Archive for the 'Reflections' Category

God, how we thank you … surprise: another praise song!

Hi. I can only put it down to being a “God thing” but here I am, mid 60’s, less than eight months to retirement, have written 400+ songs in my lifetime … and I’m suddenly writing praise songs. 99% of that 400+ have not been praise songs. My previous song a month ago: Make it Joyful! was a praise song too.  What’s happening here?!  Why’s it taken so long.  Has the pandemic journey I’ve been on (i.e. we’ve all been on) drawn something new out of me, alongside affecting me deeply.  I guess it’s a bit of both.  So here’s a new song: God, How We Thank You

leadsheet mp3 backing

In the last week or so I’ve been reminded again and again about not only the place but the necessity of gratitude – showing our thanks, showing how are grateful we are for all that’s good, fruitful, refreshing, life giving for us.

This COVID-19 season has had its moments for all of us … I’m no exception. I’ve found myself melancholic again and again these past months. Yes,I’ve had my up times, let’s be clear, but  I’ve had my share of down times … my well-being and most likely yours has been impacted.

Quite unexpectedly, the songwriter in me has found myself journalling through this crazy season … not so much in words but in one short instrumental piece after another. They’re on YouTube if you’re interested. Occasionally a piece with both tune and words. Probably their short titles say it all: FALL, SACRIFICE, CRAZY, RESTLESS, THE LONG ROAD, RESILIENCE …

Then God’s Spirit prompted me recently about gratitude.

  • When I sat in my front lawn under a sunny blue winter sky, freshly brewed coffee in my hand, I found myself so grateful – thank you God.
  • When I walked through that national park, heard the sounds of bush, air and ocean … I found myself so grateful – thank you God.
  • When I found myself playing that Indigo Girls song with its exquisite harmonies over and over again … I found myself so grateful – thank you God.
  • When Dale and I shared four lovely days with special friends from Cairns … I found myself so grateful – thank you God.
  • When I found myself in stitches such was the banter in a recent church ministry team meeting … I found myself so grateful – thank you God.
  • When I was reminded of God’s amazing, faithful, never-ending love for me in Jesus … I found myself so grateful – thank you God.

In the Bible we find verse after verse about gratitude… about thanksgiving …

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. God’s love endures forever. Psalm 136:1

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15

Always be joyful and never stop praying. Whatever happens , keep thanking God because of Jesus Christ. This is what God wants you to do.   1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

One catalyst for gratitude for me was a blogpost from noted Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber, called

Give Us This Day Our Daily Gratitude

God was able to use that blog for God’s purposes!
Nadia Bolz-Weber writes …

I swear to God, exercise and gratitude are like, God’s own anti-depressants. In this time of loss and suffering and turmoil, when not one of us is spared of sorrow, this morning I made myself list some things I am genuinely grateful for right now, today, in this very moment. And it made me feel better.
Give Us This Day Our Daily Gratitude

So, the song, based closely on scripture has these lyrics:

God, how we thank You
God, how we thank You
Your mercy, compassion
it never ends
We sing out our praises
Your grace beyond gracious
God, how we thank you
your boundless love

Love ever steadfast
Mercy unending
New every morning
Your way of love
Love ever faithful
calls from me, “grateful”
Lord, be our worship
You are our love

God, how we thank You
God, how we thank You …

David MacGregor © 2020 Willow Publishing


image of LOVE

Longer post this time.

For some time I’ve found myself pondering what the Christian and Jewish faiths (others too?) are saying when they affirm we human creatures are mind-blowingly made … created in the image of God; or as some would express it, in God’s likeness. Christian thinkers use the Latin words imago dei when talking about this.

Events recently in the USA of racism and sparked by racism … not only there but the history of treatment of First People’s in our own country have spurred on this pondering.

So do words from noted NZ hymn writer, the late Shirley Murray …

O God we bear the imprint of Your face
The colours of our skin are Your design
And what we have of beauty in our race
As man or woman You alone define
Who stretched a living fabric on our frame
And gave to each a language and a name

More from that hymn later …

Imago dei … image of God.

What does this all mean? What are the implications, the responsibilities of believing this?

In the Bible’s first creation narrative, we read:

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:26-27 NRSV

Doesn’t get much clearer than that. Yet, if we are like God, what/who is God like?! We can only unpack that in human terms and from human experience.

I read from this, as evidenced throughout the scriptures and ultimately in Jesus Christ, that if we understand and know God as God of love, justice, mercy, welcome, hospitality, hope, inclusion, presence and salvation … we of faith are likewise (and likewise sure is the word) to be people of love, justice, mercy, welcome, hospitality, hope, inclusion, presence and salvation.

Is this simply a no-brainer. I wish it was. Sadly, our human condition so, so distorts the image or likeness of God were made to be. We are created in God’s likeness but our lives and the life of the world point to other images – images and experiences of decay, ignorance, oppression, hate, harm, loss, injustice, environmental and human pillage … it’s that word sin.

Actually, we cannot affirm that we, by God’s Grace, made in God’s image, without in turn realising how this will impact (& indeed needs to) so much of how we go about life … in fact all of our lives.

One writer unpacks our responsibilities with this as people of faith

Humans … can be seen as co-creators with God. The moral implications of the doctrine of imago Dei are apparent in the fact that if humans are to love God, then humans must love other humans, as each is an expression of God.

Now, we humans have the God-given freedom to pay lip service at best to this imago dei and instead be creatures whose lives are far, far away from being that image of God’s creation. This has of course massive ethical, moral, social, and environmental consequences.

Theologian Mary McClintock Fulkerson writes that the imago Dei directs us to consider the way in which God is portrayed in our minds, as well as how such imaging contributes to the valuing and devaluing of human beings.

Has our image of God become so distorted that it sanctions excluding certain people from being image bearers? Are we representing God to people in a way that contributes to their devaluing others?

The race riots, demonstrations (mostly peaceful we need reminding) and the police brutality that served as catalyst for it forces us to ask: not just how I see my neighbour … who is the other person to me? Does my faith lead me again and again back, back to the affirmation that they too are created in the image, potential and goodness of God. It’s going to impact so, so much – how we will engage:

  • end of life issues
  • abortion
  • Racism
  • refugees and asylum seekers
  • Those different to us in
    • colour
    • gender preference
    • belief systems and world views
    • understandings of God
    • political leanings
    • Faith
    • Race or culture
    • Personality

So I ask myself; I ask each other; can I be bold enough to ask our world: will I … will we be co-creators with God … or something else ultimately ungodly … ultimately “inhuman”?

I find myself taken to one of Jesus’ parables – in the gospel of Matthew – Chapter 25, known by Christians as the parable of the sheep and the goats. It’s a parable about judgement – about taking account of our lives before God aka “the King” in the parable.  You’ll probably know it well …

“…  Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;  for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?  And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’  And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

The parable of course, goes on. It’s hard-hitting.  It’s insightful.  It speaks right into who we are … who, by the creative hand of God we’re made and called to be.

‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

When we fail to attend with compassion towards the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the imprisoned … we fail to attend to no less than God … to the one in whose image the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the imprisoned are made. More from Shirley Murray’s hymn …

Where we are torn and pulled apart by hate
Because our race our skin is not the same
While we are judged unequal by the state
And victims made because we own our name
Humanity reduced to little worth
Dishonoured is Your living face on earth

James 3:9 says this in The Message …

With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image.

God gives us a clear choice … by our words, by our hands, by our hearts and so much more we can incredibly bless others … incredibly bless others OR we can do something so opposite to that, that pains God … that pains another made also, just as we are, in the imago dei … the image of God.

So, with all this occupying my mind. My heart, my spirit, I found myself writing a little song … wanting to use a simplicity of lyrics. I’ve called it  Image of Love.

score  lyrics mp3 vocal

Made in the image
Made in the image
Made in the image of God
Created with promise
With hope and with wonder
Made in the image of Love

Reflecting the holy
Reflecting the holy
Reflecting your holiness, God
Created with promise
With hope and with wonder
Reflecting your holiness, God

Seeing in the other
Seeing in the other
the hand of our God in each one
Created with promise
With hope and with wonder
each made in the image of Love

Mmm …
Mmm …
Mmm …
Created with promise
With hope and with wonder
May we be your image of Love
May we be your image of Love
May we be your image of Love

David MacGregor ©  2020 Willow Publishing

What does “mission” mean to me?

What does “mission mean” to me?

My colleague Esteban invited me to reflect on that recently. Here are some initial, though incomplete thoughts …

Let me answer that in a few ways.

First of all “mission” for the disciple of Christ is joining and partnering with God’s mission. Scholars refer to this as the “missio dei” – the mission of God. Let’s not see mission as us “taking the good news of Jesus in our spiritual backpack” out to where God isn’t. God – Father, Son and Spirit is not only with us and we with God, but God is already out there. That is liberating!

Secondly, being missional is intrinsic to following Jesus. Just as we are all called to care for one another (regardless of how gifted we might be) so we are all called to be missional. When in Matthew 28 Jesus says to his band of disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples … baptizing them … and teaching them …” in a real sense Christ calls us to this too. It’s bound up in being an “apostolic” (i.e. sent) people. Mission always has an “outward”, beyond -ourselves movement.

And what is the mission of God?

Well, to a significant degree, it is about living out Jesus’ words in Luke 4:18-19 when he stands before the synagogue, reads from the prophet Isaiah and proclaims:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

It’s a passage I come back to again and again. I take the liberty of understanding its wording both literally and figuratively, with words or phrases such as “the poor”, “captives”, “sight to the blind”, “the oppressed” having such meaning and gravitas.

We are people of the Spirit. We are people saved by and called by the grace of God through Christ. The call that Christ embodied and by the Spirit still embodies is the same for us.

In Luke 4:21, Jesus rolls up the Isaiah scroll and asserts, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” It’s no different for us. When we partner with God in God’s mission; as we engage with others in sharing in word and action God’s good news in Jesus, that scripture of liberation is incarnated in each of us, by the grace of God it too is fulfilled in others’ engaging with us.

What a joy that can be!
Mission is about that too!


Make it joyful!

Once again, playing catch-up to Facebook posting, so here’s a longer version to what I’ve recently posted there.

I don’t write many praise songs.

I’ve often wondered why down the years. Is it because I’m less than praiseworthy in my spirit, somehow lacking in my adoration of God? Maybe. Is it because of my longstanding restlessness about the way so many churches (not only the Pentecostal/evangelical) seem to base so much of their musical repertoire on songs of praise and avoid (or at least fail to recognise) the place of songs of lament, confession, mission, justice, discipleship, community, and so on? Maybe.

Amid this strange and tragic and agitating pandemic season, the melancholy side of me has certainly come to the fore. That’s me. That’s life. That’s been my journey, which I’ve been sharing in song, patient that you are😀

However, I found myself woken in the early hours of the morning yesterday with my namesake’s wonderful words from Psalm 100. Yes, I was surprised. A praise song at 2 am?. Sleepy-eyed … wanting so, so much to get back to sleep, I took my iPhone and noted the chorus words and wrote alphabetical letter names about many of the words so I’d remember the melody.

As it turned out, I actually remembered it when I woke many hours later. Always a good sign for a song if the tune stays with me. This is my hopefully-uplifting take on it.

Dale and I have just done a multi-part vocal! Eventually I want to score this one in SATB. Maybe choirs could use it. It’s one of the least syncopated songs I’ve written for a long, long time … unusual for me .

Anyhow here’s my new unsyncopated song of praise:
MAKE IT JOYFUL! Hopefully I have.

score lyrics 
mp3 backing
mp3 vocal [E]

Make a joyful noise to God (make it joyful)
Make a joyful noise to God (make it joyful)
Make a joyful noise to God (make it joyful)
Come worship and be glad!

Come before him with praise, thanksgiving
God has made us and we are God’s
We are God’s people
Embraced in love
Come bless, come bless the Lord

Make a joyful noise to God (make it joyful) …

For the Lord is every goodness
And God’s love is steadfast, sure
From generation to generation
God’s faithfulness endures

Make a joyful noise to God (make it joyful) …
… Come worship and be glad! (make it joyful)
Come worship and be glad !(make it joyful)
Come worship and be glad! (make it joyful)

David MacGregor
© 2020 Willow Publishing
from Psalm 100

Your love will follow


Amid these up and down times for us, there are constants. I’ve just mused in our church’s Midweek Musing about “what sustains us”.

The love of Dale and others sustains me.
So does scripture. So does music.
So does the beauty of God’s creation – especially beach and bush.
I could say coffee … and just have

The love, presence of God and God’s prevenient grace sustains me especially – on the bad days, the good and the big in-between. Prevenient Grace is a term I discovered almost 30 years ago, as I began my involvement in the Walk to Emmaus movement.  It’s a term coined by John Wesley as he mused on the dimensions of God’s grace in Christ.   Prevenient grace is grace that woos us, seeks us out, follows us, is ever-present; never lets us go.

Through all of the past many months of change, lockdown, rearrangement and realignment and so much more, I’ve never lost sight of that.

Through a song by New Zealand writer and friend Malcolm Gordon, I’ve recently been reacquainted with that middle-ages piece known down the centuries as St Patrick’s Breastplate.

It’s much longer than this, but lines from it such as these kept ringing in my head

I arise today through
God’s strength to pilot me, God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me, God’s eye to see before me,
God’s ear to hear me, God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me, God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me ..

Christ, be with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit,

In the wee hours of this morning, this somewhat-hymnlike song came to me

YOUR LOVE WILL FOLLOW   score mp3 backing

Strength to guide and wisdom deep
Lord, your love will follow
Your ear to hear, your word to speak
Lord, your love will follow
Hand to guard, and way to walk
Lord, your love will follow
You are faith and hope and love
Lord, your love
Lord, your love will follow.

Before, behind, around me Lord
With us now, forever
Within, beside, above me Lord
With us now, forever
When I rise and when I rest
With us now, forever
You are faith and hope and love
With us now
With us now, forever

Comforter and Spirit-friend
God, your presence always
In my highs and in my lows
God, your presence always
Christ my hope and Christ my life
God, your presence always
You are faith and hope and love
Lord, your love
With us now
God, your presence always

David MacGregor
© 2020 Willow Publishing
inspired by portions of “St Patrick’s Breastplate

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