Be Still

Psalm 46 is undeniably one of the great psalms of the Jewish and Christian faiths. It begins with these words.

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.

Fast forward to verse 10 and you have the psalmist’s memorable words …
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;

Many a time … right up to last night, as something quite disturbing was troubling me and I struggled to get to sleep, God’s reassuring words came once again to me. I said them prayerfully over and over: Be still and know that I am God. I sang them … finding myself reworking a short chant-like song I wrote a few years back. Somehow version 1 didn’t have enough “still”; enough “know”.

So here is the new version, Dale providing quite intentionally a subdued background vocal .. .. with a hint of harmony here and there.

 

Be still
Be still
Be still and know … I am God

words: Psalm 46:10
music: David MacGregor © 2020 Willow Publishing

leadsheet
mp3

Blessings,
David

 

 

Ride on, Jesus!

When in the States with Dale in late February, I had a retreat day … using an excellent resource by Irene Alexander that my presbytery had made possible . We were encouraged to read one of the New Testament Palm Sunday narratives, reflect on wrote it a wonderful (c) John August Swanson painting, and if we wished, do something creative with our musing. This time, this monologue came to me.
Feel free to use, with attribution.

I share it with you. It’s called Ride on, Jesus!

(C) John August Swanson

RIDE ON, JESUS!

Blessed?
Blessed?
Absolutely!
Absolutely!
Anyone who can draw in this sort of crowd
This sort of adulation
This sort of fervour
Hey, they must be blessed!

A rock star welcome!
Jesus, ride on!

Crowds out in their multitudes
from every crevice in the Jerusalem woodwork
… stonework
to meet you
to greet you
to praise you
to worship you
to check you out

to check out this oddity
this living, breathing, polarising
Captivating conundrum
that is you
the one who rides into town
as Prince of Peace
Not warrior of war and might …
as one who mounts a donkey
as one I’ve heard Peter proclaims
as the Christ, the Lord, the Messiah
as the Son of the living God
as the one … as the one
who soon will be mounted to a cross

as one who says
turn the other cheek
as one who offers
a new commandment to love
as one who rebuts the establishment’s cries
for the cheering to cease
as one who in the middle of this jubilant mayhem
cries out: “I tell you, if they keep quiet,
the stones under your feet will cry out!”

as one who says the last and the least and the lost
will come first
first at the table
first in your new kingdom
of grace, welcome,
hope and life
salvation

as one who not only talks about God
but who is God
who not only calls us to holiness
but is holiness
who not only calls us to repentance
but is repentance
who is forgiveness

Jesus, ride on!

Jesus, God
we’ve taken in your teaching
we’ve marvelled at your miracles
we’ve wowed at your wisdom
But how could all this be?

I’m waving my palm branches
My red cloak is laid out as you come by
Red cloaks, blue cloaks, green cloaks
They’re all being waved.
Green – for life and peace
Blue – for something deep in the soul … the heart
Red – well, raising a red flag means
Sit up and take notice
Something’s happening here
Something unusual
maybe even not right
Yes, red flag for me.
This is no ordinary parade
No ordinary welcome.

Forget the soldiers, the scoffers, the skeptics
I’ve heard what they think of you …
nothing but treachery
nothing but blasphemy
nothing but insurrection
nothing but elimination

Jesus
I can only tell my own story
We can only tell our own stories
When it was all hopeless
You offered my hope

When I was afraid
You offered your presence
When I felt forgotten
You brought me in
Offered welcome
Life in abundance
Life overflowing.

Is that what everyone around me
hollers about?
The latest Messiah
to get us out of our deep mess?
I’ve heard you’ll be tried
I’ve heard you’ll be betrayed
I’ve heard you’ll be ridiculed something shocking
I’ve heard – to be blunt
– they want to get rid of you
once and for all.

But that’s not all I’ve heard
I’ve heard there’s more to you
There always seems to be more to you.
That you promise a response
Like only God can offer
There always seems to be more to you.
You say the taints and torture
A deathly torture, no less
It won’t be the end
No way.
will be just the beginning.

So Jesus
Ride on
You Prince of Peace
Ride on
You healer of hearts

Ride on
You Son of God
… to your future
Not for yourself
No!
To our future
The future of all creation
Forever

So Jesus
bring in your kingdom some more
Go to your cross
Go beyond
Save us
Love us
Free us!
Ride on, Jesus!

Ride on
Blessed
Obedient,
faithful one
Saviour
Befriender
Welcomer
Redeemer
Messiah
Christ
Lord

David MacGregor
Ash Wednesday, 2020

Songs of hope for tough times

Hi.

A few days back, following up encouragement from others, I posted a YouTube playlist: SONGS OF HOPE FOR TOUGH TIMES. Here it is … nine songs of mine, including a few reflective instrumentals.  You may well have heard or sung some of them before.

I thought I’d include these songs:

I’ll Hold You Forever (Do Not Fear)
Reflecting on God’s constant promise in Scripture:  “Do not fear, I am with you”

We’ve lit a candle
As the coronavirus pandemic was deepening across our nation and worldwide, we joined folk lighting a candle each evening in our front window in solidarity with others doing the same, joining in solidarity and prayer.  On 22 March, churches across Scotland did just that.  A prayer was provided.  The lyrics of that prayer form the basis of this song.

Never let go
This song of wasn’t written for these COVID19 times. I wrote it almost five years ago while walking along the beach and reflecting on the fading health of a much-loved member of our community. Yet amid the struggle, I couldn’t escape the promise of my Christian faith through scripture and personal experience, that God never lets us go. Dale did a brilliant vocal, backed up on vocal and guitar by Peter, a longtime friend, himself struggling with life issues. I share it because I believe it can speak into our current times too.

Bring your peace, Lord
In part inspired by some significant well-being challenges I faced in the second half of 2015 and Stephen Foster’s profound song Hard Times (Come again, no more) I wrote this one, in the style of sorts of an American spiritual.

No other hands
Based on the words allegedly centuries ago of the Christian music, St Teresa of Avila

Presence
This one dates back about 15 years.  It’s in my humble opinion, one of the best instrumental pieces I’ve ever written.  As I wrote it I was incredibly aware of the presence of God.   It continues to evoke that presence.

Fall
Written just days ago as autumn (fall) happens in the Southern Hemisphere and as treasured customs in society start falling or straining too amid all that the coronavirus pandemic throws up.

Because the Lord’s my shepherd
This is a real “oldie”; written ca. 1979 for an all-age musical I’d written called Rock-on Goliath, based on the Old Testament David & Goliath narrative.  This one is sung by “David” and is based on Psalm 23.  Chris Macnaught played David in this production. Many years later, Chris recorded the song professionally.  He does a fantastic job.

Irish blessing
Vocals by a longtime friend Katharine McPhail, this is my setting of the much-loved words of blessing.  I’ve been touched by how many people have been blessed by this song,.

Take care.
Blessings,
David

“Galveston, oh Galveston”

Galveston, oh, Galveston,
I still hear your seawinds blowing;
… still hear your seawaves crashin,
… Standing there looking out to sea.

Well, I couldn’t help myself. A week on Galveston Island, staying at a lovely place right on the Gulf of a Mexico in SE Texas, USA. Just had to get that Jimmy Webb/Glenn Campbell classic out of the system.

The Galveston Seawall extends over 10 km, built after the horrific Galveston hurricane devastation of 1900
Nice view from our lodgings – Gulf of Mexico

Truth is, I really enjoyed our time there, although it was quite a contrast from our previous week 4 hours drive NW at SAN Antonio.

It was especially nice catching up (as Dale had already done) with Dale’s sister Donna, some of her family as well as her good friend Peggy. Nice memories of Golden Corral buffets and a really captivating IMAX theatre film at Moody Gardens: Great Bear Rainforest.

No sooner had we arrived at Galveston than we headed off two mornings later to Dallas – five hours drive away to see folk-rock duo Indigo Girls in concert with the local symphony orchestra. In a word – “stunning”!

 

Amy Ray & Emily Saliers – Indigo Girls

Overnight in Dallas … and a somewhat nerve wracking experience negotiating Downton Dallas traffic (thankyou, thankyou Garmin GPS and an understanding Dale 😀) we arrived back on Galveston Beach Monday evening. Memories from the past week include:

  • Beach walks. Often chilly and windy, but memorable experience walking next to the Gulf of Mexico, admiring architecture of beach abodes and being so thankful for our Australian beaches’ beautiful white sand.
  • Visit to Space Center Houston/Johnson Space Center. Really enjoyed this – marvelling at the USA’s (& other countries’ ) journey of space exploration. Not so much emphasis on the space race, Apollo/moon missions; rather on the positives on international collaborations via the space shuttle and the international space station. A highlight for me was the 60 minute tour which took us deep into NASA’s facilities including the iconic Mission Control.
  • Celebrating my 28 February birthday twice – due to time differences between Texas and back home. On the 28th (here in Texas) on a chilly evening Dale and I checked out the famous Pleasure Pier – really a miniature theme park. I can imagine how it would be abuzz with patrons in summer! Nice Mexican dinner at Salsa’s, though not so nice some hours later. Too much spicey food for yours truly😟
  • Swims at our accommodation’s thankfully-heated pool. Surprisingly enjoyable!
  • Getting plenty of sleep. Dale hasn’t been quite as fortunate but I’m thankful for the 9-10 hours sleep I’ve managed most nights. Means one of several things – I’m relaxed, I’ve had plenty of catching up to do, I’ve actually been getting some exercise.
  • the local house design – high on stumps – no doubt a precaution heeding the 1900 hurricane devastation and also the impact of Hurricane Ike in 2008.
  • actually enjoying … fascinated in fact, as we watched two of the Democratic candidates’ live debates on TV. The USA political system is so different to those in countries like my own (and many others) using the Westminster system. I wonder what the 18th century USA founding fathers would think about all that goes on these days!😢
  • Some valuable times of reflection. I made use of Presbytery-provided Ash Wednesday resources for 26th, spending several quiet, still hours. I took up the suggestion Irene Alexander provided and wrote a Palm Sunday reflection. I hope to use that in early April. The day before, I found myself brought back to God’s promises repeatedly in the scriptures to not be afraid … I am with you. Yes, I wrote a song on that called I’ll Hold You Forever. I’ll share that in the coming weeks

So yesterday morning, after checkout we headed to Houston – one of the biggest cities in the US. Unbelievable traffic, unbelievable flyovers, overpasses etc, unbelievably discourteous/thoughtless freeway drivers not bothering to use their indicators when changing lanes. Thank you to the many (well, I’m being kind) who do remember. Thank you also to James Taylor, Paul Simon, Indigo Girl, Linda Ronstadt, Dale and others who pacified me along the way.

To be fair, driving was good fun. Our guess is that we have easily travelled over 3000 km over here. I’m concerned that now I’ll need to repeatedly remind myself, “Keep to the left” once driving back home.

It’s late Sunday morning here as I muse all of this. We’ve just had another visit to the well-priced, friendly, clean Hot Biscuit restaurant.

Our breakfast wasn’t $3.99 but still excellent.

So, we look forward to coming home. Interesting timing for both Dale and me. The new Southside Uniting Church is still in its formative months … I look forward to reengaging, knowing that much has happened in my 2+ weeks away. Dale, now unofficially retired begins a new season. No more travel for either of us for a while … though you never know with the two of us. It’s been a sobering time being overseas, as a mother and three beautiful children become the horrifically-killed victims of a man’s brutal violence in a suburb not far from us; while the impact of the coronavirus reaches near pandemic proportions, while the country we’ll shortly leave (this may well be our last trip here) puts you multiple candidates to face Trump later this year – each with questionable credentials in some way, alongside so many worthy ones I must say.

Here’s my favourite two pictures from the trip!

River Walk cruise – San Antonio
Remember the Alamo!

Shalom, David

deep in the heart of Texas

We’ll sort of. Sort of not. It’s about half way through my time in Texas, USA.

Dale’s been here a fortnight, visiting her sister Donna and family south of Houston, then some of her sister Diana’s family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Off into the wide blue yonder, Air New Zealand style
A bit of the old Davey Crockett … or is it Daniel Boone?

The flights over to Houston via Auckland were expectedly long haul in more ways than one, but I did manage about 3 hours on the 13 hour leg. Helped incredibly by having the benefit of a “sky couch” arrangement. Yours truly never manages sleep on planes. I envy those who do!😀 The timing of these two+ weeks is spot on, as the year ministry-wise has been way too full on. A break is just what the doctor ordered.

I fly into Houston, Dale flies back into Houston from Pittsburgh, we pick up our rental car (free upgrade to a SUV) and we’re off to SAN Antonio, four hours NW – our accommodation, the incredibly salubrious Eilan Hotel and Spa on the outskirts of town. We were able to access it through wider family. Nice, but way more opulent than our usual style. We did amazingly well in our studio room, bar-size fridge, raisin bran in disposable cardboard bowl and all. Base camp really, but close to shops and food places and having the most wonderful indoor heated lap pool.

San Antonio is steeped in US/Spanish/Mexican history and culture. We made sure to delve into that. This meant:

  • the Alamo – historic Spanish mission site where a decisive, iconic battle happened in 1836. Remember the Alamo still cries out. It’s a visit I won’t forget!😀
  • the River Walk – this amazing length (many, many kilometres paved each side of the SAN Antonio River – goes right through the CBD and often with cafes and restaurants each side. Quite beautiful. We loved it.; especially the 40 minute cruise included in our three-day hopon-Hopoff bus pass.
  • Market Square – apparently the largest “Mexican market” outside of Mexico. Dale enjoyed that while I visited the slightly disappointing Institute of Texan Cultures.
  • The Missions. I’ve already mentioned the Alamo, but that’s just one of five on the famous Mission Trail. Just south of downtown is the Mission SAN Jose. We attended a wonderful Mariachi Mass there – in the week 300 years of worship and mission were being celebrated. Such a God-communing experience.
  • One other SAN Antonio highlight – the 25 minute AV projected evening presentation of The Saga on the front of St Fernando Cathedral. Brilliant and evocative representation of some of Texas’ history.

A few “down days”, then off into the SAN Antonio hill country on a chilly winter’s day to German-settled Fredericksburg. Dale shopped while I checked out an amazing National Museum of the Pacific War. Why Fredericksburg of all places? Well – Admiral Nimitz hailed from there!

Heading back to San Antonio, the slightly-closeted country music fan in me couldn’t help but drive through Luckenbach, Texas … inspiration for a famous country song. This is a town whose population is 3 and could not be located on our Garmin GPS and whose town loop is all of 300 metres!

Here’s Willie Nelson and co singing Luckenbach, Texas

So it is that we farewelled SAN Antonio – great week there – and under cold but beautifully clear skies we’ve spent most of today driving SW via the incredible freeways and overpasses around Houston ( at one stage 11 lanes each way!) to the seaside city of Galveston. Long drive but we made it here fine. Great being right on the beach.

Cheers, David


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