Monday, 17 December 2007

A christmas thought....

Christmas is often synonymous with memories of past years. As I near my tenth year as an S.A. bandsman, I could name a few if I sat down to write out a list of them.

One memory I have took place on Christmas morning 2002. (The Belfast Temple Band do an annual hike up to the Royal Victoria Hospital, playing carols to people of all ages, including the kids in the childrens' ward which can be heartbreaking to say the least.) At one of the adult wards we got on to, some wise-guy requested 'O Holy Night', which despite being a beautiful carol is a chronic brass arrangement to play. One gentleman who was standing just outside his bed - and I'll never forget the image of this 60+ year old man wth tears in his eyes, singing every word of the carol.

That man was Sinn Féin politician John Kelly who died earlier this year, succumbing to cancer after a long illness. Evidently it made an impact on him, this band of Christian men and women coming into the hospital and playing carols on Christmas morning. And thats what the purpose of the Salvation Army at this time of year is - to make an impact on people's lives. To change them. Whilst I cannot comment on how closer it brought him to Christ, the words of Christmas carols speak of the message that Christ's birth was what spurred the festive season.

Whatever you do this Christmas, may it be a happy, healthy and peaceful one. But next time you hear the sound of a brass band playing carols, take time out to stop and listen. For it may just have an impact on you as well.

Thought - Love

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud... It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perserveres." (1 Corinthians 13 : 4a and 7)

Every February, hormones and emotions go into overdrive leading up to the 14th date of the month. The time of year, known as St Valentine's Day, allows us to express romantic feelings to people we fancy or just to simply bring some pleasant cheer to friends, not so different from how you would at Christmas. And it can be quite easy, if you're dead serious about your crush, to exclaim how you 'love' them!

The above verses are timeless words from a timeless passage written by Paul to the church in Corinth when they most needed to hear them. Today we associate them with weddings and funerals but also, in the church, with wall decor (i.e. pictures, portraits) and pieces of music. Not so long ago I played a hymn tune with both the brass bands I play with based on this passage, entitled "The Greatest Of These".

Regardless of how often and when we hear them in our lives, the message is still the same. Its unlikely they can be written in any simpler terms, for not only does the scriptures talk about what love is but also what love isn't.

"It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs" (1 Cor 13 : 4b-5)

Have a read through the whole chapter. Look again at the verse extracts printed here. And then replace the word 'love' with 'JESUS'.

It fits, doesn't it? It makes sense all the same and it reminds us yet again whom we must aim to be like as Christians: Christ.

"Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind. He does not envy, he does not boast, he is not proud. He does not envy, he does not boast, he is not proud... he always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perserveres."

Jesus and love are in so many ways similar that the Messiah is not only God incarnate but love incarnate and love personified. And that can't be summed up any better by when we recall the words:

"How deep the Father's love for us, how vast beyond all measure,
That he should give his only son, to make a wretch his treasure;
How great the pain of searing loss, the Father turned his face away,
As wounds which mar the chosen one, bring many sons to glory".

Whatever feelings of love are expressed in the Valentine's season, just remember that there is no greater love than that which was born into the world to die for us. 2000 years on, his love remains no different from what it was on Calvary.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Poem - The Photo

The photo depicts such innocence, such
Happiness, no care in the world. Colour
Beauty and splendour all rolled into one.

The photographer is Michaelangelo!
Pay-day for the photographer, for
He has just created a masterpiece.

Or so it seems
No. The one and only masterpiece
(or two, in theory)
Can be held responsible to the
Creation of God.

A true masterwork if there ever
Was one; the ultimate work of art
Surpassing Michaelangelo's David.
Mona Lisa? In comparison, just
A pencil sketch.

If I come across another photo
With such colour, beauty or splendour,
It won't be anytime soon.

Not on this planet, anyway.

Poem - Wax In a Candle

Take a seat.
Make yourself comfortable.

Look around and, what do you see?

You see the light, so bright.
You feel the flame of beauty burn.

It's so natural, so pretty, so perfect, so pure.
You want to cry because you're in awe.
You want to say "Thank you" to God,
because of what you see, what you feel.

Nothing or no-one can compare.

So beautiful, so vulnerable, so amazing;
you can't help but melt while sitting there.

You feel helpless sad, unworthy, confused.
Reach out and touch it, if you dare,
either to be scarred or succumb to the heat.

Like wax in a candle, I melt away
While sitting next to you.

Like wax in a candle, I'd rather be the wick
Where the light and heat embraces me to the end.

Poem - Little Flower

Precious child, may you grow with beauty
and shine with vitality.
Sweet creation, let God be your gardener;
sprout up for the world to see.

Little flower, little leaves, little petals, so much
hope. So much splendour.

All your life stands and waits, along with turns
and twists of fate.
Soak up some water, take it in. You're the
prize someone will win.

Precious child, always take care; and don't be scared
of life.

Little flower, take you by the hand. Even for a while.

Poem - Train Station

1625. Sunday. Out of town and
homeward bound.
The smiles of a few I leave behind
but the memories are many I
take with me.

2155. Here I am. Glasgow.
The weekend ahead of me. Why am I here?
God only knows. "In God we trust".
My trust is made worth while, it is.

As precious as you may never know.

Thought based on 2 Corinthians 9:6-11

Its easy to get into a routine and treat acts of worship like a day-to-day chore or job. And sometimes it can lead to demotivation or questioning yourself about what the point in it all is. I mean, its unpaid, unprofited financially and rarely goes appreciated.

But you have to remember that it does go noticed by at least one person.

Its not a waste of time or effort. And, when enthusiasm is boosted, so is the result. You've heard the saying "Life is a cake - you get out of it what you put into it". Worship isn't any different.

Think back to moments in the last few weeks, months, years when your church produced some memorable moments where you sat back and felt great with the result. Think about the "achievements" and what led to them through you and your fellow church mates.

"Whoever sows generously will also reap generously"

I want to leave the above verses with you this evening as maybe a motive or reminder on how we as Christians can make a spiritual difference. We dont' know and we may never know the full impact we make in our churches or communities but the generous sowing we do could potentially be incredible.

Thought/devotion (for the Youth Band website)

1 Samuel 16:23 - "When the evil spirit from God troubled Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then the evil spirit would leave him..."

One of the things about David's choosing as a musician for Saul was that it wasn't about being exceptionally handsome or brainy. He was chosen because he was brave, courageous and his master liked him. As well as being a good musician, not forgetting! And the music he played could still his master's soul.

Now I'm not going to comment on whether we're the best looking bunch. There may be times when our musical skills come under question too. But, the same way David was chosen to serve his master with his gift of music, we too - each one of us featured on this webpage - have been selected by OUR master to serve Him with our musical gifts, through a form of ministry. We have a responsibility so priviledged that, through a hymn tune, a band piece or accompaniment of a song, we can still people's troubled souls. And I'm talking about the souls that are out there that need to be brought to Christ.

Maybe you're one of them reading this right now.

Having said that, there might be times when OUR OWN souls are troubled and we need some sort of uplifting from the music that's played. I'd like to think as band members, we encourage and take encouragement from each other somehow.

Above all, its important to take seriously the ministry we proclaim out there and in the buildings we either rehearse or play out our music. Because we've been chosen by God to carry His work out. Its easy to get lazy about it but we can't afford to be lax when people are hurting in the world.

And after all, that's what the Salvation Army was founded on, wasn't it?

Please pray for this band and the miracles we can work with out music and never lose sight of why we do it.