are adding to the noise – then I would hope that someone would tell us to be quiet and to pack up our gear.  If we are all able to draw closer somehow with music used as a vehicle to prepare our hearts and ears ahead of a sermon or in a response time, then count me in.  If we walk out of our church building, into our everyday lives, with a changed perspective and a heart hungry to live in obedience and aware of mercy and grace, then I guess we have been good stewards of our gifts.

Sweetly Broken

Much of what I have tried to convey in my blog over the past month or so can be summarised in the short video clip below.  Just click the arrow to watch it.

Silly Love Songs

“You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs.

I look around and I see, it isn’t so…”

From “Silly Love Songs” by Paul McCartney and Wings

Given that I sometimes leads times of music at our church gathering, Duncan lent me a really thought provoking book last year called “Exiles – Living Missionally In A Post-Christian Culture” by Michael Frost.  I’ve included a link here.  In particular, he helpfully directed me to chapter called “The Songs of Revolution – Jesus Ain’t My Boyfriend”.  It really got me thinking about the words we sing in church without really thinking what they mean.  I’ll quote the book as follows:

“At a conventional church service recently all my worst fears about the romantic nature of contemporary worship were realised.  On the screen appeared the following lyrics, which most people around me sang with furrowed brows, closed eyes, and meaningful looks of intensity on their faces.

“The simplest of all love songs

I want to bring to you,

So I’ll let my words be few –

Jesus, I am so in love with you”.

I balked.  I couldn’t bring myself to tell Jesus that I am in love with him.  In fact, I had such a sense of revulsion that I had to think long and hard about why this was disturbing me so much.  Maybe the lyric isn’t meant to be taken too seriously (I can be guilty about thinking too much about these things), but it occurred to me that I’m not only not in love with Jesus, I’m not actually “in love” with anyone in my life at the moment.  I’m not in love with my children.  As a matter of fact, I’ve never “fallen in love” with any of my children.  I have loved them with an intensity of love that I never knew I was capable of.  I have loved them more than life itself since each of them was born.  I have never at any moment in their lives questioned my unconditional, unreserved love for them.  But “fall in love” with them? No.  Never.

I love my mother dearly, but I haven’t “fallen in love” with her.  There are many people in my life that I love very much, but I’m not “in love” with them either.  I wouldn’t even say that I’m “in love” with my wife, Carolyn, whom I have loved deeply and faithfully for more than half my life.  I was once in love with her.  Actually, I was head over heels in love with her, but I discovered that it’s a fleeting and unreliable set of emotions.  I’m not suggesting that being in love with someone isn’t deliciously exciting, even exhilarating.  It’s a marvelous feeling, but it never lasts.  It might be the kind of emotional elation that throws members of the opposite sex together, but it doesn’t carry the kind of emotional provisions that can sustain that relationship.  Real loving is something much richer, deeper, more robust, more powerful than anything experienced when we are “in love” with someone.  In fact, Scott Peck says that in any relationship, real loving can begin only when the feelings of being in love dissipate.  Once those fabulously carefree romantic feelings ebb away after a time, then a couple is forced to confront the much more genuinely loving choice to remain faithful and true.

So, what does it mean to sing to Jesus that we are in love with him?  Is it that we have intense and exhilarating feelings of attraction toward him?  That our legs go to jelly and our stomach churns whenever he walks into the room?  I have no doubt that when we first encounter Jesus and his savage grace, there are intense feelings of spiritual pleasure, even bliss.  This certainly was my experience.  I also have no doubt that in our life-long journey with Jesus there will be times of spiritual communion of similar intensity.  Sometimes during corporate worship or personal times of reflection and prayer, I feel deep gratitude and a wonderful attraction to the person of Jesus.  But I have never felt myself falling in love with him”.

Interesting and thought provoking stuff. It helps me see how marriage and the commitment that goes with that to stay the course “for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part” is a symbol of our commitment to Christ.  After all, the church is the bride of Christ, is it not?  It makes me realise afresh, how blessed I am to have the wonderful wife I do.  Life has been far from plain sailing at times in the 10 and a half years we have been married, but I still love her hugely and, yes, it is a very different set of emotions from those heady days when we first started going out in 1992.  Does that diminish how I feel now?  Not in the slightest.  That said I think I would still describe myself as very much in love with her, although I know exactly what Michael Frost is getting at.

Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam


Jesus doesn’t want me for a sunbeam.

Sunbeams are not made like me”

From “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam” by The Vaselines

The above song was immortalised in Nirvana’s “MTV: Unplugged in New York” live recording six short months or so before Kurt Cobain tragically took his own life.  Whilst the song is somewhat child-like and cynical, I actually reckon it holds a fair bit of truth.

I’ve previously commented that many of the songs I learnt in my most formative years are the ones I can still recite perfectly.  That is certainly true for me when I think about nursery rhymes or songs from Sunday School.  What did we sing in those church halls in my pre-school days?  “Jesus Love Is Very Wonderful”, “My God Is So Big, So Strong and So Mighty”, “Jesus Loves Me This I Know For The Bible Tells Me So” and the age old classic, “I May Never March In The Infantry” (Man, what was THAT one all about?)

When my three and a half year old is really happy, she will sometimes burst into song.  Some of it is the songs she learns in nursery.  From time to time it cheers my heart when she spontaeneously breaks into “Our God Is A Great Big God” or “1,2,3,4,5 my Jesus is my life!” with great enthusiasm.  It gladdens me in equal measure when she joyfully announces “I love you.  I am the milkman of human kindness, I will leave an extra pint” (from Billy Bragg’s “The Milkman of Human Kindness”).

So hopefully, some truths are being sown in this little life and I pray that some day she will find her own faith.  I pray that the example that my wife and I set will make it seem really natural for her to grasp a worldview where the God of the Bible is central to that.  I pray that we would not brainwash her or impose some hand me down faith that she doesn’t own for herself.

Does Jesus want me for a sunbeam?  Well, I am called to be salt and light.  To be distinctive, to add flavour to the world around me, to preserve what is good, noble and true, to bring hope and direction into darkness.  But a sunbeam, just sounds so twee and makes me think of sticking my head in the clouds and not tackling life head on.  It troubles  me when we sing songs like “Oh, Happy Day” in church, because the lyrics seem to polarised and not really a reflection of what seems to me like real life.  Maybe I have just always preferred the minor chords…

So if Jesus doesn’t want me for a sunbeam, what does he want of me?  What does he want of you? 

I think we cause ourselves a lot of frustration in life by never gaining a satisfactory answer to that particular question.  I have often wished I had the giftings or abilities of others.  Sometimes I have taken on responsibilities that I have found draining because, whilst I could do them, they were not really what enthused me or what I am wired or shaped to do.

Undoubtedly, the most helpful thing I have done in my Christian life was to work through a book called “The Network Ministry Resource” by Bruce Bugbee and Don Cousins.  It helped me clarify what my spiritual gifts and natural abilities were, what I’m equipped to do, what my personal style is and how I can use that with authenticity and where I’m actually motivated to get involved.  As a small group we worked our way through this for a few months, affirming, challenging and holding each-other accountable.  I now base so many of my decisions on what I learned from that book.  I would strongly recommend it to everyone and I provide a link here for the leaders pack which has a DVD resource, etc and another link here for the participants’ book. 

I know that most of our small group found this a really important investment of time.  Even if you’re not affiliated with a small group of folks in a regular or structured way, there are ways of getting people around you who can be accountable even via the phone or Internet.  That has also been equally true for me in my journey thus far.  

I can only say how useful I have found this exercise.  It has shaped my work life, home life and church life and helped me pick up and explore some new things (including this blog) and set down some other stuff.

Read. Think. Pray. Live.

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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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