O for a thousand tongues … grace in the unexpected

OForAThousandTonguesToSingYesterday was a memorable one for me, culminating in a pre-arranged medical procedure at the nearby hospital. That didn’t begin until 7.30 pm, having “checked in” at 11.30 am.  Waiting has never been my strongpoint. However, as memories recede, one hopefully won’t.  I’m in theatre. The procedure is about to begin, medical people in their dark blue scrubs, facemarks etc all around me, I’m wired and tubed up all over the place, and someone (having discovered I’m a UCA minister and also musical) asks me what my favourite hymn is.  All a bit surreal, me knowing that any time I’ll be given a general anaesthetic that will put me to sleep.

Now; I have lots of favourite hymns.  Those who know me well know my worship song tastes are broad and eclectic. My charles wesleyfavourite hymn (or one of them)?  Charles Wesley’s O for a thousand tonguesoriginally 14 verses long, usually sung over about six verses these days.

O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise!
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!

I remember being affected to the core – exhilarated as I sang it with hundreds of others at Sydney Town Hall in 1994, with pipe organ accompaniment, at the opening of a national Uniting Church Assembly.  I remember recounting this at the conclusion of my 2007 Masters thesis.  It is such a great hymn!   Some worship songs do that to you.

Why am I telling you all this?  Well, hospital procedure about to begin, no sooner have I suggested this hymn as my favourite, one … maybe two medicos around me start singing … yes … O for a thousand tongues.  How amazing! What a gift!

And that’s all I remember. Some time later, I wake up in the recovery area.   The sounds and song of this act of grace still ringing in the grogginess of my being.   Yes, the triumphs of God’s grace.  And what an act of grace.

Thank you hospital persons.  Wesley’s classic hymn continues to bless … through people just like you.


On Purpose … a song for moving forward

On Purpose logo

New song! On Purpose is written for a gathering of 350 or so Uniting Church folk from, around Queensland in just a few weeks time on the Sunshine Coast, Australia. It’s called “synod” and once again, I’m one of the worship coordinators and part of the music team. Peter from our church in Brisbane has a great voice – he sings a great vocal for the rough mp3 demo provided. Thanks Pete!

On Purpose started with what I liked as a chord sequence beginning with an A2 chord (for the musos reading this).

Hopefully it will work … there’s a “Coldplayish” coda too, with a few “wo-oh-oh” bits. Could be fun if people pick up on the idea – you know, hands waving from side to side, folks singing at fine voice.

It’s a while since I’ve written a guitar-based song, so let’s see how this one goes, including connecting with key themes of the five-day gathering.


piano score

On purpose
In service
With Jesus
Spirit/Kingdom called
With passion
With purpose
Lead us, Lord

God in Christ
You call us: be your church
A sign, a foretaste
of your kingdom birth.
“Go, disciple
to the ends of the earth”
Make that difference
for the One you serve

On purpose, in service …

Born of water, spirit
Christ, we’re raised
A holy people called
to sing your praise
Your word, your Word
alive in us always
with joy, love, hope
as we each run your race

On purpose, in service …

Wo – o – o – o …

David MacGregor
© 2016 Willow Publishing


Homeward bound – Take 2

I write this at the Los Angeles Airport Crowne Plaza – first portion courtesy of Delta Airlines (that’s a story!), second portion care of us (another story again). Our flight home, take 2, happens in just under seven hours.

Our second week here in NE Ohio has been a relaxing one, after a lovely few days with Diana and Tom in Pittsburgh. Our days would take a familiar img_0173pattern. Waking up around 7 (nice bonus, for early riser me) then off to to Millers Family Restaurant (Dad’s breakfast haunt for years) for my standard order of two eggs over-medium, hash browns, sausage patties and white toast, with coffee on tap.

The rest of the day? Significant down time; anything from reading Peter Garrett’s bio “Big Blue Sky”, taking my time over the downloaded Aus papers, some time with God, playing an old electric keyboard (including writing an instrumental piece), skipping lunch, afternoon nap, before heading off around 4 for a drive, some final shopping and then a meal out somewhere. Monday night we caught up with Dale’s school-band friend Sherry and husband Wayne at a nice Mexican restaurant a Streetsboro. Dale raves about the soup.

img_0133The weather seemed take a turn for the worse though, with rain, wind and light snow impacting on how much time we managed outdoors.

The light snow falls were an unexpected bonus for us these past days. It got down to -5 here while back home in Brisbane my trusty iPhone weather app reminded me that summer lingered with 32 degree days.


















Tuesday however offered us beautiful blue sky, time to sit on the deck with Dad and (cat) Tiger and take some nice pictures.
















The light snow falls were an unexpected bonus for us these past days. It got down to -5 here while back home in Brisbane my trusty iPhone weather app reminded me that summer lingered with 32 degree days. Dale and I enjoy walking down into the woods(trees bereft of leaves of course). Dad’s place is in an area called Nelson Kennedy Ledges.











Another afternoon, rain threatening, we took a drive out to an area called Aurora Meadows (20 minutes or so away) to where Dale grew up and did her early schooling, then past nearby Mantua where her family also lived.











And so it was that Tom, Diana and Dad saw us off around 1.30 pm Friday atCleveland airport. Little did we know that over the next 15 hours, six of these would be in the air, nine at airports surviving either lengthy layovers or delays (4 hours at Cleveland) or as in Atlanta and Los Angeles scrambling (not the eggs this time) to make our connections. All a bit crazy, but we were OK. The off-script PA announcements by the flight attendant on the Atlanta-L.A. leg helped!











Confusing signage with Virgin Australia checkin/boarding at both the Tom Bradley terminal and Terminal 3 and lengthy Security lines all meant we missed our 11.50 am Friday flight back to Brisbane. Sigh. So in the wee hours of a Los Angeles morning we speak to staff at the Virgin Australia desk (very helpful) and the Delta desk (less so). Different terminals and anyone who knows LAX knows this is one big airport.

Our one hour long phone chat with Delta back in Cleveland assured us that should we miss our flight home, Delta would put us up for the night and take care of meals etc. accommodation – yes! Meals, not at all, despite our 1 am pleading.
So, we’ve had a really restful day, catching up on sleep, reading, probably eating too much and preparing for the flight home (finally!) not too many hours away. Dale will go virtually straight from the airport to school, with a medical appointment thrown in there amid it all. We do nothing by half measures!
This trip, like so many others has been all about family. As the years go by, I need to more and more intentionally build in down time. These past 13 days (now 14) have gifted both of these. Thanks God.
See you soon,

Family time in the States – halfway

We’re halfway through some great times with members of Dale’s family in Ohio and Pennsylvania, USA. The leadup to Easter was enriching but full-on (hard to avoid in Christian congregational ministry) and once back – it’s a case of ending up my synod Schools Commission Chair role, preparing for worship and music at the late-May Queensland UC synod and at home base, getting ready for my local church’s children’s Holiday Club weeklong program. So,it’s lovely having this time-out!



Maybe the -4 degrees start to the day here in Pittsburgh was in some small way, prep for the Polar Explorers theme- an inch of snow as a Sunday wake up bonus! We’ve had six nights here in the States now, plus one on the plane (never fun for long-legged types like me). First four nights at Dale’s Dad’s near Garrettsville in NE Ohio.

imageI always love being there, joining with Dale as she spends precious time with her Dad, doing odd jobs around the place – this time helping prune the delicious apple tree and with her brother Dan (up for a few days from North Carolina) doing some reinforcing work on the barn door – all my handyman skills (not!) on ample display.

It’s also been nice catching up on sleep (Dale’s been less fortunate) and reading some more of Nikki Savva’s The Road to Ruin. A good read, though her journalistic integrity was surely compromised by not interviewing Tony Abbott and Peta Credlin!


It’s been quite memorable being here in early Spring, most deciduous trees still stripped of foliage from autumn and winter. First time in the States at this time of year.

This is not really a tourist jaunt; we’re here for family. Dale’s oldest sister Diana and husband Tom live in Pittsburgh PA, so we’ve enjoyed their hospitality and conversation these past two days. Tom is Pittsburgh born and bred and does wonderfully well when it comes to sharing the sights of this city famous for its steel mill heritage.

imagePittsburgh is known as both “the Steel City” for its more than 300 steel-related businesses, as well as “the City of Bridges” for its 446 bridges. They’ve done well at reclaiming derelict steel mill sites for retail, educational and parkland usage.


Tom is a keen reader and thinker on the political climate in his own country and beyond, I think I am too, so it’s been enlightening hearing his thoughts on the “state of the Union” especially when it comes to the health insurance question, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton et al. He understandably has deep concerns for his country.

imageWe’ve enjoyed some nice meals out, including dinner last night at Claddagh’s, an Irish restaurant on Pittsburgh’s Southside.

Diana and Tom are spending over a month in Australia and New Zealand in September and October. We’ll join them for some of this, so this has been a golden opportunity to do some planning. We look forward to travelling imagearound together a bit. It was also good to attend their local Catholic Church this morning for Mass. I enjoyed the sermon!

In a few hours we head back to Dad’s. We’ll meet up at Perkins Family Restaurant not far from his place. THe States is the place of the buffet/family restaurant – ridiculously cheap by comparison with Oz prices; eg half the price of Sizzler.

I’m looking forward to the final five days here, before we head homewards around 4 pm Friday, eastern US time.



The Song of the Supper

A while between posts, but here’s a new song, in the lead-up to Easter, using some John Bell words called The Song of the Supper.

I’ve been doing all sorts of Holy Week and Easter service prep, as one does this time of the year in my work. breadandjuicePalm/Passion Sunday and Good Friday are close to organised.   The various stations for a reflective, self-guided Journey to the Cross in our Sunday worship space has things in hand, as does Easter Day.

What hadn’t been in hand was the Maundy Thursday service.  However progress has been made, including the song selections. In my prep. I came across an early John Bell piece called The Song of the Supper.  I really liked the lyrics, but not the suggested traditional tune.  So I’ve written my own, just lead sheet and a backing mp3 at this stage.  Haven’t even asked permission from John Bell/Wild Goose to use the words.  Eventually I will.

Continue reading ‘The Song of the Supper’

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